STILLWATER â€“ Mystery surrounded Justin Blackmon's status from the moment he was spotted in a walking cast on Monday.
Would he play? Would he still be a star, as he has in every game he's played this season?
The questions were the same, inside the program and out.
â€œWe didn't totally know we were going to have him all week,â€ said Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.
Blackmon did play, but endured an uneven night, the result of a severely sprained ankle suffered in the Kansas game that swelled and turned worse the next day.
At times he was clearly hobbled; other times he flashed the brilliance that put him at atop the nation's receiving charts.
The stats showed a typical Blackmon performance: eight catches, 105 yards and a touchdown.
But the eyes showed different. OSU coach Mike Gundy put Blackmon at â€œ60 to 70 percent.â€
â€œJustin didn't practice all week. Didn't take one snap all week,â€ Gundy said. â€œWe kept him in a cast for five days and put him in a boot the last day. I would suspect he'll be pretty sore tomorrow.
â€œHe has a pretty high tolerance for pain. He wanted to play. He wanted to play with the pain and we really couldn't keep him out of there.
â€œThat's not an excuse. That's not the reason we lost the game.â€
The Cowboys always believed they'd have their standout receiver. And the injury isn't such that he could damage the ankle worse.
Still, the uncertainty of his availability and his effectiveness made for an uncertain week.
â€œFrom a practice standpoint and a game plan standpoint, it's awful nice to be able to work the things you know you're going to be able to do,â€ Holgorsen said. â€œWe didn't have the luxury of that.
â€œIt got us out of whack a little bit, out of sync a little bit.â€
Yet it's not like the Cowboys wouldn't â€” or couldn't â€” use him.
â€œYou can't keep him out,â€ Holgorsen said. â€œA great player, you can't keep him off the field. Regardless of whether he practiced or whether he didn't practice, if we scheme things up for him or we scheme things up without him, you're still going to put him out there if he can go.
â€œBut it does hinder you a little bit.â€