Part one of this series was written way back on March 21, just 11 days after the NBA suspended its season and the world went into a coronavirus tailspin. Somehow it has felt as if it has been four years since live sports existed. If you need a refresher on the first part of this series, you can read it here.
I wanted to wait to write part two of this post until now, so it could run on the day that I and the rest of the class of 2020 would’ve crossed the stage at Gallagher-Iba Arena and accepted our degrees. I’ll have a little more on that at the end.
I want to include this excerpt from part one of this post to explain the games I’ll be including.
With that being said, lets take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the best parts of college. Class of 2020, these are the best games of our junior and senior years.
Junior Year — 2018-19
The 2018 football season had plenty of intrigue to it as soon as James Washington and Mason Rudolph heard their names called in the NFL Draft. It didn’t take long for OSU fans and blogs like this one here to start taking opinions on who Rudolph’s successor should be: Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius or Texas Gatorade POTY Spencer Sanders.
The first two games of the season were seemingly insignificant wins against far inferior competition in Missouri State and South Alabama. Then came a win against a ranked Boise State squad that showed this iteration of the team could be better than we thought.
I remember this game in an interesting way. All I’d ever known from Oklahoma State football was 10-win seasons under Rudolph, because I didn’t grow up an OSU fan. I really didn’t follow the team until my senior year of high school, when OSU went 10-3 for the first of three straight seasons. This game gave me hope the Pokes would make it four in a row.
Of course that’s not what happened, but it felt good to be back to an exciting brand of football in what we thought would be a turbulent season (it still turned out to be a turbulent season, but it didn’t feel like it for at least a week... they would go on to get routed by Texas Tech at home the following week.)
Oklahoma State limped into America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration by losing three out of four after beating Boise State in week three, and the one win was... Kansas.
Worse than that, the last down of Cowboy football we saw before Homecoming was an embarrassing 31-12 loss at Kansas State. The offense looked absolutely hapless against the Wildcats, and fortunately had the saving grace of a bye week before Homecoming. Because one extra week of preparation definitely makes a difference when you’re playing the No. 6 team in the nation who also happens to be coming off a bye week, right?
Well... I guess so! As a kid growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I rooted for Texas growing up. I was almost shocked how quickly that allegiance melted away to nothing when I enrolled at Oklahoma State, and beating the No. 6 Longhorns in prime-time at Homecoming makes this undoubtedly one of my three favorite games of college.
Also, I got to rub it in because a friend of mine at UT decided to talk trash...they really thought Corndog wasn’t nice like that!
Homecoming weekend is perhaps my favorite thing at OSU. The memories made with those people that weekend and at that game are unparalleled, and I hope if you’re a senior or a current student reading this that re-watching those highlights elicits those same great memories for you.
I’ll gloss over the next bit rather than going into detail: OSU lost a close one against an average-at-best Baylor squad before heading into Bedlam on the road.
I didn’t attend that game, but watching it was a lot of fun. Corndog brought the juice again after a letdown in Waco, and 2018 Bedlam reminded me of 2017 Bedlam... a loss that was painful, but exhilarating to the end. While 2017 was the better game overall, 2018 was just as fun because of the underdog nature of that team. Also, Bedlam Tyron Johnson is one of my favorite players of all time.
We round out 2018 with a home game against West Virginia, another top 10 upset courtesy of one of the most interesting legacies ever left behind by an OSU signal caller.
The win against No. 9 West Virginia would prove to be the last of the regular season for the Cowboys. I can’t talk too much about this game because it was the only one I ever left early (I know, I know, it wasn’t very loyal-and-true of me), but the Pokes made me pay for that decision. In my defense, I was cold and hungry.
A loss to TCU the following week left the team at an even 6-6 and a Liberty Bowl appearance. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with just three Big 12 wins — Kansas, and two top-10 teams... comeagain?
While the 2018 team lost to the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas State and TCU, they picked up three top-25 wins after beating Missouri in the Liberty Bowl (against a legitimate NFL quarterback no less) and played playoff-bound OU within a point in Norman. I’ve never seen such an up-and-down season in my life, and I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan if that tells you anything.
Unfortunately, I worked at night during basketball season second semester, so the only games I could go to were on Saturday’s... and it felt like OSU didn’t have many of those. Because of that, I have just one memorable game from junior year to discuss, and I didn’t even attend... but boy it was a good one. Some of you probably already know what I’m talking about.
One boring Wednesday night at work, I decided to pull up the OSU basketball game on my laptop... why not? Lindy Waters rewarded me.
Waters absolutely incinerated the net down the stretch, hitting four three-pointers in the final 55 seconds, and another big three in overtime. Sure it was another loss in lost season, but making Tech work for it in a season where the Red Raiders were trying — and eventually succeeding — to dethrone Kansas for the league title, was special to me.
Lindy finished 7-for-10 on threes with a game-high 26 points. He played 44 minutes... the game was 45 minutes total.
Senior Year — 2019-20
Senior year started out hopeful as well, just like 2018. Spencer Sanders brought an exciting dynamic to the quarterback position after impressing in his first ever game at Oregon State. That was followed up by a win against an overpowered McNeese State squad and a strong finish for a win at Tulsa.
And we’re right back to the Texas game, once again one of my favorites of college.
This game was my second road game of college; the Pokes went 0-for-2 in those games. Nonetheless, each was one of my favorites of college because they were both close games in a unique road environment. And, as I mentioned in part one, showing up to a road game in all orange and rooting for the Cowboys is so much fun. Somehow, celebrating touchdowns and singing the alma mater after the game are even better on the road.
As good as the game was, the whole weekend was a great experience. Sixth street is unlike anything Stillwater has (*editor’s note: Micah agrees) and I got to spend the weekend with one of my closest friends. This friend, Sarah, is the same one that made fun of me junior year before Texas lost... but she was gracious and didn’t rub it in when OSU lost in Austin, so shoutout to Sarah.
Fortunately, the Pokes rebounded with another great game. Chuba Hubbard ran for under four yards per-attempt at Texas, but followed it up by running to the literal sun and back (okay, maybe it was only 300 yards but still), against Kansas State.
This game brought back memories of the Pittsburgh game from my freshman year. The Pokes needed a win coming off a loss, and were aided by a rain delay to finish strong. Related: OSU’s rain playlist played in BPS during rain delays is one of my favorites... only elite bangers on that thing.
And that leads us to my final favorite football game of college, which is honestly only on here because it was my last game.
I don’t actually recommend watching these highlights, just for the record.
This is another game that’s more about the memories than anything else. Another year, another Bedlam loss... but also the last game of my undergrad experience.
Hearing Larry Reece yell “this is our home, this is our family” into Boone Pickens Stadium is a top three feeling of all time. The game itself wasn’t great and it was cold outside, but I had a friend (shoutout to Aleyna) that stuck it out with me because I was not going to leave before I could sing our alma mater in BPS one last time.
The bars after the game was also a fun time. In some cases, I think games can only be as good or as bad as the memories made with them. While the game wasn’t too fun, the memories certainly are.
Moving on to our final basketball season for the class of 2020, I was once again at work more often than not during OSU games, but I do have two games that really stick out from last season.
The first of these two games came in Stillwater on a rare Wednesday that I wasn’t at work. The Pokes were coming off a blowout loss in Norman in what was the middle of a frustrating season.
Oklahoma State was looking for it’s first Big 12 win after an 0-8 start to conference play. They looked good for the first time in a while and picked up that first win, 72-57. Isaac Likekele finished with 15 points and 11 assists in the win.
Believe it or not, the cool part for me wasn’t even necessarily the win. While I was excited OSU finally got over the hump to propel itself to a decent finish, the cool thing was seeing RJ Nembhard lead the game in scoring with 16 points for TCU.
I went to high school with RJ and had a class with him, even though he was the class below me. RJ takes frequent visits back to Keller and has always treated his fans and the media with respect. I think in any case, it’s very cool to see people from your hometown and your school succeed, and we’ve had no shortage of that in Keller. RJ is part of that.
My next favorite game is definitely my favorite hoops game since sophomore year. Looking for a big win, OSU routed OU in a game where walk-on JK Hadlock (3) outscored OU’s Brady Manek (2) in an 83-66 win. Manek had torched OSU to the tune of 30 points down in Norman just 21 days prior.
Perhaps the best thing about this game is the way the class of 2020 was represented in it. Trey Reeves meant an enormous amount to this program the last four years, and he got on the court for what would be (I believe) the last time in his college career. Cam McGriff wound up being arguably the best player from the 2016 signing class, and he put up a career-high 28 points in a win against our hated rivals. That’s pretty awesome.
As far as my favorite games of college go, that wraps it up. It think 4,000 words will just about do it. But I do want to say one more thing and I hope you’ll keep reading if you’re currently a student at OSU and especially if you’re one of my peers in the class of 2020. If not, this is roll credits, feel free to bail out here and thanks for reading.
So many amazing people at our great university made their legacies at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Chances are, the names of you and I won’t ever be held in the regard of the men the arena is named after, and the countless other historic coaches, athletes and university staff that have passed through it’s hallowed halls.
But being able to graduate at GIA is something that’s special to me. It is a culmination of my legacy and the work I’ve done at the university that I love so much. To be recognized in the same building that so many OSU legends have passed through. It’s a right of passage for every Cowboy and Cowgirl to have the chance to have their works recognized. To me, that means a lot.
I know this isn’t happening the way any of us wanted it to. However, the events surrounding our lives are far out of our control and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have an amazing college experience at a university that I love; that has become a second home to me.
I hope to see as many of you in #okstate20 as possible in GIA in December. Something tells me if you’re a senior and you’ve read this far, you probably feel the same way about this that I do.
I have one more thing I have to write considering all I’ve just said: Thank you mom and dad. I wouldn’t be here and certainly wouldn’t be writing this right now without y’all. Thank you for giving me the ability to realize a dream I’ve had since fourth grade that is completed as of today... I’m a graduate of a university I love and can root for forever.
Congratulations Oklahoma State class of 2020... we made it.