STILLWATER — Mike Gundy felt the vibe when his team went from the team hotel to the football stadium for its walk-through Saturday morning.
As the Cowboys walked across the Oklahoma State campus 10 hours before kickoff, he was struck by how many people were around. They were setting up their tailgates. They were wearing their orange.
And they were everywhere.
“There (were) just people all over campus,” the Cowboy coach said. “There was a lot of energy.”
After a week filled with investigations and accusations, the Cowboy faithful needed a feel-good day.
Saturday, the Cowboys provided.
OSU 59, Lamar 3.
Even before kickoff, this day was looking up for OSU fans. Since Tuesday, there had been a daily dose of Sports Illustrated's investigation into the Cowboy football program. But Saturday, there were no new stories, no new accusations.
Still, the strain and the stress of the week hung over campus.
Cowboy fans needed a release.
“Even in the hotel room, you could just kind of feel the vibe,” Cowboy quarterback J.W. Walsh said. “You knew it was going to be one of those days where people were coming from everywhere and it was going to be a packed house.”
And it was. A record crowd of 59,061 came to Boone Pickens Stadium — and it wasn't because of the opponent or because this was the home opener. Cowboy fans came in record numbers because they needed to support their team and each other.
There were signs of that everywhere.
The Walk that ushers the team from the hotel to the stadium before the game drew thousands of Cowboy fans. They lined the street. They stood six or eight people deep.
“The Walk was super packed,” Cowboy receiver Josh Stewart said. “I haven't seen the walk like that since 2011.
“It shows you that no matter what, Stillwater's got your back.”
About an hour before the game as the Cowboys began warmups, several dozen young women in matching orange tops and black shorts walked onto the field and lined the sidelines around the west end zone of the stadium.
The current members of Orange Pride remained there for much of pregame.
They help in the hosting of football recruits, and their group was in the crosshairs of SI's investigation on Friday. The story alleged that some members of the group provided sex to recruits in an attempt to lure them to OSU.
Ringing the end zone during pregame Saturday was an understated but powerful stance by those women. It said, “We are proud to be here.” It said, “We are proud to support this football program.”