I never should have let myself become overconfident . . . by which, of course, I mean confident. I’ve been dour all offseason, but I allowed myself to be convinced that everything would turn out all right. I should have known better.
If I hadn’t known that before the game, the trip to Stillwater should have reminded me. My brother-in-law, Travis Rice, is a native Texan who was raised, was schooled, and lives in Georgia, but his family hails from the Sooner State. Trav and I arranged to stay with his relatives, and we began the journey on Friday by driving to Birmingham, flying to Memphis, and changing planes in an airport in which you can (but I did not) purchase an Elvis Presley chess set for $65.00. (The pawns were blue suede shoes.)
While we were waiting to board our connecting flight from Memphis to Oklahoma City, Trav spotted a tall guy in shorts and said, "That guy kind of looks like Dan Patrick." We looked at him further and realized he was Dan Patrick, with whom we shared a plane to Oklahoma. (I had the fleeting thought that, if the plane went down, the eighth or ninth paragraph of the story of Patrick’s death in some Southern media outlets might mention me as an incidental victim of the crash.)
We were picked up at the airport by Travis’s father and stayed at the home of Travis’s uncle. We stopped at Chick-fil-A on the way to campus and we arrived in time to visit the tailgaters in RVs, catch up with one of a couple of old friends who were in town, and take a tour of the area.
My initial impression---bolstered somewhat by the subdued novelty of the tailgating scene, the fact that a little over 50,000 constituted a record crowd, and the omnipresent orange at what originated as an agricultural school---was that we were visiting the essential equivalent of Clemson in the Frank Howard era, but, although interactions among opposing fans sometimes have been heated between supporters of the Bulldogs and the Tigers, the Oklahoma State people could not have been nicer or more hospitable.
The nice-guy-to-jerk ratio among OSU fans was far and away the most favorable I have ever encountered in an opposing fan base. Unfortunately, the only jackass Cowboys fan I came across was two seats down from me. He didn’t say a word until the Pokes went up by two touchdowns---he didn’t even so much as clap prior to that point---but, once the outcome was no longer in doubt, he wouldn’t quit running his mouth, mocking our fight song by pretending to mistake it for "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad" and going on about how he thought this was supposed to be a tough opener.
Despite the fact that this clown obviously was a fair weather fan (his seats were in the visiting section, for crying out loud), I still shook his hand afterwards, congratulated him, and wished Oklahoma State good luck. He replied, "Go ‘Cocks." I informed him which bodily orifice he most closely resembled.
Other than that guy, though, we crossed paths with nothing but the most unfailingly decent folk. (When I was complaining to Trav about the one jerk on the way out of the stadium, another OSU fan overheard me, turned around, and apologized on behalf of the one bad fan I had encountered. Our hosts were as hospitable and as gracious in victory as we could have hoped.) Nary a catcall nor a jeer was heard anywhere in Stillwater, before or after the game.
In other words, the trip went, and my Saturday began, as perfectly as possible. That was a bad sign.
I’m not just being dour---although make no mistake; I am being dour---because I remember another day that went about as well as it could go, right up until kickoff: Georgia’s 2008 game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. How’d that work out for us?
Actually, that comparison is a bit unfair. Last year’s Alabama game was a disaster from the get-go. The showdown in Stillwater began as well as it could have begun for the visitors. (I use that term, by the way, because that was the term the public address announcer in T. Boone Pickens Stadium used, almost without exception, when referring to the Red and Black. Come on, buddy; at least take the time to learn our name. This game was kind of a big deal.)
At the outset of the game, the Bulldogs drove the field for the opening score and managed to stop the Cowboys. The initial playcalling on both sides of the ball was solid and Joe Cox had moments that looked positively David Greene-like. Richard Samuel was a handful of high-steps away from breaking some big ones and the ‘Dawgs were dominant through most of the first two quarters of play . . . but they never distanced themselves when they had the chance. The Classic City Canines failed to capitalize on their opportunities, proving unable to mount another first-half scoring drive and missing multiple chances at potentially game-altering interceptions.
The Pokes went into the game with question marks, which they transformed into exclamation points. The ‘Dawgs went into the game with question marks, as well, but (as Travis pointed out) Georgia’s were turned into semicolons. The passing game was never in synch; seldom did the quarterback and the receiver both perform well on the same play, and Cox threw several passes that ought to have been picked off. For reasons not known to me or to anyone else with whom I spoke, we got away from the running game much sooner than circumstances required.
After the game, an old friend of mine from college sent me a text message noting the similarity of this game to one played in Athens eight decades ago. Then, too, a team called the Bulldogs went on the road for the dedicatory game in an upstart program’s stadium, and lost. Then, the arena was Sanford Stadium and the visiting eastern power was Yale; on Saturday, Oklahoma State made a comparable breakthrough.
Saturday’s result was a combination of Georgia playing poorly and Oklahoma State playing well. The Cowboys looked like a quality team; certainly, they deserve to be the highest-ranked team that goes by the initials "OSU." The Red and Black looked like a club that could make my 7-5 preseason prediction seem optimistic. There were no fluke plays or bad bounces to which we can attribute this result. The better team won. What we have to get next to is the idea that ours was not the better team.
A few ancillary points in closing:
- As inclined as I may be to blame it all on Willie Martinez, the Georgia defense was not the problem in Stillwater. Two turnovers put the defense in dire straits, but the players responded well and played much more disciplined football. Of the three phases of the game, defense unquestionably is the one in which Georgia performed the best. If you’d told me beforehand that the ‘Dawgs would hold the Cowpokes to 24 points despite being on the wrong end of the turnover margin, I’d have danged sure told you we were winning a football game.
- The bathrooms in T. Boone Pickens Stadium are labeled "cowboys" and "cowgirls." As Trav pointed out, we can’t very well get away with mascot-specific lavatory labeling in Athens, given what the signs on our women’s restrooms would say.
- For all the perception that we in the South are overly enamored of our Second Amendment rights, folks in the Big 12 love them some firearms, especially when it comes to shooting them off during football games.
- We need to get comfortable with the idea that 0-3 is a very real possibility.
- I’m not going to say anything about the penalties. They might not have changed the score, they certainly didn’t change the outcome, and it was a well-officiated game.
- Whatever Oklahoma State is paying that new defensive coordinator is a bargain.
- If Oklahoma State can find kicker who can put kickoffs in the end zone, so can we. If Mark Richt wants to make a job offer to the Cowboys’ special teams coordinator, that’s all right with me, too.
- I haven’t checked the game day open comment thread yet---I’m still in Oklahoma---so I don’t know whether my cousin has yet quoted my uncle, but, just in case he hasn’t, it needs to be said: don’t lose with seniors. Every available option needs to be considered at every position from which we did not receive an acceptable level of production on Saturday.
- Just for the record, I am a man and I am 40. That is all.
- That "Cowboys Forever" song sounds like it was recorded by the Jonas Brothers.
- Oddly enough, 24-14 probably would have been a more representative final score for both of the 21st century series meetings between these two teams than the actual margins of victory were. Both in 2007 and in 2009, the games were won comfortably by the home team, but not as decisively as the scoreboard showed.
- Depressive Kyle is on duty. Consider this your official announcement that I will be optimistic when I am given tangible on-field evidence that optimism is warranted, but not a moment sooner. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to 2010.