STILLWATER — For the first time, Les Miles didn’t enjoy watching Bullet gallop across the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Miles, now the head football coach at Kansas, returned Saturday to Oklahoma State, where he coached from 2001-04. He was also the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 1995-97 before a stint as the Dallas Cowboys’ tight ends coach between his stops at OSU.
Miles left OSU for LSU, where he won a national championship in 2007 and two SEC titles before being fired four games into the 2016 season.
In Miles’ first return to Stillwater since taking over a struggling KU program last November, the Cowboys scored in only 1:50 of the game time to set Bullet free. Miles would see plenty of the black horse that runs onto the field after every touchdown, as OSU beat the Jayhawks 31-13.
“I just have a different feeling when Bullet comes out,” Miles said. “When I was here before, I had a great feeling when Bullet came out. I would look for Bullet to come out. But now I’m standing in an unusual spot for me — I’m standing across the field. I could see Bullet start to the finish. It’s just not the same.”
Miles was familiar with the traditions, as well as the opposing coach. OSU coach Mike Gundy served as Miles’ offensive coordinator during his tenure and took over the program after Miles left. Gundy was also the quarterbacks coach when Miles was offensive coordinator.
Before the game, Gundy was talking to Miles’ wife, Kathy, and daughter, Smacker, at the midfield logo when Miles jogged across the field to meet them. The two smiled and shook hands and before Gundy raised his voice over the stadium’s music and said, “I was gonna ask you if you’re having fun, and everyone’s telling me you are.”
“I enjoyed seeing Coach pregame, and Kathy and Smacker,” Gundy said after the game. “We had a good conversation. I have a lot of respect for Coach. I hope he feels the same way. I asked him if he’s having fun, and he said he’s having a ball, which I’m sure he is.”
Gundy is associated with OSU’s national emergence; however, Miles was in charge when T. Boone Pickens made the largest donation in school history in 2003 that is often credited for the Cowboys’ turnaround and was the funding behind a massive stadium renovation. The facility was renamed Boone Pickens Stadium from Lewis Field later that year.
Miles’ teams were 10-3 in Boone Pickens Stadium during his final two seasons at OSU.
“What a wonderful man Boone Pickens is,” Miles said. “Let’s just tell it the way it is — for him to have gone to a school and have such great loyalty to it and give the largest gift in the history of gift-giving to colleges …
“It’s a shame he’s not with us today. I enjoyed him during my time here, except I just wish I had had more time with him.”
With KU’s loss Saturday, Miles’ record in Boone Pickens Stadium dropped to 10-4 since the facility was renamed. His previous game in the stadium was a 38-21 win against Baylor before he lost a road game to Texas Tech and a bowl matchup with Ohio State before leaving Stillwater.
“I really like this place,” Miles said. “These people were kind to my family. I had two children born here. I enjoyed it and always look back and think how special this place is to my family.”