OSU takes the next step among the elite

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- This was what Texas A&M and Oklahoma State do. They blow games.

Penalties stymied No. 7 Oklahoma State's high-flying offense during the first half, and the Cowboys trailed by 17 points. Oklahoma State's fans had seen that before. Then No. 8 Texas A&M blew the lead in less than a quarter, and for the game's final 18 minutes before losing to the Cowboys, 30-29.

Games involving two top-10 teams don't often come to College Station -- which has not hosted one since 1975 -- or Stillwater.

Wins in those games for those programs? Even rarer.

But with both teams in the top 10, with a possible top-five ranking, and maybe a Big 12 (and national?) championship run, somebody had to walk through the door. Just like last year's classic, when both teams were unranked, both teams took a punch in the gut.

Oklahoma State absorbed the hit and erased that deficit for a program-defining win. Coach Mike Gundy, now in his seventh season with the program, called the victory the most satisfying of his tenure as Cowboy-in-chief. He walked around his locker room at halftime and liked what he saw. No fingers being pointed. No angry or sad faces. He saw confidence and players assessing what went wrong and how to fix it.

"I heard the players saying we've been here before," Gundy said.

Added his quarterback Brandon Weeden, who called it his biggest win: "It felt like déjà vu. ... This was the exact same situation we were in last year."

Weeden broke his own school records for completions (47) and passing yards (438) for the second time in three weeks.

Gundy felt confident his team could come back. The problems were penalties that at one point had OSU backed up into a third-and-43, and numerous missed tackles that allowed Texas A&M to run for 147 yards on 19 carries in the first half. But OSU gave up only 15 rushing yards on eight carries in the second half against arguably the best 1-2 punch at running back in the nation: Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.

"Three or four years ago when we were in that situation, they didn't look the same in their faces," Gundy said of his team at halftime. "It takes time to develop [resolve] like that. You've got to win. They've got to prove to themselves they can do it."

This will be a big one.

Just like Oklahoma State's landmark win over Missouri in 2008, this game was sealed with an interception off one of the nation's best quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill. The turnover set off an explosion of hip bumps and hugs on the Oklahoma State sideline, while the Kyle Field crowd could only shake their heads and sadly hold their "12th Man" towels, which they swung so vigorously throughout the first half.

This time though, it was hardly an upset.

Weeden said this win reminded him of that game against Missouri, but OSU "thought" it had a good team back then. It now believes it does, and with good reason after last year's school-record 11-win season.

Oklahoma State may walk into every game the rest of its season a favorite until a showdown against No. 1 Oklahoma on Dec. 3. Bedlam in Stillwater as a national semifinal? Don't rule it out.

But Texas A&M had to know this was coming.

Rumors persisted throughout the weekend that the Aggies' SEC announcement was impending, crashing the first Big 12 conference game of the season. Texas A&M insisted that an official announcement was coming "shortly," after the SEC announced that its presidents had accepted it as the conference's 13th member earlier this month.

An A&M official said the chances of Texas A&M changing its mind and returning to the Big 12 was about the same as former Texas A&M star Von Miller's chances of playing another game at Kyle Field as an Aggie.

They've insisted they'll shrug off new interim commissioner Chuck Neinas' pleas for them to stay. But if there ever was a reason to listen, Saturday's game provided it.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock, a contingent of Oklahoma State fans serenaded the fourth-largest crowd in Kyle Field history with a "Big 12" chant, a play off the "S-E-C" refrain the nation heard after the conference won the past five national titles.

"You can't go anywhere without people talking about it," Gundy said of realignment.

His own school looked like it might head to the Pac-12 earlier this week, before recommitting to the Big 12 during a league conference call Wednesday. He left the conference sour grapes to the "people in chat rooms," and enjoyed his "satisfying" win, entertaining his team with some dance moves during a wild celebration in the locker room.

Just don't expect Gundy to teach anybody how to Dougie.

"That would be way better than what he does," Weeden said.

Oklahoma State's game was not without characteristic gaffes -- mistakes that have earned A&M and OSU their "little brother" status, as Texas and Oklahoma collected Big 12 titles and BCS bowls.

On what could have been a game-changing touchdown, Biletnikoff-winning receiver Justin Blackmon inexplicably fumbled into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback. Instead of a 31-20 lead late in the third quarter, Texas A&M now had the ball trailing by only four.

Blackmon thought a defender was closer and was preparing to dive before he made the 87,358 people in attendance gasp with his goof.

No chastising necessary. Weeden and Gundy didn't mention it to the offense's top playmaker on the sidelines.

"Nobody feels worse than him about it if we don't come home with a win," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

The Cowboys' defense turned what could have been a season-changing mistake into a minor blip on what could be a historic season.

This is a different Oklahoma State team, and for now, the same old Aggies.

"Every year, we get better players, we get better disciplined, just everything. All the pieces are falling into place," Weeden said. "[Gundy's] won a lot of big games, and he's turned this program into something special."