STILLWATER — The Cotton Bowl Classic wasn’t where No. 13 Oklahoma State wanted to wind up, but now that it is, they will take some solace in the friendly surroundings and familiar foe.
After losing to No. 11 Oklahoma in the final 19 seconds back on Dec. 7, a setback that cost them the Big 12 Conference championship and a trip to the BCS, the Cowboys (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) are now preparing to face No. 9 Missouri (11-2, 7-1 SEC).
The Tigers are coming off a 59-42 defeat to No. 2 Auburn in the SEC Championship game, reaching the final in just their second season since leaving the Big 12, where they resided since 1996.
But while there is considerable familiarity between the opponents, as Oklahoma State faces a team it knows fairly well, coach Mike Gundy doesn’t necessarily see that as aiding his guys any more than Missouri’s.
“They’re a good football team and we’re playing in a location that benefits us,” Gundy said of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. “And they’re as familiar with us as we are with them. I just think it’s a great matchup. I don’t know that it’s an advantage either way.”
Still, Oklahoma State, which beat the Tigers 45-24 on the road in their last conference contest in 2011, knows the Tigers’ schemes, which should make devising a game plan a bit easier than if the opponent was one they’d never faced.
“They’re real similar to the past in their style of play,” Gundy said. “They have (32) players from the state of Texas, we have 77 players from the state of Texas. It’s interesting. They’ve picked up some other players that are real similar to what they’ve used in the past. We’ve had some good battles with them and we’ve always had a lot of respect for them.”
Of course, being more familiar with their style of play doesn’t necessarily mean that Oklahoma State will have an easier time neutralizing them.
“We played them my sophomore year, but they’re pretty much the same team as two years ago,” Missouri linebacker Shaun Lewis said. “They’re just a little more physical up front and the guys are a lot more experienced, so that allows them to play a lot faster in that offense. We watched a ton of film on them and they’re impressive.”
Oklahoma State believes it will enjoy a tangible benefit from playing about a four-hour drive from Stillwater, as well as having a sizable contingent of players from North Texas.
“I’m excited. I’m from Dallas, it’s right in my back yard,” said senior linebacker Caleb Lavey, who played high school ball in the Dallas suburb of Celina. “We get to play in AT&T Stadium. It’s going to be special because we’re going to be able to bring our families. Most of my family will be there. We have a lot of OSU alumni and students from the area, so we’ll be able to bring a lot of orange out, which is good. There will be plenty of noise for the Cowboys there.”
Now that it’s been almost two weeks since the devastating defeat at home to their cross-state rival, Oklahoma State’s players are finally able to put that game behind them and move on, although it was a difficult process.
“For four or five days, they were in the jar, and then the first practice we had was real average and we made them aware of it,” Gundy said. “But they’ve kind of re-grouped. When things don’t go as you want them to, not only in football but in life, time is the best healing process. They were very disappointed that they didn’t win and it showed. But I think they understand that they’re getting ready to play a really good football team, and that if they don’t prepare well in practice and focus, they don’t have the best opportunity to win. I feel that they’ve made that transition over the last couple of days.”