By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – With Oklahoma State University football just two days into fall camp, Mike Gundy can’t help but look ahead.
Compared to the past three years, Gundy’s Cowboy football team will have some stiff competition in the season opener – and that date is a mere four weeks away – against Mississippi State out of the Southeastern Conference.
“This opener effects two or three things – our practice approach, how physical we are and our kicking game,” Gundy said. “... We have to speed up the process in getting those guys ready to play.”
While several players didn’t care who the opponent was in Week 1, there were also just as many happy to see Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium on the schedule as opposed to Division II Savannah State – which was blown out by the Cowboys in last year’s opener by 84 points.
“It’s great. We get to go out there and really see where we’re at – it’s a great test for us,” said senior safety Daytawion Lowe, who was a part of the program when OSU hosted Georgia in the 2009 season opener. “I was around here when we played Georgia the first game, so I know it’s going to be a fun game. I’d rather play the better teams just to see where we’re at and really test ourselves and find out where we want to improve.”
One of the biggest benefits of playing in Houston is the chance for OSU players from Texas which there are far more than Oklahoma natives, getting to play a game in front of family and friends in an NFL stadium.
“I can’t get here fast enough. It’s about 45 minutes away from my hometown,” said senior cornerback Justin Gilbert, who hails from Huntsville, Texas, just 70 miles north of Houston. “Most of our team is from Texas, so there’s going to be plenty of orange in that stadium. It’s going to be a real great atmosphere for us.”
But winning the season opener isn’t the only thing riding on the Aug. 31 game against Mississippi State. Bragging rights for the Big 12 Conference over the SEC also linger over the contest in Texas.
“This is something. This is more of a conference thing. Even though we have OSU on our uniforms, we also have the Big 12 Conference,” senior defensive linemen Davidell Collins said. “We’re going in trying to show we’re the Big 12. We’re just as dominant a conference as the SEC is. To come out of that game with a win would be big for us as a team, and also huge for the conference.”
For the past few years, the SEC has garnered much of the attention as the top football conference in the country – largely due to its strangle-hold on the BCS championship trophy, with an SEC team having won each of the last seven national titles. The last non-SEC team to be crowned? Texas in 2005.
One of the aspects of the game the SEC has been able to boast about in the process has been its defense – with many teams in the league sending defensive players on to the NFL. But none of them have truly be tested by the high-powered offenses showcased in the Big 12.
“I’m looking forward to the SEC enigma of the defense being all-world,” OSU senior offensive lineman Parker Graham said. “As an offensive player, you obviously want to beat any defense you go up against. So we’re really excited to go get the chance to do that.
“We’re excited to show what a Big 12 offense can do. It doesn’t matter who the defense is, we’re just going to get out there and play our best game.”
– Jason Elmquist is the sports editor at the Stillwater NewsPress.