STILLWATER — Dez Bryant did all he could for the Cowboys in the Holiday Bowl, even limping back on the field late in the game in hope of igniting a rally.
Alas, Bryant’s balky knee didn’t cooperate. And neither did Oregon, beating Oklahoma State 42-31.
In the end, Bryant’s drive to win drove him to tears.
"Later on that night, I cried,” Bryant said. "I’ll tell the truth. Because I honestly felt like we could have won the game.”
Seven months after that game, the Cowboys’ bandwagon is expanding.
One week into this preseason, OSU is gaining believers. The Cowboys rank No. 11 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and there’s buzz about OSU in the Big 12 like never before.
And Bryant is right in the middle of it, back from the injury, back as perhaps the nation’s elite receiver and, most definitely, back for more — much more.
As the Cowboys continue toward a major matchup with Georgia in the Sept. 5 season opener, Bryant is healthy and happy and hearing hints of Heisman Trophy talk.
"I’m happy about it,” Bryant said with a shrug, "but I can’t just take all the credit by myself, because the other 10 guys and the defense, without them, none of it would be true.”
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy is buying Bryant’s place in the Heisman race.
A consensus All-American a year ago, Bryant ranked among the top three nationally in four major categories, including receiving yards per game (113.85), scoring (9.69), touchdown receptions (19) and punt return yards (17.94).
Gaining Heisman ground won’t be easy for Bryant, who competes in the same conference — and division — as the top two finishers of a year ago, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Colt McCoy of Texas.
A wideout hasn’t struck the pose since Desmond Howard in 1991.
Still, Bryant’s dominance at the position and as a return man, plus his place in an explosive offense, offer an opportunity to break the Heisman trend.