Oklahoma State season review

Oklahoma State was expected to have a breakthrough season in which it contended for the first BCS bowl appearance in school history as well as the team's first Big 12 South title.

A loss to Texas killed the championship hopes. And the Cowboys saw their BCS at-large hopes fade away after dropping a disappointing 27-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the regular season.

The season was still a good one for coach Mike Gundy and the 9-3 Cowboys, who finished second in the Big 12 South and earned a Cotton Bowl berth.

It was a season in which Gundy showed his coaching mettle in overcoming the loss of top playmaker Dez Bryant for most of the season after he was suspended for improper dealings with an agent. Top 2008 Big 12 rusher Kendall Hunter was injured early in the season and had trouble regaining his form until late in the campaign.

New defensive coordinator Bill Young cobbled together an improved defense that ranked sixth in the nation against the rush and in the top 40 in pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and total defense.

The Cowboys had two of the Big 12’s top defensive playmakers in linebacker Patrick Lavine (five interceptions) and cornerback Perrish Cox.

Quarterback Zac Robinson overcame injuries much of the season but provided inspirational leadership for an offense that was good enough -- but struggled against top defenses like Texas and Oklahoma.

It was a good season for the Cowboys, but one in which they just didn’t have enough talent to overcome all of their critical offensive losses.

Offensive MVP: RB Keith Toston

With an offense losing its way after the loss of key producers Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter, the Cowboys leaned on Toston throughout the season. He was ready for the challenge, rushing for 1,177 yards to rank second in the conference and scoring 11 touchdowns. Those numbers are particularly remarkable considering he was a backup for the first two games of the season. Toston produced the top rushing game in the Big 12 with 206 yards against Iowa State and the third-best with 172 yards against Colorado.

Defensive MVP: CB/PR Perrish Cox

One of the Big 12’s premier cover corners had a big senior season, leading the nation with 19 passes defensed and snagging three interceptions. He also ranked 25th nationally in punt returns, including a 67-yard return for a touchdown against Colorado. Cox’s strong play enabled him to become a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award.

Turning point: Oct. 17 vs. Texas A&M

The Cowboys had a difficult week leading up to their trip to College Station as Zac Robinson lost his grandfather to cancer and the team learned that Bryant would miss the rest of the season with an NCAA-mandated suspension. With Robinson having the words "Press On" written in lamp black under his eyes, the Cowboys rebounded to claim a 36-31 victory. That triumph helped them earn a 6-2 Big 12 conference mark that was a school record for conference victories.

What’s next?

The Cowboys will have a tough matchup with Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl, a rematch of the 2004 Cotton Bowl they lost to the Rebels. A victory would enable the Cowboys to likely finish in the top 15 nationally and wrap up their first 10-win season since 1988. The Cowboys lose many of their key players heading into next season like Russell Okung, Robinson, Toston, linebackers Andre Sexton and Lavine and Cox. It will be a difficult rebuilding job in the South Division, but confidence gleaned from two strong seasons should help Gundy in his team's transformation.