Much has been made about the disagreements of whether OSU should have played a team the quality of Mississippi State in the season opener last Saturday at Houston. Mike Gundy thought it was a bad idea. Mike Holder and Boone Pickens thought it was a good idea.
But the real question isn’t Mississippi State. There would have been no harm in losing to the Bulldogs.
The real question is, why is OSU playing Texas-San Antonio in San Antonio this Saturday?
The answer, of course, is that the Cowboys get a 2-for-1 deal. UTSA will play in Stillwater twice to return the favor of OSU playing in the Alamodome.
All those home games Gundy craves? The opponents have to come from somewhere, and a 2-for-1 deal is one way to get them.
But Gundy made an excellent point Monday in talking about the challenge of playing a fledgling program like UTSA on the road.
“We hope the maturity of our team will come forth in practice this week,” Gundy said. “I thought some of the big games we’ve played in over the last four, five years here helped us in the game Saturday.
“But we’ve been in this situation before, played teams that they’re putting everything into this game. We have to be mature enough in our preparation and handle that responsibility and getting ready and going down and play the game the way we needed to play.”
Gundy is telling it right. This is the biggest home game in Texas-San Antonio’s limited history. The Roadrunners are in just their third year of football but already are members of Conference USA. OSU will be the first major-conference foe to play UTSA in San Antonio.
And OSU has a history of such situations.
In the nine-year Gundy era, the Cowboys have played six road games at mid-majors:
* 2005 Florida Atlantic, played at Dolphins Stadium. OSU won 23-3 and was the first major-conference foe to play at FAU.
* 2006 Arkansas State, played at Little Rock. OSU was just the second major-conference foe to play Arkansas State on campus in Jonesboro or in Little Rock. Arkansas State hosted Ole Miss in 2001. OSU won 35-7.
* 2006 Houston, played at on-campus Robertson Stadium. OSU lost 34-25. Houston, of course, had a two-decade history as a major-conference team itself, in the Southwest Conference.
* 2007 Troy, played in Troy, Ala. OSU lost 41-23. The Cowboys were blitzed by Troy, which as gotten just two major-conference foes to venture into its southern Alabama snare. Missouri in 2004, and OSU 2007. Both lost.
* 2010 Louisiana-Lafayette, played in Lafayette, La. OSU won 54-28. The Cowboys trailed at halftime. ULL has occasionally enticed major-conference teams to Lafayette, notably Texas A&M.
* 2011 Tulsa. OSU won 59-33. The Cowboys – and a whole lot of other notable foes – have been going to Tulsa forever.
So now arrives a trip to San Antonio, for what promises to be a big deal. The city has embraced the Roadrunners for bringing major-college football to San Antone. I wrote about the Roadrunners’ story in July, which you can read here.
“To win the game would be tremendous for our recruiting,” UTSA coach Larry Coker said. “I think it puts us on the map with the game being televised nationally. We’ve sold about 15,000 season tickets and I think we’ll have a great crowd on Saturday.
“This is the most talented team we’ve played. We don’t have any weeks (games) off. I want this to be a fun week for our players, staff and fans. It’s kind of a bowl atmosphere as far as getting a team like Oklahoma State down here. The fact that Oklahoma State wants to play here says a lot for our city and our fans. I want our guys to enjoy this experience. It’s all about us and all about our players. It is a big week for us.”
Gundy was asked Monday if he had changed his mind about the wisdom of playing the Mississippi State game, considering the Cowboys won.
“No,” he said. “I want to play here (in Stillwater). I want to get 60,000 something people in this stadium. I want it to be full, I want to bring recruits in, I want people to come in on Friday nights, I want the restaurants to be full, the atmosphere. I want 35,000 tailgaters here and I want people to see it on TV. That’s what I believe in.
“I believe in playing in Boone Pickens Stadium. We built a beautiful stadium here. The atmosphere, the environment, the college town, the Friday afternoons. I just think it’s better for Oklahoma State football and the university in general.
“You say, ‘you just want to bring in a team here and beat up on ‘em’ and all that. That’s not necessarily true. I just think playing at home is a much better situation for Oklahoma State. Am I glad we won the game? Yes. Am I glad we won playing an SEC team? Yes. Now. But I still would rather play at home, in this facility, and sell and market Oklahoma State University.”
All coaches would agree. They’d rather play at home. But you can’t play all your games at home. Sometimes, you have to leave the friendly confines. If everybody played only home games, no games would be played at all.