ARLINGTON, Texas — Zac Robinson will return to Oklahoma State in a decade or two for a reunion of this Cowboy football team. The quarterback hopes he and his teammates will be remembered for beating Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl, for winning 10 games, for turning what could’ve been a disastrous season into a magical one.
But he hopes they aren’t remembered as the last great Cowboy team. "Hopefully, it’s better than what it is now,” he said of the program. "That’d be the ultimate goal, just to keep rising, keep getting good players to come in and take the program to the elite status.” Will that happen? While this Cotton Bowl appearance and the opportunity to win 10 games are significant, the question of what comes next for the Cowboys looms large. They are saying goodbye to a senior class that includes the likes of Robinson and Russell Okung and Perrish Cox and Andre Sexton. They are losing playmakers and leaders and superstars. "I really feel our class was the one that really set the foundation,” Okung said. "The thing is, we set the bar high, we set a standard, and it’s supposed to be followed.” Will it be? Will today’s game be the continuation of something special in Stillwater? Or will it be the end of a golden era in Cowboy football? The program has been in a similar position before, a chance to springboard off a veteran bunch. The last time was 2003 when Josh Fields, Rashaun Woods and Tatum Bell led the Cowboys ironically to the Cotton Bowl against Ole Miss. They lost a close game that day but still finished the season with nine wins and concluded their careers with the program vastly improved. But the springboard didn’t happen. The next season was decent with seven wins and a trip to the Alamo Bowl, but a four-win catastrophe followed the next year. Granted, a coaching change occurred during that stretch, but still, the program swooned instead of surging. Will this time around be different? "It’s going to be up to the younger guys to keep that going,” defensive end Derek Burton said. There’s reason to believe the Cowboys are in a better position to do that now than they were only six years ago.