STILLWATER — Ten years ago this week, after Dez Bryant’s appeal for reinstatement was denied by the NCAA, Mike Gundy began the painful adjustment of coaching a team without its best player.
Only two days later, the 2009 Cowboys played at Iowa State. Gundy’s play calls were super conservative. Oklahoma State won with a defense that limited the Cyclones to 2.1 yards per rush, with a 331-yard run game and with ball security.
While not committing a turnover, those Cowboys of a decade ago totaled three takeaways, and prevailed while still processing the shock that Bryant no longer would be an OSU superstar.
On Saturday, as Gary Patterson and his TCU defense visited Boone Pickens Stadium, Gundy’s program was in a remarkably comparable position.
Staggered after having lost another elite wide receiver — Tylan Wallace — OSU had only two days to make adjustments before the TCU challenge.
Again, Gundy opted for a conservative response.
The result: Spencer Sanders attempted only 15 passes — OSU’s lowest single-game total in 11 years.
The end result: Because of the combination of Chuba Hubbard’s fantastic productivity and more difference-making defense, the Cowboys recorded a gut-check conquest of a TCU team that last week beat Texas.
In 2009, Bryant was the undisputed No. 1 player. In a literal sense, it’s impossible for a team to have two No. 1 players.
In a Gundy sense, it’s not impossible this season.
Wallace and Hubbard are exact equals at the top of the OSU roster, and Hubbard was tremendous as he shocked the Horned Frogs defense with 223 rushing yards.
Last week, Wallace scored on a remarkable 71-yard play and the Cowboys defense got three fourth-quarter interceptions in a 34-27 triumph at Iowa State.
On Saturday, as Hubbard became the first player to get as many as 200 yards against a Patterson-coached defense, there was the 34-27 triumph over TCU.
After getting three fourth-quarter interceptions at Iowa State, the Cowboys defense got four takeaways against TCU. OSU totaled five sacks and eight quarterback hurries.
For the first time in two years, Oklahoma State has recorded back-to-back Big 12 wins.
Hubbard’s 92-yard touchdown sprint was the longest run ever against a Patterson-coached defense. Hubbard leads the nation with 1,604 yards and needed only nine games to become the most productive of all Gundy-coached tailbacks. In 2008, Kendall Hunter ran for 1,555 yards.
Hubbard now is on pace for a 13-game total of 2,317 yards.
The Cowboys also were without center Johnny Wilson and safety Tre Sterling, who joined Wallace in getting injured during a freakishly sobering Wednesday practice session.
The Wallace injury is believed to be a damaged knee — a torn ACL. Gundy did not divulge details in that regard, but he did acknowledge that Wallace won’t play again this season.
As the Cowboys now are 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, four games remain on the schedule. OSU hosts Kansas in two weeks, plays at West Virginia on Nov. 23, hosts Bedlam on Nov. 30 and then gets ready for a bowl game.
The TCU outcome elevated OSU to bowl eligibility for the 14th consecutive season. Before this run, OSU never had a run of more than three consecutive bowl appearances.
As I began the Saturday drive to Stillwater, I stopped at a QuikTrip. A guy wearing an OSU ballcap and an OSU zip-up shirt opened the door for me. I thanked him and asked, “What do you expect to see at OSU today?”
“We’ll win the game,” he replied.
“You seem pretty confident,” I said.
“I can tell you this,” the QuikTrip guy added. “We’re fixin’ to find out what our other receivers are made of.”
Sanders and Dillon Stoner connected on pass-play TDs of 57 and 22 yards. Braydon Johnson collected a 47-yard pass from Sanders. On the whole, however, the QuikTrip customer actually learned nothing about OSU’s other receivers.
Wallace had 53 catches before he was injured. Stoner now has 28. By season’s end, Wallace might still be the team leader in receptions.
In 2009, because of injuries and Bryant’s absence, Gundy was forced to go with a conservative offense.
Now, because Wallace is on crutches, because Hubbard is a run-game phenom, because the defense has real momentum and because Gundy doesn’t want to see Sanders throw a bunch of interceptions, the 2019 Cowboys offense is fixin’ to become the most conservative Cowboys offense in 10 years.