STILLWATER — Mike Gundy spoke about being disappointed, not in his Oklahoma State squad, but for his players.
Veteran Cowboys like Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis scattered around the theater room in the west end zone of Boone Pickens Stadium, keeping composed but clearly crushed.
OSU lost Bedlam in the final minute Saturday. With that, the Cowboys also lost their chance at a Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl trip for the second time in three seasons.
But now the Cowboys must rally. Because in defeat, OSU falls to a Jan. 3 Cotton Bowl matchup against, on paper, a more formidable opponent in No. 8 Missouri, an old Big Eight and Big 12 friend that emerged as one of college football's biggest surprise teams in its second season in the SEC. In the Fiesta Bowl, OSU would have faced No. 15 Central Florida, the champion of the American Athletic Conference.
“I would love to be a Big 12 champ, don't get me wrong,” Lavey said Saturday. “But it's happened. It's in the past and now it's just (time) to fix our mistakes and prepare for our next opponent.
“I'm excited to get to play with this group of guys one more time. It's a special group. I love being a part of it. And I'm excited to get to play with them in the bowl game.”
There's plenty of reason to believe the Cowboys will indeed respond, both emotionally and methodically, based on the aftermath of OSU's only other loss this season.
This senior-driven group did not fold following a shocking defeat at West Virginia in late September, which, at the time, appeared to squash the Cowboys' Big 12 title chances just one week into conference play.
Instead, OSU made two key personnel changes — reinserting Clint Chelf at quarterback and moving Desmond Roland into the starting job at running back — while tinkering with its offensive line. It kept developing offensively, improved on special teams and remained steady on defense.
The result? OSU ripped off seven consecutive wins before Saturday's Bedlam breakdown. The overall resume caused Gundy to essentially lobby for his squad following the loss, saying any bowl game would be happy to have the Cowboys.
But OSU put together an uneven performance in Bedlam, one that can't be replicated if the Cowboys expect to beat Missouri. Several Tigers remain from the last time these two teams met in 2011 — including quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey — who helped propel Missouri into the national conversation as the SEC East champion.
“I think it's gonna be a great game,” Gundy said. “I think you have two teams that arguably very well could have been in BCS games. I know the Cotton Bowl's excited, and we feel the same way.”
The disappointment from Bedlam might linger as players get a few days off during finals week while coaches go out to recruit.
But soon, the Cowboys must rally for one more game against a top-10 opponent that will be played on Jerry Jones' stage and in prime recruiting territory.
“For these seniors, this is all we have,” Lewis said. “This group won't come together like this again and come to perform, so we're gonna give everything that we've got for the next game we have.”