STILLWATER – Cars were parked in the grass, lining a long stretch of road leading to Stillwater Regional Airport, where the parking lot was overflowing with even more cars.
A mob of fans decked out in orange cheered and screamed and applauded as their Cowboys strolled down the portable steps from the Continental charter jet delivering the Fiesta Bowl champions home.
Lezlee Cavanaugh, an Oklahoma State fan from Perkins, clutched the day's sports page from The Oklahoman, hoping to present it to one Cowboys hero whose picture was plastered across the page.
“I want to give it to Quinn Sharp,” Cavanaugh said of the OSU kicker, who provided the winning points in Monday night's 41-38 overtime win over Stanford. “Watching the game at home, I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole game. Then the last minute of the game, I was standing. As soon as the kick went through, I started jumping and screaming.”
That was the tone all around the airport, where fans of all ages gathered to welcome home a Cowboys team that made history, winning a school-record 12 games and claiming the first BCS bowl victory in the program's first BCS bowl appearance.
Players accepted congratulations as they passed through the crowd of supporters. Some, like quarterback Brandon Weeden, lingered long, signing autographs and posing for photos.
“It's awesome,” Weeden said. “It's been like this all year. We're fortunate, we've got great fans. And they're loyal. The turnout in Arizona was incredible. There was a lot of orange in that stadium and they got loud.
“Just the support we've had all year, it's been tremendous. Poke Nation is alive. This program is on the rise and I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon.”
Stillwater's Julie Teubner missed out on the trip to Arizona, so she figured showing up at the airport was the next best thing.
“I didn't get to go to the bowl game and I was sorry I didn't get to go,” Teubner said. “So I wantsed to be here.
“I always thought they'd pull it out. It was really exciting to see. It just seems there's something inside these guys, something special that helps them pull these games out. OSU teams of the past didn't do that.”
Stillwater's Joe Nelson knows all about that. He used to work around and rub elbows with many of the people in athletics down the hall in the assistant business manager's office. Now he's across campus at the school of hotel and restaurant administration, but still as orange as ever.
“I came out to see them back,” Nelson said. “I still have a close relationship with a lot of these people.
“The game was nerve-wracking. Too close. I truly expected a game like Bedlam. What it showed me is Stanford is a better team than I expected and a better team than OU.”
Wide receiver Colton Chelf, another Cowboy game hero with a career-high in catches and yards against Stanford, smiled as he emerged from the sea of fans.
“They've supported us all season,” Chelf said. “We have the best fans in the country. It's just what they do. And we love them.”