Sports fans are usually quick to assign a cheeky nickname for teams that keep playing in some odd pattern, and the No. 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys are the latest to get the treatment and are sure to be remembered (for better or worse) in the years to come.
I present to you, the “Cardiac Cowboys” (my vote was the “Perfidious Pokes,” though) who are channeling the Northwestern “Cardiac Cats” who became noted for their series of close victories in 2000, putting fans’ hearts through the grinder.
The past three games for the Pokes have been some of the closest contests in the nation. So much so that it is possible to argue that a single call in each game dictated the outcome.
Starting three weeks ago against Texas, Longhorns fans were outraged over an unsportsmanlike call on Charlie Strong that set the Cowboys up for the game-tying field goal. The whole game up to that point was in the Horns’ favor, forcing two Mason Rudolph interceptions and put the Pokes into seemingly inescapable situations. But thanks to 16 penalties including two that negated Texas touchdowns and the patented Texas “non”-special teams, the Cowboys steered their way to a 30-27 victory.
Week 5 at home against the Kansas State Wildcats wasn’t much different, as the Cats were leading 28-13 going into the half. That is until the Cowboys were granted a controversial first down with under a minute to go, setting them up to pull the score within a single possession.
Kansas State quarterback Joe Hubener was also knocked out of the game, leaving the Cowboys to defend a wide receiver under center. The game still came down to a last-second field goal for the Cowboys to begin conference play at 2-0.
The breaks against West Virginia were less apparent, as it was nearly the Mountaineers that nearly sent the Pokes home with their first loss of the season. The refs can’t be easily blamed this round, but it was an ugly win all around. (Fun note: the Mountaineers have not won a night home conference game since joining the conference.)
It was a constant exchange of possessions, totaling 34 drives thanks to seven turnovers between both teams. Rudolph threw three interceptions, bringing his season total to seven. This was a game largely dictated by big plays on both sides of the ball, as neither team could gain traction. There were 10 three and outs between the conference foes.
That could be credited to stellar defense play, but it was more so each team’s players underperforming and poor playcalling.
If these close games keep popping up on the Cowboys, it will surely be the death of their playoff hopes, particularly if Kansas somehow keeps things competitive next Saturday. After the Jayhawks, TCU rolls into town, and as we saw in their battle against Kansas State, we can’t count the Horned Frogs out even if they’re down by three possessions at the break.
The way Rudolph has been playing with the lack of a consistent running game behind him is concerning. If they can’t churn out an undoubtedly great team performance against unranked teams what’s there to keep the Cowboys alive?
Luck runs out, just ask Northwestern’s “Cardiac Cats,” who like the Cowboys kept rising in the rankings to No. 18 after close wins only to be completely outmatched by No. 9 Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl, losing 66-17.
If nothing else, for the sake of the state of Oklahoma, which ranks third in the nation in heart attack rates, these “Cardiac Cowboys” best find a way to pull away easier in the conference play before some they get anyone’s heart pumping more than it should.