Guess who's undefeated for OSU-Nebraska clash
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, October 17, 2010
10/17/10 at 9:38 AM
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LUBBOCK, Texas - Two months ago, who would have guessed the unbeaten team in next Saturday's Oklahoma State-Nebraska showdown would be the Cowboys?
Two months? Heck, try two days ago. A rejuvenated, high-rolling Nebraska club was considered a lock to break its Texas jinx on Saturday. No one, meanwhile, was all that confident OSU would end a losing streak at Texas Tech that stretched more than six decades.
But look what we have here on this beautiful October Sunday morning: OSU 34, Texas Tech 17. Texas 20, Nebraska 13.
So the matchup Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium now looks like this: OSU (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) vs. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1).
The only downer about Nebraska folding at home to the Longhorns is it means ESPN's wildly popular "College GameDay" show won't be headed to Stillwater this weekend.
Sources said ESPN had notified OSU officials last week that its Nebraska game was one of three under consideration to host Lee Corso and his traveling circus. The other two were Oklahoma-Missouri and Auburn-LSU. The show is expected to be at the OU-Missouri game.
"I didn't even know Nebraska lost," OSU coach Mike Gundy said after OSU had moved to 6-0 for only the fourth time in school history. "Going on the preseason (predictions), I guess we've thrown everybody a curveball. Haven't we?"
Uh, yeah, you could say that. Some preseason polls had OSU projected to finish last in the Big 12 South. Others said the Pokes would be pushed to go 6-6, so they could play in the postseason.
But instead of a curve, a more apt description of what Gundy and his team have done thus far is to throw everyone for a loop. In the process, they've tossed those dreary preseason predictions back in the mugs of their critics.
The Cowboys' victory yesterday over Texas Tech (3-3, 1-3) silenced a whole bunch of doubters. Earlier, as OSU was piling up win after win through five games, the smug skeptics keep insisting that those who were jumping on the Pokes' bandwagon "just better wait until they play at Tech."
Yes, the skeptical crowd had history on its side. No. 20 OSU hadn't won on the Raiders' home turf since 1944. While Gundy downplayed the 66-year drought, he acknowledged after the game that the streak was in "the back of my head" all week.
As he leaned against a wall inside Jones AT&T Stadium after his press conference, Gundy confirmed that this was the second-most satisfying win in his six years in charge of the OSU program.
The only one he ranks above it is the 45-14 victory at Nebraska in 2007. OSU, who hadn't won in Lincoln since 1960, handed the proud Cornhuskers their worst home defeat in 49 years.
"The difference in the Nebraska win is that we had a shot at them (in Lincoln) every other year," said Gundy of the long-time Big Eight Conference partners. "Before the Big 12, we missed playing (at Tech) a lot of years.
"This wasn't as dramatic. But it's still very similar to that Nebraska win."
The 2007 Cowboys finished 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12 and defeated Indiana in the Insight Bowl, 49-33.
At the halfway point of the 2010 season, OSU will have to suffer a total collapse to not better the Cowboys' team of four years ago. Starting with Nebraska this week, the degree of difficulty in the second half of OSU's schedule will definitely be cranked up several notches.
But based on OSU's performance against the Red Raiders, those final six regular-season games don't look quite as daunting as they did back in August. The Pokes jumped on Tech from the start. The 21-0 lead, and Tech punting five times the first 15 minutes, showed how dangerous OSU can be when its young but rapidly improving team can be when everyone's in sync.
Although there is room for improvement everywhere, a relieved Gundy called it the most complete game his team has played in all three phases. His relief came from knowing teams he has coached at OSU, both as an assistant to Les Miles and a head coach, had helped add to the Cowboys' losing streak at Tech.
"I came out here as a coach with two really good teams," Gundy said. "Once with Les, and then two years ago we had a really good team and just got waxed (56-20).
"The thing is, the game has changed so much that you've got to practice and play hard every week or you'll get your butt kicked."
Gundy never doubted the work ethic of the veterans on this team. But he was concerned about playing so many newcomers (10 true freshmen), an inexperienced quarterback and a defense that was looking for an identity.
The result of months of hard work by Gundy, his assistants and the players has produced that magical thing every coach lusts for - chemistry.
"There is a lot of chemistry with this team," Gundy said. "I was worried about that prior to the season."
These surprising, surging Pokes have ratcheted up the expectations. In the not-too-distant past, the Cowboy Nation would have celebrated long into the night because a sixth win meant their team was bowl eligible. But the topic of bowl qualification never came up during Gundy's press conference.
"That's a bad thing," Gundy said jokingly. "Now everyone wants to win them all."
Well guess who has won them all thus far? It isn't Nebraska.