Cowboys reflect on game ahead of latest meeting with Sooners

Oklahoma State sophomore defensive end Collin Oliver celebrates after one of his two sacks during the Cowboys’ 20-14 win over Iowa State on Nov. 12 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy remembers exactly how rivalries used to be before exchanging his helmet for a headset in 1990.

It wasn’t just something he embraced during his time as OSU’s quarterback in the late 1980s, either. It stems from his time as the top high school player in the state at Midwest City. And he made sure to fill everyone in during his weekly availability Monday afternoon.

“We didn’t like the other team. We didn’t want to talk to ‘em,” Gundy said. “When I was at Midwest City, I didn’t want to talk to people from Del City. We tried to take their girls.”

Ahead of the No. 24 Cowboys’ 117th all-time meeting with rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series, Gundy doesn’t think the two teams – or any two teams in college football, for that matter – carry the same hatred they once did.

Things have drastically changed since his playing days, and after 18 years at the helm of the program, he’s observed and said he believes that rivalries are becoming less of a deal to players now than they used to be.

“Our players, as well as everybody else’s players in college football, they communicate through social media,” Gundy said. “Like, they’ll talk to players on the team before we go play ‘em on Saturday.”

That doesn’t meaning that disdain completely vanishes, though.

“They’re gonna practice hard. They wanna compete. They wanna win, don’t get me wrong,” Gundy said of his players. “But I just don’t know if there’s the bitter rivalry anymore with young people.”

Gundy is right, too. Kind of.

Some of the things might’ve changed with today’s generation. And yes, his players might occasionally have friends on the other team. But Cowboys center Joe Michalski sees it differently.

He enjoys playing against a familiar face or an old friend. Not for those 60 minutes, though.

“It’s good to relish in those moments if you have people like that, because you don’t get those very often,” said Michalski, a redshirt junior. “But the rivalries still remain bitter. Up until the end of the game, it’s on.”

Bedlam creates a different dynamic for everyone involved, and OSU junior wideout Brennan Presley is no different. A native of Tulsa and graduate of Bixby, Presley grew up with this game circled on the schedule every year.

That’s what made his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Sooners in 2021 so endearing. It’s a dose of nostalgia from a few years ago, when he watched former Cowboy Tyreek Hill run a punt back to the end zone to help OSU notch a win over OU in 2014.

With the Sooners making the move to the SEC in the near future, and with the Cowboys having their nonconference slate scheduled for the distant future, there aren’t too many editions of the series left. After this year, there will only be two, and Presley can’t wait to play in both of them.

“Being in the position to where I can affect the outcome, it just makes it that more special,” Presley said. “But, I mean, the game is always gonna be a special game.”

This year’s meeting between the Cowboys and Sooners comes with nearly uncharted territory. It’s the middle of November, there are two weeks left in the regular season, and OU (5-5, 2-5 Big 12 Conference) isn’t bowl eligible. And despite being bowl eligible, OSU (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) will enter the Week 11 contest in search of only its third win since Oct. 8.

This Saturday presents opportunities for both programs to reach marks.

For the Sooners, a win would mean their season will live on after the regular season. For the Cowboys, that would mean back-to-back wins in the series for the first time since 2001-02.

“Whenever we get to meet up with them, it doesn’t matter,” Presley said. “The record doesn’t matter. We could go two-and-eight, they could go one-and-seven, but when we meet up it’s the biggest game of the year.”

“I think it’d feel real good knowing that OU has to win their last game of the season to be bowl eligible,” Cowboys defensive end Brock Martin said. “Going in Saturday, we’re gonna kind of know what’s going on with that.”

In some ways, maybe Gundy was right. Maybe there isn’t as much animosity surrounding rivalries, and this one in particular, when it comes to the players. But, he said, there’s always going to be tension between the fanbases.

And in some ways, maybe Gundy was wrong. There aren’t too many chances left for each program to claim bragging rights, and soon, either the Cowboys or Sooners will claim bragging rights one final time in the foreseeable future.

That’s what makes this rivalry everything it’s ever been, everything it is and everything it’ll ever be.

“We could probably play in the backyard and it’d still be the same emotional effect,” Presley said. “It’s always gonna be Bedlam.”

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