The season is really about to begin for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The Cowboys, 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12 (game behind leader Texas and half-game back of Baylor) can win their second conference championship in a three-year span with wins at Texas on Saturday and at home against Baylor Nov. 23 and Oklahoma Dec. 7.
OSU has reason to believe it can finish the season 11-1 and be in a BCS bowl — fulfilling the media’s prediction of a conference championship.
The Cowboys, though, could finish 8-4 just as well.
“I’m excited,’’ said wide receiver Tracy Moore who came back for his senior season rather than going into the NFL draft.
“This is what I came back for — I didn’t come back for the Heart of Dallas Bowl (where OSU played last season). I came back to win a Big 12 championship. We control our own destiny, we’re excited about that.’’
Both coaches and players said, though, the Cowboys will have to improve in all facets of the game to carry the championship trophy again.
“We have to be firing on all cylinders,’’ said offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. “It’s all about run blocking, it’s about running on the perimeter, it’s about being better at the pitch and catch. You have to make sure you’re in the right reads. All of those things need to be right on. We’ll look to get better in practice and go on.’’
Safety Lyndell Johnson said the Cowboys will have to tackle better and “force as many turnovers as possible.’’
“We got a few wrinkles to put in here and there,’’ he said. “We had a few missed tackles tonight. We have to tackle better and keep our offense on the field. That’s what defense is all about.’’
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said the Cowboys have to approach the stretch as three one-game playoffs.
“I think they will feel that and practice like that,’’ Spencer said. “Just realize it’s all in their mind when they go down to Austin. That’s all they need to focus on and worry about. I have no doubt that our emotional intensity is going to be there.’’
The Cowboy defense bent a little, but didn’t break the Jayhawks. KU only had 43 fewer yards than OSU (359-316) but did not cross the goal line. OSU’s biggest stat might have been no turnovers.
OSU has a takeaway-giveaway margin of plus 11. The Cowboys have forced at least one turnover a game so far.
But there were little things to be concerned about. Enid’s Clint Chelf, who had thrown four interceptions in the last three games, had a couple of passes batted that might have been interceptions against Texas, Baylor or OU.
“We’ve got our hands full with the next one,’’ said OSU head coach Mike Gundy about Texas. “We have to really practice well, have a good game plan and get the guys fresh and ready to go.’’
OSU has the mental advantage of back-to-back wins over Texas. The Longhorns won last year’s game 41-36 when it appeared Joe Bergeron had fumbled before crossing the goal line with only 29 seconds left.
“We have been down this road before,’’ OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert said.
The Cowboys have won four straight after a 30-21 upset loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28. Some had written OSU off after that loss.
“We didn’t get it done that week,’’ Spencer said. “All I know is that tomorrow, I can say that we did what we had to do yesterday to win that game, and then it’s over and all that matters is the reality of what you are next week. If they just keep that attitude and motivation, it doesn’t guarantee them success. ‘’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.