For coaches and media people, Sunday nights are comparable.
There’s a review of what transpired the day before, and there’s a look ahead at the next game.
During research of the upcoming Baylor-Oklahoma State contest — the centerpiece event of OSU’s homecoming weekend — some striking numbers sneaked up on me.
Everyone is aware that OSU recorded a lot of victories during the Mason Rudolph seasons, and that the 2018 season was less than satisfying for Mike Gundy, but this Then vs. Now comparison makes a statement about the current condition of the program.
During a stretch of 44 games in 2014-18, the Cowboys were 35-9.
Over its last 16 games, Oklahoma State is 8-8.
The first of those 16 games was a 41-17 home loss to Texas Tech. The most recent of the 16, played on Oct. 5, was a 45-35 setback at Texas Tech. As Spencer Sanders was intercepted three times and lost two fumbles, the Cowboys were minus-5 on turnovers.
Since recording six 10-win seasons during this decade, the Cowboys have been undermined by self-inflicted mediocrity. They’ve developed two nasty habits: losing in home games and losing to opponents that have less talent.
While unbeaten Baylor may not have a running back like Chuba Hubbard or a receiver like Tylan Wallace, the Bears’ overall talent level is at least equal to Oklahoma State’s.
There’s no way to know what Gundy is saying to his players behind closed doors, but the Cowboy coach has to know that the Baylor challenge is beyond important.
If I were coaching the Cowboys, I’d be in panic mode: This isn’t good enough. What we’ve done for two seasons is below the standard we worked hard to establish.
We’re going to block better, stop committing turnovers and consistently play defense like we did against Kansas State. We’re going to stop losing to people we’re supposed to beat.
Publicly, though, there are no expressions of panic from Gundy.
“These kids are resilient,” he said on Monday. “You show them what they did wrong. You correct it. You coach them hard.
“I’ve said it a hundred times: if you have a big win, you can’t get too high; and if you end up losing, you’ve got to get over it quick in practice. That’s what they’ve done. They’re fine.”
You know who is fine?
Baylor is fine.
Barry Switzer once said that Bill Snyder’s development of the Kansas State program was the best coaching job in college football history. Considering Baylor’s circumstances after Art Briles was fired, Matt Rhule’s performance in Waco should be considered Snyder-esque.
In 2017, Rhule’s first Baylor team was 1-11 and a 59-16 loser during OSU’s homecoming celebration.
“They were an incomplete pass from making it 66-16,” Rhule recalls.
In 2018, the Bears stunned OSU 35-31 and went on to finish 7-6.
This season, the Bears are 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Big 12 and ranked 18th in the AP poll. Rhule recently got an extension on his original seven-year contract. In the wake of a scandal that could have destroyed the Bears’ football program, his leadership has been brilliant.
“Obviously, our guys know who and what Oklahoma State is,” said Rhule, who in 2013-16 was the head man at Temple. “This has all been fun, but we’re fixing to go to Stillwater and play a great team. We have to be unbelievably ready to have a chance.”
In 1996-2011, OSU was 15-1 against Baylor. If the Bears prevail on Saturday, they would have conquered the Cowboys for the sixth time in eight years.
Neither Gundy nor anyone else is happy with an 8-8 record over 16 games. There’s only one way to get beyond mediocrity, and that’s by stacking victories. Beating Baylor would be a nice start in that process.