LUBBOCK, Texas — Mike Gundy was an Oklahoma State quarterback who handed the ball off to Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas. As the Big 12’s longest-tenured coach, he has overseen many big-play and high-scoring offenses led by other All-Americans.
Now Gundy is just trying to stay out of the way with the seventh-ranked Cowboys being defensive-minded and headed to their first Big 12 championship game.
“It’s just important that we stay the course,” Gundy said. “I just let everybody do their job, not mess with them.”
The Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) have a suffocating defense that is demoralizing opposing teams and their quarterbacks, allowing 164.3 yards per game and only one offensive touchdown over their past four games. The latest was a 23-0 win over a Texas Tech team that hadn’t been shut out at home since 1987 – when Gundy, now the 17th-year coach, was still quarterback for the Cowboys playing in a different league.
Asked if he could sense on the sideline how much the defense wanted a shutout Saturday night, when the Cowboys locked up their title game spot, Gundy responded, “I stay as far away as I can, so I don’t mess them up.”
Before playing in the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma State hosts Bedlam at home in what could be the first of two games in two weeks against 10th-ranked Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1). The six-time defending Big 12 champion Sooners get into the Dec. 4 title game with a win over the Cowboys next Saturday night, or a loss by ninth-ranked Baylor (9-2, 6-2) earlier that day to Texas Tech.
“This is why I came back … to get a Big 12 championship, and honestly beat OU,” said linebacker Devin Harper, one of Oklahoma State’s super seniors.
For these Cowboys, who haven’t beaten Oklahoma since 2014 or won a conference title since 2011 when there wasn’t a Big 12 championship game, there could be even bigger things this season.
Oklahoma State will certainly move up from ninth in the new College Football Playoff ranking this week after lopsided losses Saturday by Oregon and Michigan State ahead of them. The Cowboys then have the opportunity to get two victories over 10-win teams, whether twice over Oklahoma or once each over the Sooners and Baylor, which would have to get its 10th win to play in the Big 12 title game.
“We take it game by game. We’ve been in the water forever, we see land and we’ve just got to keep pushing,” Harper said. “We’ve got to beat OU, and whoever we play in the Big 12 beat them, and talk about the playoff then.”
Texas Tech, which had scored in 302 consecutive games since a shutout loss at Nebraska in 1997 a decade after last being held scoreless at home, didn’t even reach 100 yards in total offense until a 25-yard pass on the final drive. The Red Raiders finished with 108 yards on 57 plays, including 13 that lost yards and 21 incomplete passes.
Red Raiders redshirt quarterback Donovan Smith, who was 25-of-35 passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa State in his first start the previous week, finished 9 of 29 for 83 yards. Texas Tech had only 31 yards in the first half, including two completions for negative yards.
It was the third week in a row for Oklahoma State stymying a quarterback coming off a standout game.
TCU’s Chandler Morris had 531 total yards (461 passing) and three TDs in a win over Baylor before throwing for 103 yards and having minus-25 yards rushing against the Cowboys. West Virginia’s Jarret Doege had only 109 yards passing against them a week after he threw for 370 yards and three TDs against Iowa State.
Oklahoma State receiver Tay Martin, who had seven catches for 130 yards against Texas Tech, described his defensive teammates as relentless and hard working.
“So for me to even be able to go against them guys at practice, it’s an opportunity for me to get better in my game,” Martin said. “I take pride in just trying to get open on them because the stuff they do on game days is unreal. And I’m grateful to be a part of that and just have that type of defense on my side.”