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At 8-0, No. 3 Cowboys approaching best start ever

By Jeff Latzke

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 31 2011 2:50 p.m. MDT

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is surrounded by the media as he answers questions during a news conference in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. The Cowboys are 8-0 for only the second time in school history and need four more wins to reach the BCS championship game.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — Mike Gundy is leading No. 3 Oklahoma State into uncharted territory.

The Cowboys are off to an 8-0 start for only the second time in the program's history and seem to be in the driver's seat for a shot at the BCS championship if they're able to win their final four games.

It'll take some record-breaking performances to get there.

Oklahoma State (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) has never won more than nine straight games in a season and a win Saturday night against No. 17 Kansas State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) would give the program its second-longest winning streak ever.

Gundy led the Cowboys to a 7-0 start in 2008 and a 6-0 start last season before losing, but it's getting to the point that anything less than a 12-0 regular season this year will be a disappointment.

"It's more difficult each week. I think anybody that says that it's not is probably just giving you some kind of a coach's line," Gundy said Monday. "It's only human nature as you progress through and you see where you're at.

"There's more attention drawn to your team, there's more attention drawn to players individually and national awards for individual players that are out there. My honest opinion is that if anybody says that there's not more pressure put on them as a season progresses, I'd like to know how they avoid it."

The Cowboys are starting to get all sorts of individual attention.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon each received letters last week from the Heisman Trophy Trust informing them they're considered candidates for the award. They're both also semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, given to college football's top player, and Weeden is a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.

Cornerback Brodrick Brown and safety Markelle Martin made a similar cut for the Thorpe Award, and kicker/punter Quinn Sharp did the same for the Lou Groza Award.

The challenge is not getting caught up in the strong start and letting it affect how the season ends.

"You don't have time to reflect on it," Weeden said. "You really don't. Everything happens so fast, you can't really sit back and worry about all that. We realize we control our destiny, we realize we have to keep on winning.

"Being 8-0 is obviously awesome. It's a huge feat but we have some very critical games left on the schedule."

Oklahoma State sits third in the BCS standings and is behind only LSU and Alabama, who play against each other Saturday night and will likely clear a path for the Cowboys to move into the top two with a victory.

"You can't slip up. That's the tough part about college football," Weeden said. "In the NFL, you can lose a couple games and still go to the playoffs and still win games and still win a Super Bowl. In college football, you really can't do that."

The program has made it to 9-0 once before, finishing the 1945 season with that mark after winning the Sugar Bowl. The school, then known as Oklahoma A&M, finished fifth in the final AP poll as undefeated Army won the national title.

That season was part of the 13-game winning streak from 1944-46 that's the only double-digit run in school history.

Perfection, though, is a difficult goal to attain. Instead, Gundy preaches to his players to prepare and then play in such a way that they won't have any regrets when a game is over.

"Oklahoma State is not going to win every football game they play during my tenure here as the head coach. I wish I could say we would, but that's not going to happen," Gundy said. "There'll be teams that lose games.

"If you lose a football game and somebody beats you, that's OK. But if you lose a football game because you didn't prepare well and you didn't play hard, that's not OK."

Gundy credits Weeden, a 28-year-old who returned to college after giving minor-league baseball a try, for providing mature leadership that keeps the Cowboys from getting shaken by the big-picture pressure that's sure to mount as long as the wins keep coming.

Gundy said he's sure there are players on the team who talk about the potential for the school's first national championship but he encourages it to be at a minimum while they zone in on preparation from week to week.

"At any point if they lose that focus, then they certainly increase their chances of losing a game," Gundy said.

Some players look back at the 51-41 home loss to Nebraska that ended last season's run at perfection as an example of what can happen if Oklahoma State gets too caught up in its success.

"I think that was the one game we'd like to have back. We felt like as a team we didn't really finish and play great," Weeden said. "So, that's a bump in the road we don't want to cross again.

"That's a part of college football. You're not going to win them all but we want to keep winning as many as we can this year and keep plugging away and keep fighting."

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