LAWRENCE, Kan. â€” It has been an incredible season for the Oklahoma State football program. When the Cowboys face Kansas at 11 a.m. Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., OSU will be searching for the first 10-win regular season in the program's history.
Here are ten overlooked reasons why Oklahoma State is one win away from a 10-1 record.
1. Strength and conditioning program
The development of OSU's athletes, led by strength and conditioning coach Rob Glass, has been key. Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon have great physical skills but their strength and power are underrated attributes that take them from very good to great. And OSU's defense has survived being on the field for an average of 80.8 plays per game thanks in part to OSU's offseason conditioning.
2. Overall depth of the Class of 2010
Justin Gilbert, Devin Hedgepeth, Shaun Lewis and Joseph Randle have gotten plenty of attention but the depth of the Cowboys true freshman class has helped OSU sit atop the Big 12 South. Lavocheya Cooper, Deion Imade, Larry Stephens and Zack Craig have been solid on special teams.
3. Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon
The bowl defeat after the 2008 season made coach Mike Gundy re-commit to making sure the Cowboys were a physical football team. With Dana Holgorsen's offense being installed, some people expected OSU to become a more finesse team, but this year's Cowboy team has been as physical as previous squads.
4. Emergence of Bo Bowling
Holgorsen believes the Cowboys would not have won at Kansas State without Bowling. The senior receiver has gone facing drug charges in Payne County and being off the team to one of the core members of the Big 12's top offense.
5. Dez Bryant's 2009 suspension
Bryant's suspension forced several Cowboy receivers including Blackmon and Josh Cooper, the Cowboys' top two receivers this season, to see significant playing time during OSU's 2009 Big 12 slate. The growing pains of life without Dez were felt in 2009 instead of early 2010.
6. Orie Lemon's preseason knee injury in 2009
Lemon's season ending knee injury before last season's opener could be the biggest blessing in disguise in recent memory. It gave the senior linebacker another year of eligibility. Lemon been the foundation of OSU's defense and leads the Pokes with 99 tackles through 10 games. Donald Booker, OSU's leading tackler in 2009, had 99 tackles in 13 games.
7. Brandon Weeden's shoulder injury
If Weeden didn't decide to quit baseball due to shoulder problems in 2007, he wouldn't be the nation's leading passer for OSU. The junior, who could become the Cowboys first all-Big 12 quarterback, fell into the laps of the Pokes' coaching staff and matured into the ideal triggerman for Holgorsen's offense.
8. Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp
Bailey, a place kicker, and Sharp, a punter/kickoff specialist, have each had huge impacts on OSU wins. Bailey's game-winning kick defeated Texas A&M and Sharp's coffin-corner punting helped the Cowboys knock off Kansas State.
9. Center Grant Garner
In an offense which requires the majority of the snaps to come out of the shotgun formation, Garner has been incredibly accurate with his snaps while allowing just one sack in 765 snaps this season.
Nobody believed the Cowboys could accomplish what they have this season except themselves. And that's half the battle.