STILLWATER — Mike Gundy sat angry on the plane, flying back to Oklahoma from West Virginia the afternoon of Sept. 28.
“Felt like a 12-hour flight,” Gundy said. “I was as upset with myself as I've ever been. And it was my fault, because I allowed it to happen.”
West Virginia beat the Cowboys 30-21 that day. A slap across the face of a team expected to contend for the Big 12 championship.
Gundy doesn't really expound on why he holds himself responsible for the Morgantown debacle.
Couldn't really be personnel issues; Gundy and staff didn't make the switch to quarterback Clint Chelf and tailback Des Roland until three and four weeks later.
Maybe it was the game plan, which largely stunk. Maybe it was a general mindset problem.
Whatever it was, it's time for Gundy to let it go. The Cowboys have recovered quite nicely from what has proved to be one of college football's upsets of the year.
OSU is back on track to win the Big 12 championship. If the Cowboys beat OU on Dec. 7 — and the Cowboys will be favored by a healthy margin — they go to the Fiesta Bowl for the second time in three years.
And barring unlikely circumstances, that loss to West Virginia will not cost OSU in the national picture. Losing to Iowa State two years ago cost the Cowboys a Big Bowl berth. The only way the loss to West Virginia is as costly is if two of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State lose these last two Saturdays.
But the story of Morgantown has changed. No longer is it paramount to discover what happened. More importantly is what's happened since.
The Cowboys recovered. Improved. Slowly found themselves. The truth is, OSU was not all that good of a team in the early season. But a backloaded schedule paid off. By the time Texas and Baylor and now OU arrived, the Cowboys were primed.
“Directly after the game, people kept saying that we could win out and still win the Big 12,” Tracy Moore said of West Virginia. “That's our goal, but after that game, we kind of started to question ourselves. We went to work, though, and told each other that we were going to give it our all. That's working pretty well for us so far.”
OSU's climb has been dramatic. Check the defense. The State defense wasn't bad at West Virginia. Wasn't necessarily good, either. And wasn't any better the week after, against Kansas State.
But by Texas Tech on Nov. 2, OSU's defense was good. By a week ago at Texas, it was excellent. Saturday against Baylor, it was fabulous.
The offense, too, has made great strides. A running game was found at Iowa State. Chelf found his throwing rhythm at Tech. By Saturday night, the Cowboy offense was better than the ballyhooed Baylor offense.
“We always knew that it was possible, but it was just a matter of getting back to working hard the way we used to, by looking at film and seeing what we were doing wrong,” fullback Kye Staley said of recovering from West Virginia. “The offense, defense and special teams just kind of came together as a group tonight.
“I don't know how many games we've won in a row. But we're on a roll.”
The West Virginia game ranks as one of the three biggest upsets this season. Utah beat Stanford, Tennessee beat South Carolina and the Mountaineers beat OSU. All three of those victors now are 4-7; all three of their victims now are ranked in the top 10.
But the Cowboys didn't let that trip to Morgantown define their season. Time to let the anger pass.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.