The No. 10 Oklahoma State Cowboys are the lone Big 12 team with an undefeated record to start the 2020 season, but nothing came easy, and it certainly wasn’t pretty at times.
Through three games, two Big 12 matchups, let us dive in and take a look at what the Cowboys have done to escalate to the top of the conference and break the top 10 for the first time since week 12 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys have now cracked the top 10 at some point nine times in the past 13 seasons.
Like I said before, none of this came easy. But then again, nothing about 2020 has been easy, so what did we expect, Cowboy fans?
Let’s start from the beginning:
In his 15 seasons with OSU leading into his 16th, Mike Gundy has been recognized as a coach who produces a prolific offense every year in the Big 12. With true freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders taking the spotlight last season, the offense held up to the standard well even with a final 8-5 record finishing third in the Big 12.
Four of their losses came against Big 12 opponents and one loss to Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.
In a season some thought wouldn’t even happen, but more were hopeful would happen, the Cowboys had their guy in Spencer Sanders, wide receiver Tylan Wallace ready for action and healed from an ACL tear, and the nation’s leading running back in Chuba Hubbard.
They looked unstoppable and gained national recognition in preseason polls, but the universe would have other plans early on to put Cowboy fans on the edge of their seats and Mike Gundy in a tough spot with efficient decisions needing to be made.
Sept. 19, No. 11 Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa
After COVID-19 played its part in postponing the season opener for both teams back one week, the Pokes and Golden Hurricane took the field at Boone Pickens Stadium, and injury reared its ugly head early on for the Cowboys sending starting quarterback Spencer Sanders to the locker room.
Sanders, who suffered a right ankle injury late in the first half, had his spot filled by junior college transfer Ethan Bullock, and let’s just say it didn’t look good for OSU.
To avoid a huge upset, Gundy took a chance on true freshman Shane Illingworth who hadn’t practiced but maybe two weeks, and it ended up being exactly the ignition OSU needed to survive and advance.
We can talk about how great Illingworth was all day, but it was the defense who deserved all the recognition for this one. Holding Tulsa to only one touchdown, 277 yards and a completely scoreless second half, the defense was nothing short of fantastic. Pat yourself on the back, Jim Knowles.
OSU 16, Tulsa 7
Sept. 26, No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia
It was officially game on for Big 12 play as the Mountaineers came to town, and after a stale performance the week before, the Cowboys were determined to increase the momentum and keep their winnings ways going.
Illingworth was the guy. He put a spark in the offense the week before, and Gundy called on him to do it again.
A big first half put the Pokes up 20-7 going into halftime with Illingworth utilizing his running backs and the defense making big plays of their own, but it was crunch time in the second half as West Virginia found their spark.
*Insert Chuba Hubbard*
Hubbard called game with a 23-yard touchdown in the final 1:17 of the game but to say this was another nail-biting performance for Cowboy fans would be understating it.
This game did, however, serve as the first time since the 2016 season (OSU vs. TCU) that the Cowboys had two different running backs rush for more than 100 yards in a Big 12 outing (Hubbard, 101 yards. LD Brown, 103 yards).
This was another electric performance from the defense putting pressure on Jarret Doege and limiting third-down conversions to 6-17 for the Mountaineers.
OSU 27, WVU 13
Oct. 3, No. 17 Oklahoma State @ Kansas
Regardless of what you want to say about Kansas, this matchup meant something to the Pokes as this marked only the second time the Cowboys competed against a former coach in Les Miles. Last season being the first time.
Miles, in his second season with the Jayhawks, commented after the game he had high hopes for his team moving forward, and though this was a game the Cowboys completely dominated from start to finish, I can see it.
Now when I say the Cowboys dominated from start to finish, I mean it.
Illingworth and the Pokes had 593 total yards compared to Kansas’ 193 yards, and the defense wrecked the Jayhawks’ offense not even allowing them to see the other side of the field until the fourth quarter.
Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace had two touchdowns a piece, and the Cowboy offense had 31 first downs compared to Kansas’ 12.
There’s not much to say about this matchup other than it gave the Cowboys a chance to showcase what they could really do, gave Illingworth a massive boost of confidence and made the Pokes the only undefeated team in the Big 12.
OSU 47, Kansas 7
The Cowboys have a bye week this weekend, and it may be for the best as OSU is now the center piece to what I call a COVID-19 sandwich. And folks, it may not be anything, but it may be something.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, the University of Kansas announced that Les Miles tested positive for COVID-19.
What does this mean for Oklahoma State? Nothing yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on considering it was less than a week ago the Cowboys were in direct contact with Kansas players, facilities, and Mike Gundy had direct contact with Les Miles.
Postgame handshake pic.twitter.com/cXE6Pg88TX
— Cayden McFarland (@caydenmc) October 8, 2020
Miles, 66, learned of his positive test result on Thursday and will not be attending any of Kansas Football’s upcoming practices, reported by ESPN.
And it doesn’t stop there for the Cowboys…
Baylor Football dropped a bomb on the college football world yesterday, Oct. 8, saying the university will be halting all football-related activities until further notice due to “precautionary measures.”
Baylor pausing all football-related activities
— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) October 8, 2020
The Baylor Director of Athletics Mack B. Rhoades states in the article above that the focus is on the athletes’ and the staff’s health, and that the game between Oklahoma State and Baylor remains a priority.
The Cowboys are set to travel to Waco, Texas, to play the Bears on Oct. 17.
Updates on this matchup and others will come as quickly as they are released. Until then, Cowboy fans, enjoy this undefeated start and being ranked No. 1 in the Big 12.