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. A Houston pass went off linebacker Donald Booker’s hands and resulted in a Cougar touchdown. A Robinson pass went off Bryant’s hands and resulted in a Cougar touchdown. Those bounces chased OSU from the penthouse that took all these years to reach. "It’s tough, but it’s college football,” Robinson said. "We still have a ton of games left. We still can win the Big 12.” Not playing like this, they can’t. OSU didn’t play on edge, didn’t play with fire out of the gate, and while that will get you by Rice and Grambling, it won’t cut it against Houston. The Cowboys got serious after their slow start. Robinson started running more, and both Bryant and Perrish Cox were dispatched to return punts, both sure signs that someone in orange got mad. But you can’t leave the gate late. Not against Houston and its savvy quarterback, Case Keenum. After a splendid performance against Georgia, the OSU defense was torched against Houston. Hold off on the statue for new defensive coordinator Bill Young. But don’t let the offense off the hook. The Cowboys had 12 possessions and produced four touchdowns. That’s not acceptable for a veteran unit against a Conference USA defense. Robinson was "average” — his and Gundy’s description — for the second straight week, and once Big 12 play arrives, OSU’s quarterback play must improve for the Cowboys to contend. Robinson seems a step slower than normal and his passes seem a hair off. He and Gundy both say Robinson is healthy, but keep an eye on him. Doesn’t look like everything’s fine. Not with Robinson and now not with this football team that was on the verge of something very special until Houston was in the right place at the right time. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.