Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) jumps over a Kansas defender into the end zone at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. Rudolph finished the season with 45 total touchdowns, breaking Barry Sanders' record of 44 in the 1988 season. (AP)
STILLWATER — There isn’t much to say about Oklahoma State’s regular-season finale with Kansas.
It was a meaningless game made even more meaningless when the Cowboys fell to Kansas State, 45-40, last weekend at home. That loss — OSU’s third — eliminated it from Big 12 Championship contention.
As expected, the Cowboys (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) handled the lowly Jayhawks to the tune of 58-17 on Saturday, but despite the throttling, there was a constant reminder of the disappointment that plagued Mike Gundy’s squad throughout the 2017 campaign.
Whether it was lingering discontentment from last week or the fact the game featured an 11 a.m. kickoff against one of the worst teams in the FBS on Thanksgiving weekend, many OSU fans couldn’t bring themselves to make the trip to Boone Pickens Stadium.
The official attendance was never announced, which makes sense considering about only half of the stadium’s 60,000-person capacity was met. The student section was almost nonexistent.
Overall, it looked more like a spring game than the 12th ballgame of the season.
Even Senior Day — one last chance to witness and honor the likes of Mason Rudolph and James Washington at home — wasn't a big enough occasion to fill seats.
It was easily the most empty and lifeless I’ve seen the place since I first arrived on the OSU campus for my freshman year in 2013, epitomizing the Cowboys’ season perfectly.
Gundy seemed a bit passive aggressive about the lack of attendance.
“That’s their choice, and I’m good with that,” Gundy said. “If you want to have the impact on the organization, you come and show up and yell and whatever. There’s a lot of soccer, fall baseball, dance and a lot of things going on this time of year, so I understand that.
“Sometimes, an early morning game is not easy. … There’s only so many times you get to see guys like this play. They’re pretty special.”
Of course, Rudolph showed out in his final game at home.
The senior threw for 494 yards, 309 of which came in the first half, and two touchdowns on 32-of-44 passing, completing four or more passes to four receivers. He also ran for two touchdowns in the victory, bringing his season rushing touchdown total to 10.
Along with those rushing scores, Rudolph finished the regular season with 4,609 yards and 35 passing touchdowns, giving him more combined touchdowns in a season (45) than Barry Sanders during his Heisman-winning 1988 season.
Three of his receivers — Dillon Stoner, Marcell Ateman and James Washington — finished the game with more than 100 yards receiving, combining for 326 yards.
Rudolph’s performance helped OSU become the first team in Big 12 history to have a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers (Washington and Ateman) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Justice Hill) in a season. The feat was accomplished in the second quarter when Rudolph found Ateman for a 12-yard pass — the Cowboys holding a 24-3 lead at the time.
Although that is a great and impressive stat, it is a reminder of this team’s failures.
With all the talent this OSU team has, there is no reason it shouldn’t be competing for the Big 12 title next week at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. One media outlet, Sports Illustrated, even predicted the Cowboys to go one step further and make an appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Instead, OSU suffered three home losses — two by double digits — for the first time since Gundy’s inaugural season in 2005. If that isn’t disappointing, I don’t know what is.
Now, rather than prepping for a possible trip to Pasadena, Calif., or New Orleans, the Cowboys will most likely be delegated to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Dec. 28. It is a twist none of us saw coming, especially after how dominant the team looked through the first three games.
After all, Pittsburgh, a team OSU beat by 38 in Sept., knocked No. 2 Miami from the ranks of the unbeaten this weekend, which must be frustrating to watch for the Cowboys and their fans. There was so much potential that just went untapped.
With that said, OSU can salvage what is left of this season with a bowl win to reach 10 victories in a season for the ninth time in program history and sixth time under Gundy.
However, regardless of how 2017 ends for the Cowboys, one question remains — when, if ever, will OSU get over the hump and become a national contender?
I guess we’ll all have to wait and see, but at this point, is doesn’t seem plausible.