The weirdest season of Mike Gundy’s tenure has come to a merciful and glorious ending. The Cowboys perfectly encapsulated the entire season into one Liberty Bowl victory; playing well for a half, having a great third quarter, and an awful fourth before just hanging on for a win over a ranked opponent in a game it wasn’t supposed to win.
While a victory in the 5th place Big 12 Bowl game isn’t something fans will be bragging about for generations, there are a number of reasons that the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over Missouri on New Year’s Eve was an important game for the Cowboy program.
All the Statistical History
For one thing, the win helps Mike Gundy avoid his first losing season since 2005, his first in charge of the program. That’s an amazing run at a program like Oklahoma State. It’s also wild that Gundy has had four 6-6 regular seasons and won his bowl game in all four of them to finish with a record over .500.
The win pushes Coach Gundy’s bowl record to 9-4. Among teams that have played in at least 10 bowl games, Gundy’s record would have him tied for fourth at 69.23% with Wake Forest, who as a program has the exact same record.
Gundy also now owns nearly half of OSU’s 19 bowl victories, and pushed the team’s overall record to 19-10, one of the 10 best bowl winning percentages in the country
While Mike Gundy may not care much about fans’ opinions, this win should leave the Cowboy faithful feeling pretty good as they face the long off-season. After a year of high-highs and low-lows, a positive ending completely changed the perspective of the season, and honestly, the future.
And fans have plenty of reason to look toward 2019 with optimism. Talented running back Chuba Hubbard will be entering his sophomore season coming off a fantastic 145 yard, one touchdown bowl performance. Oklahoma State will return its four leading receivers in Tylan Wallace, Tyron Johnson, Landon Wolf, and Dillon Stoner. And excitement can now start building for the likely start of the Spencer Sanders era.
On defense, yes there are concerns up front, but Oklahoma State might have its most physical secondary since 2013 next season as guys like Kolby Peel, Tanner McCalister, and Malcolm Rodriguez continue to take steps forward. Not to mention another season of A.J. Green.
It may not be the Mason Rudolph level of excitement following the 2014 season, but there are plenty of reasons to believe Oklahoma State will look more like the 10-win teams fans are used to in 2019.
Gundy Feeling Good
Fans aren’t the only ones feeling uplifted after the bowl win.
Gundy, who some have claimed could be feeling fatigue after 14 seasons at the helm of the program, said after the win that he’s feeling good.
“I know that I’m burned out, supposedly, but I can tell you right now I’m more excited than I ever have been,” Gundy said after the win.
Now, I doubt Gundy makes the same comment with the same vigor if the team loses. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Besides the win, it may also have been something he saw in the team that has him feeling good.
“That’s the way we used to play in ’08 and ’09 and ’10 — those years when we were building this program, we used to play physical like that,” said Gundy. “We asked them to come out and be the most physical team and to challenge the SEC, and they did. There’s no question we were the most physical team. On paper they’re probably better than us, but we hit, we kept competing. Our culture is for real. I’m so excited about how physical we were, and that’s the way we used to play and that’s the way we need to get back to playing.”
It’s similar to the statements Gundy made after Oklahoma State lost to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl after the 2008 season, when the Cowboys couldn’t match the Ducks’ physicality in the second half. After that loss, Gundy promised the team would become more physical. I would say the effects after that, a three year record of 34-7, were pretty good.
If Gundy has found the fountain of coaching youth, and the team starts playing with more physicality, there’s plenty of reason to believe we could see another impressive 3-year running coming very soon.