Oklahoma State football: Cowboys reflect on fatal plane crash, costly loss at Iowa State

It has almost been a year since OSU basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash. The football team followed the announcement by losing a game that cost them a possible national championship.
by Gina Mizell Published: October 18, 2012

Iowa State will always be connected to the night Oklahoma State's 2011 national championship hopes were dashed by a 37-31 double overtime loss to the Cyclones in Ames last November. Iowa State is now also linked to the day the OSU community found out that women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash while on a recruiting trip in Arkansas.

What was that day like, from start to finish, for the OSU players and coaches? It would be unfair to generalize. The emotions and memories depend on who is asked.

Here is the story of Nov. 18, 2011, told in the Cowboys' own words:

FRIDAY MORNING

Offensive tackle Parker Graham: “When we woke up and heard the news about the basketball coaches, that just automatically pulled a string at your heart.”

Former defensive end Richetti Jones: “I woke that day and turned the TV to ESPN like I always do, and the first thing I saw was the news about the coaches. So I called around to people that I knew were in Stillwater and they confirmed it for me. From there, I was in a daze of slow motion and mixed emotions. How do you react to something like that? Do you sit around and play, talk and laugh like you usually do? Or do you choose your next action wisely, because you don't know how people are going to react to you not caring or acting like nothing has happened? So everyone was walking around on egg shells.”

Wide receiver Charlie Moore: “When Coach Gundy called us all, that was something really sad.”

BEFORE THE GAME

Jones: “I really respect Coach (Mike) Gundy addressing the team with the right words. I know it had to be tough for him. What do you tell a whole team? We all knew what had happened, so it wasn't a secret, so what can you really say to use to get our minds right and handle this situation the right way?”

Gundy: “It was quiet for the rest of the day. It was quiet at the hotel, quiet in meetings, quiet on the bus ride. It was somewhat quiet in the locker room before the game.”

Graham: “I just remember trying to get focused and still trying to maintain that edge, while still feeling that remorse for the people we lost.”

Gundy: “You fly in and you stay a long ways away, and then you get on a bus and you drive over there (to Ames). And you go out on that field and that grass is about (a foot) tall, and it's unlike what we play on down here. We play on grass fields, but it's manicured to perfection, and that's a northern grass and it feels different. They're putting 50 or 60,000 people in those stands now. They're all wearing the same colored T-shirt. And you kind of get put to sleep, because I think players now are attracted to flashy things. My point was, if you think you're going up there to play them and it's going to be a fun trip, you're wrong, in my experience.”

Jones: “I couldn't tell you how my teammates felt exactly, but I can tell you I could look at some of them and I knew that they weren't where they needed to be mentally and weren't ready to play a game.”

DURING THE GAME

Linebacker Alex Elkins: “Yes, (the plane crash) made the day a little bit more gloomy. But as far as it affecting our game plan, our execution, it had no factor in it, to me. I can't speak for the rest of my team. That's an intangible. I can't change it. I was very sad about the situation, but whenever I step on that field, everything I was thinking about prior than that is completely out of my mind.”

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by Gina Mizell
OSU Sports Reporter
Gina Mizell joined The Oklahoman in August of 2011 as the Oklahoma State beat writer, where she covered the Cowboys' historic run to the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl in her first season on the job. Before arriving in Stillwater, Gina was...
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