SAN DIEGO — When Mike Gundy became Oklahoma State’s football coach on Jan. 3, 2005, he obtained what he calls his New York Yankees job. Trouble was, the Cowboys played more like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that first season.
Much has changed since then for OSU, and for the newly named Rays, for that matter. The Cowboys went 4-7 overall four seasons ago, 1-7 in Big 12 play, and they resided in a place where the Baylor Bears routinely go to hibernate every winter — the South Division cellar. Today, OSU will seek the power of 10 with victory against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. The Cowboys are looking for their fourth 10-win season in 108 years of football, and their first since winning the 1988 Holiday Bowl. Tomorrow looks even brighter, with serious potential for the program’s first BCS bowl appearance and an 11-plus win season. Depending on who leaves early for the NFL throughout the rest of the league, OSU could be a preseason pick by some to win the Big 12 South next season with eight starters returning on one of the country’s most explosive offenses and six returning starters on defense. Win tonight, and this group qualifies as one of the top-5 squads in the program’s history. Are the Cowboys ahead of schedule in the Gundy era? "I thought we performed at a higher level than maybe our staff would have expected after the fourth year," said Gundy, who is seeking his third straight bowl victory. "We’ve tried to give them a chance to win every game. It just takes time in football. This sport is considerably different than basketball with so many different players involved on game day. We have a plan. It’s in place. We’ve stayed pretty close to schedule, but I’m not sure anybody thought that in our fourth year, after some of the dramatic changes we had to make our first year, that we would become a top 10-15 team (nationally) this year. "This has been a real enjoyable season. There are times it’s not as fun to coach guys who don’t get along as well and don’t enjoy being out there. These guys are fun to be around. There are a lot of headaches involved in what we do if you’re not around players who enjoy what they do." Sure, everyone is all grins and giggles now, but what about Gundy’s inaugural season? OSU seniors think back to Year One under Gundy and shake their heads. After opening with victories against Montana State, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State, the Cowboys lost seven of their last eight, the lone victory being a 24-17 upset over No.