Key moments as Les Miles led the Cowboys out of the dark disappointment of the final Bob Simmons years and toward a brighter future:
Nov. 24, 2001: OSU 16, OU 13. Inevitably, the program's rebirth traces to this point in time, with a staggering upset of the Sooners providing the Cowboys with concrete proof of all that Miles had been preaching and demanding. OSU used this game to vault ahead — on the field, in the hearts of fans and in bids to sell boosters (OK, one big booster) to play a role in a greater tomorrow.
Oct. 19, 2002: OSU 24, Nebraska 21. The Cowboys were coming off an embarrassing 44-9 loss at Kansas State that left them 2-4 and bruised physically and mentally. But they rebounded at home, ending four decades of ineptness against the Cornhuskers, securing their first series win since 1961. Buoyed, OSU won six of its final seven.
Nov. 30, 2002: OSU 38, OU 28. The Pokes again ended the regular season with a bang, this time romping to a big lead en route to a convincing win over the Sooners. Rashaun Woods, whose big touchdown catch secured the 2001 win, struck early and often this time, finishing with 12 catches for 226 yards and three TDs. It was 35-6 before OU softened the final score.
Dec. 27, 2002: OSU 33, Southern Miss 23. Without a bowl win since 1988, the Cowboys turned to their Triplets — quarterback Josh Fields, tailback Tatum Bell and Woods — to rally in the Houston Bowl. Fields threw for 310 yards, Bell ran for 160 and Woods was named MVP with nine receptions for 164 yards and a score. The postseason breakthrough provided more momentum.
Sept. 20, 2003: OSU 52, SMU 6: Further positioning Woods and the program for the spotlight, the Cowboys turned a nondescript game into an attention-grabber. Woods broke a 34-year-old Division I record with seven TD catches.
Oct. 11, 2003: OSU 38, Kansas State 34. The Cowboys ended a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats and avenged the beating inflicted a year before in Manhattan. It was the marquee victory in what became a seven-game winning streak.
Jan. 2, 2004: Ole Miss 31, OSU 28. The Cowboys lost, but in an entertaining shootout to the Eli Manning-led Rebels in the Cotton Bowl. It was significant, too, as OSU made its first post-New Year bowl appearance since 1949.
Sept. 4, 2004: OSU 31, UCLA 20. In the opener of his first major rebuilding year, Miles followed up a summer of muscling up for the Bruins with a beatdown in the Rose Bowl. The Cowboys attempted just eight passes behind first-time starter Donovan Woods, playing bruiser ball instead. They ran for 426 yards, with Vernand Morency going for 261 and two scores. The season would be up and down, yet OSU still finished at 7-5 with another bowl appearance.