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Lowered Expectations?

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State’s 2015 season started off in a charmed fashion. A comeback win at Central Michigan and dramatic finishes at Texas, against Kansas State and at West Virginia book-ended two blowouts of the Central Arkansas Bears and the Road Runners of UT-San Antonio.

It wasn’t pretty but it was working. Every time the Cowboys’ pistol grazed a toe, the Pokes were able to come back in an almost magical way. Add in the thrillers in Lubbock and Ames and I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a truer season-long example of the term “Cardiac Cowboys”. Other than TCU the pride and joy of Oklahoma State’s 2015 campaign there wasn’t one win that really made you think, “This team is really good.”

What a juxtaposition.

I wouldn’t say the 2016 preseason buzz was that of 2015 but there was definitely reason for optimism. That’s a 10-win team coming back, now a year older and more experienced. Mason Rudolph is more experienced.

But just four games into the season, Pistol Pete can report two misfires. While one can be blamed arguably on the coaching staff and not-arguably on both MAC and Big 12 officiating, the other definitely falls at the feet of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have shown us two things: It’s very hard to win games “this way” and that they are still a work in progress.

Why were they able to pull out all of those tight wins last year many on the road?

You can point to specific position groups. JW Walsh, the fifth-year senior was no doubt a leader on this team. He had his hand in a fair share of the Cowboys’ wins, especially in the red zone.

The Cowboys also lost three senior cornerbacks (two who had starting experience) in Kevin Peterson and Michael Hunter. We just watched the secondary give up several big plays.

Maybe luck was a bigger factor than people wanted to believe.

That’s no indictment on the 2015 Cowboys. Luck is always involved in every game and they did put themselves in situations to win those games.

I think an important thing Oklahoma State fans need to realize is that this team is a work in progress; and it has been for some time.

Saturday night we saw what I think was a step forward for the Mike Yurcich/offensive unit.

The coaching staff said, “We’re going to run the ball.” And the offense executed that game plan. I don’t mean to be coy, but if you had told most of us that they had the power to do that a week ago, we would have had our doubts.

Think back to 2015. There were times when the Cowboys’ run game was a practice in futility. The phrase “bang your head into a wall” was used frequently on this blog.

Take one of those three fumbles away and the Cowboys are probably sitting 3-1 and have the best road win in the Big 12.

I’m not say the running game is “fixed”. And this team is unlikely to run the table and eclipse last year’s 10-win mark.

But the Cowboys are still technically in the hunt for a conference title.

Oklahoma enters conference play with a losing record and Baylor is still in turmoil. Who knows how they look in November when their lack of depth starts to show up on the field.

Texas isn’t “back”. TCU does not look as good as people thought. Many are calling West Virginia the Big 12 favorite (in Week 5).

There’s still plenty to play for if you’re Oklahoma State, and still plenty to root for if you’re an Oklahoma State fan.

This weekend brings a home game against Texas, a series that has seen the visiting team win the last seven meetings.

So chin up, Cowboys fans. You’ve still got a fun, talented team that has room to grow and who is still technically in what should be one of the more exciting Big 12 races in recent memory.