MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OSU

November 25, 2013

In the driver’s seat: OSU in control of Big 12 title chase after Saturday’s win

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy doesn’t remember his exact thoughts on the trip home from a shocking loss at West Virginia.

The Oklahoma State coach does, however, remembers his feelings about the flight itself after the 30-21 loss in the team’s Big 12 Conference opener.

“When I was on that bus to get to the airplane, and then on that plane coming back from Morgantown, I felt like it was a 12-hour flight,” Gundy said.

Despite the early disappointment, the No. 7 Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) have rallied since the loss the Mountaineers — winning their seventh straight game after Saturday night’s 49-17 throttling of previously undefeated Baylor.

The streak hasn’t been enough to put Oklahoma State back in the national-championship discussion, but Saturday night’s win did end any such chances for the No. 9 Bears (9-1, 6-1).

It also put the Cowboys in complete control of their Big 12 championship hopes, needing only a win over rival Oklahoma in two weeks to secure their second conference championship in three seasons.

“Things happen for a reason, (the West Virginia loss) happened for a reason,” Oklahoma State wide receiver Josh Stewart said. “We obviously moved on and just beat one of the best teams in the country, and now people are realizing that we’re one of the best teams in the country.”

The Cowboys were picked to win the Big 12 during the preseason, but they struggled early with inconsistent quarterback play — with Clint Chelf giving way to sophomore J.W. Walsh for several games.

Chelf eventually earned his way back into the starting role, saving the best performance of his career for the biggest stage of the season. The senior picked apart the Big 12’s top defense, finishing 19-of-25 passing for a career-high 370 yards passing.

He accounted for 438 yards of total offense overall, including a 48-yard throwback reception from Stewart in the third quarter, and left little doubt about who will be Oklahoma State’s starter for the remainder of the season.

Gundy hasn’t allowed Chelf to speak to the media since he returned as the Cowboys’ top quarterback option, but his teammates and coaches didn’t suffer from a lack of words following Saturday’s win.

“He played wonderful,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurich said. “I’m so happy for him ... He played pretty close to flawless.”

While the Cowboys have a clear idea of what’s at stake for them moving forward — including a possible conference title and BCS bowl berth — Baylor left Stillwater with far less uncertainty after their national-championship hopes were shattered.

“Our team has done a great job up to this point, so I am proud of them for that, and we will try to start again next Saturday at TCU and get us a win,” Baylor coach Art Briles said.

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