OKLAHOMA CITY —
By JEFF LATZKE
STILLWATER — Mike Gundy was a freshman riding the bench in his first college game when Oklahoma State started its season with a trip to southwestern Louisiana.
The No. 22 Cowboys (4-0) will return this Friday night to play their first road game of the season at Louisiana-Lafayette (2-2), but Gundy says it doesn't bring back too many memories from his freshman year in 1986.
"That's 25 years ago. That's a long time," Gundy said Monday. "I don't remember much other than it was my first time to travel as a college football player and so I got to eat with the team and be on the bus and we had a police escort. I remember more of that than I do the actual game."
It certainly was a memorable one, played on Sept. 6, 1986. Despite having future NFL stars Thurman Thomas and Hart Lee Dykes on the roster, Oklahoma State trailed until Dykes caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys to a 21-20 win over the school then known as Southwest Louisiana.
Oklahoma State scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, a rally sparked by a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Bobby Riley with 3:09 to play after the Ragin' Cajuns had scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone to go up 20-9.
The game also marked a chance encounter between Joe DeForest, then a defensive back for the Ragin' Cajuns, with the school where he'd eventually become an assistant coach and the head coach he'd be working for.
DeForest certainly hasn't forgotten that tough defeat at the start of his senior year.
"Basically, it was a big story because I think Oklahoma State was ranked pretty high at that point, that was the first game of the year and we were beating them until the last minute and then they came back and won," DeForest said. "I think about that game, especially this week."
The Cowboys were unranked at the time of the 1986 season opener, but returned those key players from a team that had been ranked continuously for the previous two years and had played in the Gator Bowl the previous year.
Gundy and DeForest wouldn't get to know each other until a decade later when Gundy was an assistant at Maryland and DeForest was on the staff at Duke. Former Oklahoma State coach Les Miles united them on his staff in Stillwater for the 2001 season, and they've been coaching together for a decade now.
DeForest said he's looking forward to the chance to see his old school, catch up with friends and take in the experience at Cajun Field. The game, originally scheduled for Sept. 25, was shifted to this Friday night for television.
Louisiana-Lafayette is also scheduled to play at Stillwater the next two seasons.
"It's going to be rowdy. The student section is right behind our bench and they have a great time prior to the game, if you know what I mean, and they'll be saying things to our players that a lot of these freshmen probably have never heard," DeForest said.
After playing its first four games of the season at home, Oklahoma State enters a stretch where it will play five of seven on the road.
Gundy said he plans to keep the Cowboys' weekly routine as close to normal as possible to ease the transition into the first road game for a team that has played 14 freshmen already this season and will have a handful of players, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and four offensive linemen, making their first start away from home.
Adding to that challenge is the fact that OSU altered its schedule for a Thursday game last week and will be shuffling again to travel and play on Friday this week.
"They'll be fired up now," Gundy said. "It will be a big night for them. ... You're not going to have a stadium size-wise that would be maybe comparable to some in this league, but from a noise level they'll be very excited and they'll try to make it as hostile an environment as possible.
"It'll be a challenge for our players to compete in that environment, but they'll have to learn how to do it. Might as well learn now."