Tramel column: Cajuns' hostile environment no issue for OSU
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, October 09, 2010
10/09/10 at 6:07 AM
Go to Jimmie Tramel's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Hostile environment no issue for Cowboys
LAFAYETTE, La. - Former Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas was reminiscing last week about a 1986 trip to Louisiana-Lafayette and the most interesting thing he said was this: "It was at night, and if you have been down there, the mosquitoes are the size of birds. We had white pants on, but we got blood stains on them because we were getting bit by mosquitoes."
Aware that OSU was preparing for another trek to the bayou, maybe Thomas should have advised the Cowboys to pack an ample supply of Off.
Instead, Thomas' advice would be this:
"I would just tell Oklahoma State to go down there and play your game. Don't worry about anything else. You are supposed to beat this team. Now go out and do it. Make them pay from the get-go, from the first snap of the ball and everything should fall into place."
That's not exactly what happened Friday night.
OSU scored on its first three possessions and threatened to land an early knockout punch, but the Cowboys still had to rally from a halftime deficit to secure what proved to be a lopsided victory at Cajun Field.
In doing so, OSU exorcised the ghost of Troy. The last time the Cowboys played a game on Sun Belt Conference turf, they went to Troy and were handed a 41-23 defeat. Sure, the Pokes have beaten Troy twice in Stillwater since, but - hair of the dog - you've got to survive one of these "beware of ambush" games if you really want to say you're cured.
Big 12 members Texas A&M (1996) and Kansas State (2009) failed to survive trips to Cajun Field. OSU was fortunate to win when Thomas played there in '86, getting a Ronnie Williams to Hart Lee Dykes touchdown pass with eight seconds left to salvage a come-from-behind triumph.
This is why it's so difficult to win on the campus of a smaller school: It's not "just" a man vs. man conflict. The underdog would never win if manpower was the only factor. These games become man vs. environment. And the entire environment - sometimes mosquitoes included - seems to be against you.
That's the way it felt an hour before kickoff Friday, when "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" was blaring from stadium loudspeakers. Want to bet that song isn't played when Florida Atlantic comes to town?
Then OSU players got the welcome they expected from Lafayette's notoriously rowdy students, who positioned themselves behind the Cowboy bench, held up signs with phrases from Mike Gundy's infamous rant ("That's not true!) and said or gestured things that were far from G-rated.
OSU players were warned by coaches to focus on the game and avoid getting into sparring matches with students. Three Cowboy linemen exhibited the proper restraint and smiled when they were serenaded before the game with profanity and chants of "OU rejects!"
Louisiana-Lafayette fans (the 11th-largest crowd in stadium history showed up for the game) had ample reason to get amped up and yell "geaux" as the Cajuns rallied from a 17-7 deficit to lead 21-17 at the half.
Thomas, during a question-and-answer session that preceded an appearance in Stillwater last week, indicated the worst thing OSU could do was let the Cajuns think they had a chance.
"Don't put them in a position to where they keep hanging around and hanging around like they did in '86," he said.
"I hear it all the time from (former Cajun and ex-NFL player) Brian Mitchell because he played on that football team and he's a good friend of mine. He said the closer they got to that fourth quarter, the more excited their team was and the more excited their coaches and fans were."
On this trip to the swamp, OSU was able to play comfortably from ahead in the second half rather than sweat bullets. That's because the Cowboys answered student taunts in the best way possible by scoring 24 third-quarter points, including 14 in the first 4:05 after halftime.
Final score: OSU 54, Environment 28.