Times have certainly changed since Oklahoma State’s Cowboys and Virginia Tech’s Hokies last battled on the gridiron.

That was in 1971 and 1972 when the Cowboys and Hokies split a home-and-home series. I reported on both games early in my career.

OSU defeated Virginia Tech, 24-16, at Lewis Stadium in 1971. The Hokies used a field goal as time expired in 1972 to top the Pokes, 34-32, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

It’s taken 45 years for the 17th-ranked Cowboys and 22nd-ranked Hokies to play the rubber game which is scheduled Thursday in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Or, the Hokie-Pokey Bowl as some have renamed it. Kickoff is set for 4:15 p.m. at Camping World Stadium.

OSU has relied on a potent offensive attack this season, averaging 575.7 yards of total offense per game, second best in the nation.

Virginia Tech averages 404.1 total offensive yards but the Hokies have earned a reputation as a defensive power. This season, Tech allowed 305.3 yards of total offense, which is 12th best in the nation.

Both programs made dramatic improvements since last playing. Both have enlarged stadiums and are respected nationally. The style of play has changed from back in the day.

In the Cowboys’ 24-16 home turf win in 1971, OSU and Virginia Tech each finished with 362 yards of total offense. The Cowboys rushed for 217 yards and completed 14 of 23 passes for 145 yards. The Hokies passed for 240 yards and rushed for 122.

The Pokes led 17-0 at halftime, but relied on a fourth quarter touchdown to pull out the win. Bobby Cole led OSU in rushing with 85 yards while quarterback Tony Pounds passed for 93 yards and quarterback Brent Blackman passed for 52 yards.

OSU finished 4-6-1 in 1971 during the third and final season under head coach Floyd Gass.

In the 1972 game in Blacksburg, the Cowboys relied on a bruising ground game – 356 yards on 73 carries – while the Hokies did their damage through the air.

George Palmer rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown while teammate Fountain Smith gained 116 yards on 13 carries. Blackman was 6-of-14 passing for 91 yards and one TD.

Quarterback Don Strock, who passed for 240 yards in the 1971 loss, led Virginia Tech with 355 passing yards on 20 of 40 completions.

A 23-yard field goal by OSU’s Eddie Garrett gave the Cowboys a 32-31 lead with 6:38 left in the game. Virginia Tech pulled out the win after an 18-yard field goal by Strock’s brother, Dave, with 12 seconds remaining. OSU finished the season 6-5 in head coach Dave Smith’s only season at the school.

Strock was a rarity at that time since the college game was dominated by running attacks. He led the nation in total passing yards and total offense that season. Strock later played in the National Football League for 16 seasons, 14 with the Miami Dolphins.

Ron Holt is a sports columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Holt served as sports editor for more than 30 years and resides in Bixby.

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