MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Turns out Mike Gundy is a fan of the movie 300.
Or, at least, a fan of the greater theme behind the 2007 action film that pegged 300 Spartan soldiers against an enemy army of more than 300,000.
Earlier this week, Jeremy Smith recalled a time when the Oklahoma State coach referenced the movie when discussing how the Cowboys need to approach life on the road.
“That's pretty much how it is for us,” Smith said. “We're not traveling with much, so we all have to stick together and be just one sound team. When we go down there and do that and we take care of things we're supposed to take care of, we can win. We can beat anybody.”
OSU's Big 12 road success has been one of the biggest ways the Cowboys have built their national stature over the past six years. But they took a step back in that category last season, going just 1-3 in conference games away from Boone Pickens Stadium.
The No. 11 Cowboys will try to tilt the scales back in a positive direction when they open their Big 12 road slate Saturday at West Virginia, the league's most unknown destination.
“When you get there, it's 100 or 115 people against however many people their stadium holds for the most part,” Gundy said. “We have always challenged our team that way and told them to come together as a group and play hard and that gives them the best chance to win.”
OSU has a 30-12 Big 12 record since 2008, which ranks second among schools that have been conference members during that entire span (Oklahoma is 33-10). Fourteen of those victories have been away from home. And this season, the road schedule seems fairly manageable, with contests at Iowa State, Texas Tech and Texas following the trip to Morgantown.
Not to mention, OSU has gotten plenty of recent experience on the road, as Saturday's contest will be six out of seven away from home.
What are the keys to the Cowboys' road success? Accumulating talent, for starters. Gundy always stresses typical coaching goals, such as fundamentals and starting fast to take the crowd out of the game. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer says keeping the same routine helps, as well.
“They know we're going to have a walk-through, then we're going to watch film and study,” Spencer said. “They know we're going to treat it like a business trip.”
But a bit of attitude can give the Cowboys an edge, as well.
Quarterback J.W. Walsh wasn't around for Gundy's 300 speech. But he remembers playing at Texas A&M his redshirt season, where his locker was next to former star running back Joseph Randle's.
What Randle told him that day has stuck with him since, and is the mindset he will take into Morgantown.
“(Randle) looked at me and smiled right before we went out,” Walsh said, “and he said, ‘80,000 people here want you to fail.' And he said, ‘How could that not make you want to play better, and how could that make you not want to fight for your brothers harder?'
“… There's not a better feeling, almost, than to be able to go out there and shut up 70,000 people.”