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.
Afterward, emotions overflowed throughout the stadium. The goalposts came down, with a giddy Gundy -- who failed in every previous shot at Nebraska as a player and assistant coach -- joining in the fun.
"I had to herd the team back to sing the alma mater," Les Miles said. "They figured the goalpost was going in their car somehow."
Fans and players rejoiced. Some cried, including rugged defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who suddenly realized his deceased mother had never seen him play college football, let alone witness her son enjoying something so sweet.
Senior offensive tackle Jason Russell, a starter on the team that stunned OU the year before, put it in perspective.
"It's the biggest win I've ever been a part of," Russell said afterward. "It's huge. "We've been losing to these guys for 41 years, and we came out and we won."
And the Cowboys have been winning consistently since.
Upon beating the Huskers that fall afternoon in 2002, OSU won six of seven to close the season, claiming the first bowl victory since 1988.
The Cowboys have endured only one losing season since, the transition year when Gundy replaced Miles as head coach.
Oh, and they're 3-1 against the Huskers.
And going for another win Saturday, which is anything but out of the question.
"They're such a tradition-rich school and program," said quarterback Brandon Weeden. "Anytime you can beat a program of that caliber, it's a big win. We need wins like that around here, for the recruiting and everything. It's a big deal for us.
"They're coming off a big-time loss, so they're going to be hungry. And we're hungry. We want to be 7-0."