One of the more underrated seasons in Oklahoma State history, belongs to the 2010-2011 squad. It was the first year the Cowboys flirted with a BCS bowl and a Big 12 championship in a long time, and it was the first time the Pokes reached 11 wins in a season. Fast forward five years, and the Cowboys find themselves at 10-2 entering bowl season, just like in 2010. Double digit winning seasons are nothing new anymore, but they never get old. In 2010, Oklahoma State found the most dynamic duo in Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon in school history. Weeden to Blackmon had just begun. Here we are in 2015, and the Cowboys seemed to have found their dynamic connection. Mason Rudolph and James Washington are the real deals, and are both only sophomores. In both 2010 and 2015, the Cowboys exceeded expectations set by the media and surpassed the previous years win total. From a certain point of view, 2010 was 2015. So why can’t 2016 be 2011?
Let’s get one thing clear. This season is not over. The Pokes still have a bowl game left to erase the sour taste left by Baylor and Bedlam, but the future is oh so bright. Rudolph will return for his second full year, and he’ll have plenty of weapons to sling it to. Washington should garner plenty of Biletnikoff hype, but it will not be a one man show. 6-4 Marcell Ateman will return along with Jhajuan Seals who have both shown glimpses of excellence. Speedster Jalen McCleskey will return for his sophomore year and Austin Hays will attempt to fill in the hole left by David Glidden. 2011 had many of the same threats with Blackmon, Tracy Moore, Isiah Anderson, Hubert Anyiam, and Josh Cooper. The one thing that will set these offenses apart is the run game. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith ran wild over defenses and set up Weeden with all of his weapons. The 2011 squad was extremely balanced and is what made them so elite. If the Pokes want to improve on their 10-11 win season, somebody has to step up. Whether it be Jeff Carr, Raymond Taylor, or Chris Carson, it doesn’t matter. The Cowboys need some sort of stability in the run game. If they can continue to be productive in the passing game and somehow muster out a 1,000 yard rusher, this team will be scary good on offense.
What do you want me to say about the defense? Unless they can come up with 40 plus turnovers, they won’t be as productive as the 2011 defense. This years defense carried us to wins in some games, and couldn’t get a stop to save their lives in others. The Pokes will lose Jimmy Bean, Ryan Simmons, Kevin Peterson, Michael Hunter, and more likely than not, Emmanuel Ogbah. Good news is, that’s less than half the defense. Words cannot describe how big of a loss Ogbah is, but this defense will be tough and stingy enough to keep us in games and come up with turnovers the Cowboys feed off of. Ashton Lampkin and Seth Jacobs will probably lead the defense, but Chad Whitener has earned his spot taking over from the injured Simmons. It’s worth repeating that Ogbah and Bean are both gone, and defensive end Trace Clark is as well. But the secondary and linebackers are full of experience and could be the best in the conference. Finally we get to special teams. Nobody can forget Quinn Sharp and all he did for the Pokes, but kicker Ben Grogan is preparing for his senior year and after his 2015 year, he could be in for a great one. Grogan, a three year starter, has been a wild card his entire career, but has developed the clutch gene which is all important in a kicker. He’s not Sharp or Dan Bailey, but his senior year could be something special. One of the consistent bright spots this year has been the play of freshman punter Zach Sinor. Sinor still doesn’t have the leg to flip the field, but his accuracy is beyond his years. Anytime the Cowboys needed a big punt, Sinor delivered, downing opponents inside the 10. If he can improve on his power, Sinor will be a Ray Guy caliber punter for sure.
The 2011-2012 season is still the model season for Oklahoma State fans and no team since has quite lived up to their high standards. Next years 2016 team returns enough fire power on offense and some leadership on defense to lead the Cowboys to, dare I say, the playoffs or even more. And for what it’s worth, Iowa State is at home next year.