Although the 2017 campaign won’t end in a Big 12 championship or a College Football Playoff berth, this year’s Oklahoma State senior class wants to go out with a bang at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Last week’s home loss to Kansas State eliminated the Cowboys from competing in the revamped Big 12 Championship contest. The title of conference champs will preclude this year’s senior class, which battled Bedlam rival Oklahoma for the crown the past two years.
Despite a lack of a Big 12 title, this year’s class has accounted for 35 wins, including a pair of 10-win seasons, which is still reachable this season. The seniors have won two of three bowl games.
The Cowboys (8-3 overall, 5-3 Big 12) host Kansas, which is winless in the Big 12 this season, for Senior Day. More than 20 seniors will be honored before the Cowboys and Jayhawks (1-11, 0-8) take the field for the 11 a.m. kickoff.
“It’s neat because I’ve been around for all these guys, all four or five years. Anytime you come in and you see a young man grow and adapt to our culture, learn to not play selfishly and for them to really care about each other, that is always a tremendous thing to see,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “They’ve given a lot and they sacrifice. They’re going to have injuries that will hurt for the rest of their life, they will have some soreness, some neck problems and some joint problems. It’s the beauty of this game and the memories of the brotherhood. They have sacrificed a ton. You want to send them out on a good note.”
The OSU seniors have more wins this season than their opponents have in the past four seasons combined. Kansas hasn’t won more than three games in a year since 2009 and no winning season since 2008.
Saturday will mark the final game at BPS for this year’s class of seniors. The pregame ceremony will be filled with an array of emotions as players and families celebrate the careers of another class of Cowboys.
For the OSU players, it will be a moment to enjoy with their families. Several seniors are unsure what thoughts they’ll be having Saturday morning.
“Just trying to soak it in,” said center Brad Lundblade, who walked-on to OSU. “I’m looking forward to having my parents on the field with me and enjoying that moment. Obviously, we have to be focused on the game, but I’m just trying to soak it all in and enjoy running out of the tunnel going through pre-game warmups one last time.”
Wideout James Washington also said he’s not sure what his emotions will be like Saturday morning.
“I’m not really emotional,” Washington said. “I just want to look back on it. Once I take the field with my parents, just soak it all in that it’s my last time playing on this field. It will definitely be a cherish-able moment for me.”
Safety Tre Flowers agreed.
“I know it’s going to be fun,” Flowers said. “I don’t know if I’m going to cry or anything. That’s not really me, but it’s going to be fun.”
While the focus will be on the festivities Saturday morning, one Cowboy isn’t too concerned about the ceremony. Quarterback Mason Rudolph is more focused on the task at hand – beating the Jayhawks and finishing the regular season with a victory.
“Beating Kansas – that’s the only thing on my mind,” Rudolph said. “I could care less about – I’m not a big sentimental guy – I’ll see my parents really quick because it’s Senior Day. I had a Senior Day in high school and it’s the same type of deal – you get flowers, you give them to your parents, you hug them and then let’s go win a game. It will be cool to look back on it, but that’s the least of my worries. It will be fun to talk to the fans one last time, but I want to make them proud and come back as an alumni that has accomplished a lot of stuff.”
Rudolph’s focus is one characteristic that’s helped him become the winningest quarterback in program history. He took over the job at Baylor in 2014 – with two games remaining in the regular season – and will end his OSU career at a bowl game in late December.
He began his career on the same day as center Brad Lundblade. Their relationship has continued to blossom through their four years in Stillwater, despite a rocky start in Waco, Texas, three years ago.
“It’s gone by really fast, it’s hard to believe it,” Lundblade said. “Seems like yesterday it was 2014 and I was playing my first game at Baylor. It’s gone by so fast, I’m just trying to soak in every moment and enjoy it.”
That contest against a top-5 Baylor squad resulted in a loss, but the Cowboys, which were 5-6 after the contest, bounced back with a shocking win at Oklahoma the following week. The Cowboys continued their resurgence by winning the Cactus Bowl, giving them momentum into the offseason.
It was a landmark offseason as Rudolph, Lundblade and Washington became household names for OSU fans. It’s a memory most, if not all, members of the senior class share.
“I think we were really resilient,” Lundblade said. “It was a frustrating year, obviously. It came down to the last game to become bowl eligible. We were able to turn it around at the end and it was an awesome finish to that year. … We have a lot of guys who are four-year lettermen here, so we have a lot of experience and we’ve been through a lot together.”
The connection between Lundblade and Rudolph is one of several relationship and bonds that have grown during four years for this year’s class. Rudolph and Washington have been linked together for the past three years, and will likely be mentioned together after their time at OSU has passed.
On what he thinks Rudolph’s and Washington’s legacies will be:“For certain fans, they’re going to have associations. Whether it’s (Brandon) Weeden and (Justin) Blackmon, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or whatever, there’s been great teammates over the years and (Rudolph and Washington), certainly in my life and in my career, have been exceptional,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “No question about it. That’s probably an understatement, but they’re just terrific young men. When you think about the quality of character, the player, the person – exceptional young men with bright futures, and (I’m) just very thankful to have had the opportunity to coach those guys. It’s been a lot of fun and what they’ve given and what they’ve sacrificed for the team has been tremendous.”
Across the ball, senior safeties Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards have bonded during their time in Stillwater. The San Antonio, Texas, natives have enjoyed their time together.
“I’ve enjoyed playing alongside him,” Richards said. “I’ve said it a lot, but I truly mean that. I truly enjoyed playing alongside him and (Jordan) Sterns. I remember we took pride being from San Antonio and starting in the secondary. We started this thing together and we’re finishing this thing together. I’ve seen him hurt and he’s seen me hurt. I’ve seen him bawl and vice versa. He’s a person that I will truly stay connected to beyond this.”
“I feel like I blinked and I was a freshman and now I’m a senior. It definitely went by fast, but over that fast journey, I’ve learned a lot and seen a lot.”