STILLWATER — The ball kept bouncing funny — funny strange, not funny ha-ha — and the eager Houston Cougars were more than happy to pounce.
"Houston was in the right place at the right time,” said Oklahoma State flanker Josh Cooper.
The right place and right time was anywhere with the Cowboys, the week after Georgia.
OSU squandered the bounty of one of its greatest football victories. The Cowboys lost to Houston 45-35 Saturday, only a few days after landing on another Sports Illustrated cover and ascending to No. 5 in the AP poll.
Gone is the momentum of manhandling Georgia. Gone is the company of Alabama and Penn State, the bluebloods who sandwiched O-State in the poll. Gone is the belief that 2009 can be a championship season.
Maybe the Cowboys can return to such optimism, but that will take reconstruction after Houston proved it was the better team on Boone Pickens’ turf.
"Guys get to see the other side of it now,” State coach Mike Gundy said. "Everybody’s been telling ‘em how good they are.”
Did the revelry of the previous week give the Cowboys the big head? Make them forget that Houston was a worthy foe, capable of the upset?
The Cowboys say no. "We didn’t overlook ‘em at all,” Dez Bryant said, and offensive tackle Brady Bond called it a better week of practice than the Cowboys had for Georgia.
It’s all unprovable either way and now doesn’t matter. The damage is done. What seemed like a special State season now has a little less upside.
"I don’t believe in the SI jinx,” Gundy said. "I don’t believe in being ranked high and everybody tellin’ ‘em how good they are and not preparing.”
OSU trailed 24-7 but, energized by Bryant’s 82-yard punt return for a touchdown, somehow took the lead.
This game was in OSU’s grasp. The football, not so much.
The final five minutes were disastrous. A snap went off Zac Robinson’s hands and snuffed an OSU threat.