SAN DIEGO — Playing on one leg Tuesday night at Qualcomm Stadium was Oklahoma State's hope, its dream, its everything.
Perhaps Dez Bryant is not the Cowboys' everything, but it sure seemed that way against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.
The All-American sophomore wide receiver courageously played longer than he should have after suffering a knee injury, but sadly he couldn't play nearly long enough.
As a result, OSU had no way to keep up with the suddenly explosive Ducks and wound up on the short end of a 42-31 final.
Afterward, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy refused to use Bryant's injury as a bailout clause in the setback, though he certainly would have been entitled.
OSU quarterback Zac Robinson overthrew several receivers and was uncharacteristically off the mark.
Turns out he had a bum shoulder.
Again, Gundy deferred.
"We're not going to make any excuses for anybody who had an injury on our team," Gundy said.
Truth is, Oregon beat up on the Cowboys.
The Ducks bowled them over in bowl season, which is the perfect time to do it.
"I think it's a pretty simple explanation of what happened tonight," Gundy said. "Oregon was much more physical in the second half than we were on both sides of the ball."
Bryant injured his left knee with 4:03 remaining before halftime and headed toward the locker room two minutes before intermission.
He hobbled back in for the second half, but essentially was gone for good on the first play of the fourth quarter when the thoroughbred pulled up lame following a 31-yard reception.
Though there were still 14-plus minutes remaining in the game, OSU was done.