“James Anderson was phenomenal,” Ford said of the Big 12 Player of the Year. “Obi Muonelo maximized his potential.”
Last year didn't offer the same success story, yet the Cowboys didn't go quietly either, posting quality wins over No. 17 Kansas State, No. 14 Missouri and Baylor.
“Somehow we figured out how to win 20 games and make it to the second round of the NIT,” Ford said.
For the first time under Ford, 20 wins appears out of reach, with the Cowboys 9-8 overall.
Ford's focus, for now, is simply on getting to 10.
“We've got to prepare for every game like it's a championship game,” he said.
Ford has also adjusted his preparation. In previous years, Mike Noteware in his media relations department would plop the stat sheets for OSU's next three opponents on Ford's desk.
“I told him to stop that,” Ford said. “I promise you I didn't know who we played next until after the Baylor game. Had no idea.
“That's no disrespect to Iowa State. I'm trying to focus on one game at a time, trying to get our team better and trying to focus on a game plan to survive through the game and give ourselves a chance at the end to win the game.”
And games. There appear to be wins for the taking in this year's Big 12, if the Cowboys are up for taking them.
Already, league is revealing itself as top-heavy, with only Kansas, Baylor (4-1) and Missouri (4-1) owning winning conference records. Iowa State has been a pleasant surprise, yet enters the game with OSU on a two-game losing streak. Kansas State, in the rankings at No. 25, is 1-3 and preseason favorite Texas A&M stands 1-4.
And then there are the Cowboys, coming off the league's worst defeat.
“That wasn't us the other day,” Ford said. “And I'm hoping that our guys are mature enough, even though they're young, to be able to look at the film and be as upset as I am and to use it as a challenge and as a fuel.
“It should be that, ‘Hey, I don't care how old you are, how weak you are right now, how small you are, it doesn't matter.' Doesn't mean that you are going to win every game, but you sure can compete.”