STILLWATER — In 2009, it was then-third string quarterback Brandon Weeden leading Oklahoma State to a 31-28 comeback win against Colorado.
Last season, it was Shaun Lewis coming up with an interception in the final seconds and Dan Bailey sending a 40-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give the Cowboys a 38-35 victory over Texas A&M.
It's almost become a new tradition at OSU. The Cowboys will play one home game on Thursday night that's televised nationally by ESPN each season. They will wear black uniforms. And things will get wacky.
Whatever mystique now surrounds those Thursday night games might be coincidental. But the reasons for OSU to play on a weeknight in prime time, like the Cowboys will again on Thursday against Arizona, are concrete.
The buzzword thrown out by OSU athletic director Mike Holder and coach Mike Gundy is “marketing.”
“Being the only show on Thursday night, there are a lot of viewers out there,” Gundy said. “And it's not only for our football team, but it's for our university. When that logo's on the screen for three hours…we think is an advantage.”
This season, the Cowboys will be pegged against the NFL's season opener featuring the Packers and Saints. But for a viewer looking for college football, the OSU-UA game will be the only option. Perhaps in 3-D if their TV is equipped.
It's tough to buy that type of national exposure. But in this case, ESPN pays for it.
“ESPN can be very persuasive,” Holder said. “They've got a lot of arrows in their quiver to get you to play on Thursday night. It seems like the more times you say no or maybe not, the better the deal gets. And finally, you just can't say no.”
Playing a weeknight game does come with some costs, though.
Most OSU fans travel to games from outside of Stillwater, which is a bigger hassle during the work week. That also usually means less people participating in pregame festivities, which can cost local vendors. It also creates problems with parking and general crowding on campus because it's a normal class day.
Of course, it also means less preparation time for the OSU football team after playing this past Saturday.
“It's not a decision that you make lightly, but for the last three years, the positives have outweighed the negatives,” Holder said.
And it's an opportunity that the Cowboys relish.
“They're a little bit harder to prepare for, but they're still a lot of fun,” Weeden said. “You get to be on national television and play against a good team on ESPN. I wouldn't want to play four or five of them throughout the year, but once a year is fun.”
Said safety Markelle Martin: “Everyone in the country is going to be watching us, so it's one of those things where you've got to be ready. We've had some good memories (on Thursday nights), but I feel like this is going to be a big game.”
With the OSU football program's rise to national prominence, playing on Thursday nights may not be necessary in the coming years. Finding networks to put the Cowboys on television is no longer a huge issue, and Holder said he would prefer to play all home games on Saturday.
But Holder is also embracing the third consecutive season with the Pokes playing in front of a national audience on Thursday night. And if recent history is any indication, the game will market a program capable of putting on an exciting show.
“I don't know what we're going to wear Thursday,” Holder said. “But I guess if we come out of the tunnel in black, everybody better fasten their seat belts. It might be a wild ride.”