Dana Holgorsen's name comes up quickly in any discussion about Oklahoma State's 2010 season. The offensive coordinator came to Stillwater via Houston, where he ran the most productive offense in college football in 2009.
Different city, same story this year.
Holgorsen had to deal with no proven receivers, a running back coming back from a frustrating injury that ruined his junior season and a first-year starter at quarterback who hadn't started a game in nine years.
Worse, leading returning receiver Hubert Anyiam missed most of the season with a frustrating ankle injury. None of it mattered.
Oklahoma State leads the nation in total offense, and ranks third in scoring offense.
Brandon Weeden, Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon all made the All-Big 12 first team. Blackmon looks like the Biletnikoff Award favorite. Hunter leads the Big 12 in rushing and is a Doak Walker Award finalist. Weeden ranks second nationally in passing yards per game.
The Cowboys defense got a lot better as the year progressed, and it gave Oklahoma State 10 regular-season wins for the first time in school history, with a chance for an 11th win to set an overall school record. Additionally, the Cowboys tied for a Big 12 South title for the first time under Gundy, and as long as Holgorsen is around, look ready to contend for the league title in a 10-team Big 12 in 2011.
Offensive MVP: Justin Blackmon, receiver. Weeden makes the whole offense run. Hunter gives the Cowboys consistency. Blackmon takes them to an elite level. He proved uncoverable all year. No team held him under 100 yards or without a touchdown, and his streak of 11 games with both tied an NCAA record. Don't look for that to change against Arizona in the Alamo Bowl.
Defensive MVP: Orie Lemon, linebacker. Defensive coordinator Bill Young said before the season that Lemon was as good of a middle linebacker as any in the country, and Lemon came pretty close to proving him right during the season. Lemon was third in the Big 12 with 119 tackles, but 93 of those stops were solo. That ranked third nationally, and the next best in the Big 12 was Nebraska's Lavonte David, with 78.
Turning point: Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal against Texas A&M. Neither team looked like it belonged in the top 20 in this game, but both finished the regular season ranked, and they tied for the Big 12 South title. If Bailey misses that kick, Oklahoma State would have been battling momentum in overtime, and a loss would have meant no share of the Big 12 South.
What's next: A bright, bright future. The Cowboys lose Hunter, but I'd expect both Blackmon and Weeden to return next season, and freshmen Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith look ready to fill in for Hunter at running back. Young talents Brodrick Brown and Shaun Lewis combined for one of the season's best plays -- a tipped interception from Brown to Lewis -- and could blossom into full-bloomed Big 12 stars in 2011.