STILLWATER — Oklahoma State's emotional 2002 football victory over Nebraska complete, folks in orange paraded pieces of goal posts across what was then Lewis Field.
Right there among them, hands hoisting a piece of the tattered post overhead in the procession: Mike Gundy, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator at the time.
"Obviously, that was a big win for us," Gundy said this week.
For all the turning-point proclamations placed on OSU's early decade conquests of Oklahoma — and rightfully so — the 2002 win over the Huskers, ending a 41-year winless streak in a lopsided series, shouldn't be discounted in assessing the progress of the program.
The measure of that progress is no clearer than now, as the Cowboys, and their fans, fully expect a victory over the Huskers on Saturday. That's a mighty contrast to the decades when harboring such thoughts once seemed futile.
"I think Coach Gundy has really got the program moved up," said OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young. "We've got a great opportunity to go to five straight bowl games. Not a lot of people in the country can say that, except for those elite programs.
"You've got to win. And that's what we're doing."
It might have started that October Saturday in 2002.
The Cowboys were just 2-4 going into the game and coming off a brutal 44-9 beating at Kansas State.
Beating Nebraska, which owned a 35-0-1 series edge on OSU since 1961, seemed unlikely, if not idiotic.
But the Cowboys did win, 24-21, gashing the Huskers on the ground, with Tatum Bell running for a career-high 182 yards, and striking through the air, with Josh Fields throwing for 192 and hitting Rashaun Woods and John Lewis for touchdowns.
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