By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
For the third-straight season, the Oklahoma State football program will be competing a January bowl game.
The Cowboys, which missed out on a BCS bid after losing to Bedlam rival Oklahoma Saturday, will face former Big 12 Conference program Missouri — which lost to Auburn in the SEC championship game.
“They are a first-class bowl. We were there a few years ago and the way they treat our families and our players and our kids it’s the ultimate for a bowl,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said in a teleconference following Sunday’s bowl announcement. “Certainly you would want to be in a BCS bowl because it means you won a conference championship and we fell short of that, but the location for recruiting and the ease for our fans to travel to the game, the Cotton Bowl is a great opportunity for our team and our fans and the university.”
Gundy, who took in the OSU wrestling dual against Minnesota earlier on Sunday, said it’s not too strange to be playing the former Big 12 and Big Eight opponent — what with all the conference realignment that has occurred over the past few years.
“I don’t really think it seems weird, but we are still familiar with them. We played them a bunch of years in a row here,” Gundy said. “When I watch them play, they are very similar to the way they were when we were competing against them in the Big 12.”
Missouri holds a 29-23 all-time series advantage, but the Pokes have won each of the last three meetings and four of the last five. This is the first neutral-site clash between the two teams. Gundy is 3-1 against Missouri. Gary Pinkel is 3-3 against Oklahoma State.
This year’s Missouri team was a bit of a surprise in the SEC, earning a spot in the SEC title game against Auburn — which will play Florida State in the BCS title game — by winning the SEC East Division. The Tigers are 11-2, with their regular season loss coming in overtime to South Carolina, a vast improvement from 2012 in which Missouri went 5-7 with just two conference wins — over Kentucky and Tennessee.
“I was a voter on a coach of the year ballot and I voted for coach Pinkel for coach of the year. I’m not sure which one it was, but I thought he was very deserving of the award,” Gundy said.
In its three previous trips to the Cotton Bowl, OSU scored a win over TCU in 1945 and sustained a pair of losses to Mississippi in 2004 and 2010, respectively. OSU’s 1945 trip was the school’s first-ever bowl appearance and it produced a 34-0 victory. In 2004, Eli Manning and the Rebels got the best of Josh Fields, Rashaun Woods and the Cowboys. In 2010 — the first Cotton Bowl Classic played in AT&T Stadium — OSU’s defense made a goal-line stand and forced five turnovers, but the Pokes still lost a 21-7 decision to Ole Miss.
Besides being former conference foes, the two teams do share some familiar faces on the coaching staffs.
The Tigers have two OSU alums on staff with offensive coordinator Josh Henson, 1998 graduate who spent three years on Les Miles’ staff at OSU, and recruiting graduate assistant Cooper Bassett, who was a defensive lineman on last year’s Cowboy squad.
Oklahoma State has a Missouri alum on the coaching staff with receivers coach Jason Ray, who graduated from Missouri in 2007.
“We may have to have Jason and Cooper Bassett make a truce and not give up any information,” Gundy said. “I just thought about Jason Ray when you mentioned that. That may benefit us. That may put us on a level playing field.”