A summer of hype preceded Oklahoma State's 2009 season, culminating in a fan-satisfying win over Georgia that vaulted the Cowboys into the top 5 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
But letdown arrived the following week, when Oklahoma State gave up 45 points in a 10-point loss to Houston.
The hype was missing this offseason with a mass exodus of starters, but Oklahoma State got another emotional win last week over Texas A&M, and with a trip to Louisiana looming, the Cowboys are determined to stave off the deflation of last season's second game.
"We've done the best we can to caution them about being prepared before you go into any game because of the level of expectations from a year ago. This year, we have younger players, so we've done a better job of keeping them prepared each week, in my opinion," said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
Oklahoma State rebounded to win the five games following the Houston loss and finished 9-4 for a second consecutive nine-win season.
"It was disappointing, but we had to understand we had another game coming up," said safety Markelle Martin. "We came in and we looked at the schemes we thought they were going to do, and they ran some great plays that we weren’t ready for. We made some adjustments to slow them down, but we just weren’t able to slow them down. We learned a lot from that game and it helped us throughout the season."
Martin is one of the reasons the Cowboys couldn't cover the screen game that Houston brought when the Cowboys were expecting Cougars quarterback Case Keenum to test them downfield. The team's starting safety, Martin, was injured and had to sit.
"A lot of players just didn’t understand the loss. We didn’t understand the mistakes that we had until we saw film later, but it was just kind of a downfall," Martin said. "We had to get back up and strive to get better."
Granted, Houston ended up being a pretty good team, a 10-game winner with the nation's best offense. Louisiana-Lafayette (2-2) may not offer the same challenges, and don't look for the Cowboys to hire the Ragin' Cajuns offensive coordinator at season's end like they did with Houston.
This year, armed with one of college football's most prolific offenses and the lessons from last year, Oklahoma State looks to move to 5-0 after its first road test.
"Coach has been on us, we can’t start slow. We have to pick it up right where we left off," said Martin, whose team fell behind 21-7 against Texas A&M last week before scoring the first 28 points of the second half. "He tells us our biggest game is always our next game, so you have to be up about it and start over. It’s 0-0, you have to stay focused."