By Brandon Speck
ARLINGTON, Texas – Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team lost Saturday’s Cotton Bowl 21-7 to Ole Miss because the Cowboys didn’t make plays.
While crediting Ole Miss for its effort, he didn’t shy away from the fact that he thought his team stopped itself.
He said losing All-American receiver and possible first round draft pick Dez Bryant back in October to suspension made a big difference, too.
“We didn’t make plays today and at some point, we’ve got to step up and make plays,” Gundy said. “You’ve got to make throws and at this level, if the ball’s thrown to you, you have to make catches and you’ve got to take care of the football. We didn’t make plays.
“The offense played sloppy. Defensively, the guys played tremendous. Didn’t give them a chance.”
Bryant was ruled ineligible for the remainder of his junior season after lying to the NCAA about a visit with Deion Sanders.
“Dez makes a difference. There’s no question,” said Gundy. “The guys that go out there have given us everything, but it would be unfair for me to say that if you take an All-American out, that you’re the same on offense. It affects us.”
Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett didn’t exactly have mercy on Gundy and the Cowboys minus their star receiver.
“I think it was a letdown for them, but that happened early in the season,” Lockett said of Bryant. “They had time to pick up the slack in other areas.”
Bryant’s would-be effect on the game will never be known against an Ole Miss defense that allowed only 258 total yards and held quarterback Zac Robinson to 112 yards on 13 of 31 passes and no touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions, two to Kendrick Lewis.
Without Bryant, Gundy sent his team back on the field for a fourth-and-goal at the 1 yard line and Ole Miss held to maintain a 7-7 tie with 96 seconds left in the third quarter.
Lockett wasn’t pleased with the play call from the Cowboys.
“To me, it’s kind of a disrespect,” he said. “They think they can just run the ball on the defense at all times at will. As a defense, you should take that personal. They shouldn’t be able to do that, so we answered the challenge.”
Gundy said he went for the touchdown because he felt his team would have to find the end zone to win the game.
“I hate to give a football game away, but I just felt like we gave the game away. In order to win on a big stage against a football team from a great football league, you’ve got to step up and make plays and we didn’t do that today.”