Taylor Cornelius says a bowl game is OSU's goal; what is he talking about?
STILLWATER – OSU quarterback Taylor Cornelius, a career backup who suddenly has the team in his hands, sat at a media-day table last weekend and answered a question about if this 2018 season feels different.
Cornelius' answer was startling.
“Not really,” Cornelius said. “We have the same goal and the same mindset. We have to go out and win ballgames and make a bowl game. That's the biggest thing.”
Wait, what? Make a bowl game? What is this? 1996?
Bowl games are no more an OSU goal than finding the stadium on Saturdays. No more questionable than getting shoulder pads strapped and chin straps snapped. Bowl games are virtually automatic.
Cornelius knows that, I assume. The tall Texan is not loquacious. Some guys are naturally reserved, then are coached to say nothing in the same way they are coached to read defenses. Mason Rudolph was a little bit that way at OSU; Landry Jones was a lot that way at OU.
Still, it was strange to hear the State quarterback say a bowl game is the goal. That is your father's Cowboys. Back in the ‘50s, when OSU won 41 games and made one bowl. Or the ‘60s, when OSU won 35 games and made no bowls. Or the ‘70s, when OSU won 56 games and made two bowls. Or the ‘90s, when OSU won 41 games and made one bowl.
No one in Stillwater really thinks like that anymore. Not after 96 wins and 10 bowl games the last 10 years. And that includes these Cowboys.
A sampling of Corndog's teammates were asked about team goals.
Center Johnny Wilson: “Win a Big 12 championship.”
Flanker Dillon Stoner: “I think the bar's always set high. Big 12 championship's our goal every year.”
Tailback Justice Hill: “We just want to win the Big 12 and be the best team we can be.”
Cornerback Rodarius Williams: “Our goal is to get playoffs first and take it from there.”
Now that's more like it. I mean, the College Football Playoff is a crazy-high goal for this team, in a rebuilding year. But better to aim too high than too low. I don't think the Cowboys will win the Big 12. I mean, they didn't win it with Rudolph and James Washington. I don't think they'll win it with Cornelius and Tyron Johnson.
But OSU won't win it without striving for it.
“I've been here four years and I've seen a lot of guys work really hard, and we all have that goal each year,” Wilson said. “Something ends up happening, really can't help it, but I truly believe this year we have something special.
“I know we have Mason and James and (Zach) Crabtree and Brad (Lundblade), all those guys gone, but we had a really good summer. We've got some new leaders and I'm ready to see what this year has for us.”
Not so long ago, the Cowboys were on an odd-even carousel. Big 12 title contenders in odd-numbered years, rebuilding in even-numbered years. Won the conference in 2011. Should have won it in 2013. Sugar Bowl in 2015. So-so in 2012 and 2014.
But the program has changed. The Cowboys have created a culture of winning. A culture of expectations every season. No reason not to embrace them.
“We get there by coming out here every day, competing against each other, don't allow anyone on the field to slack,” Williams said. “Just hold everyone accountable.”
That's a hallmark of consistently excellent programs. Accountability. And that includes past players.
“It's kind of a culture built here,” Wilson said. “You know you have to work hard. Those guys that got those 10 wins 10 years before you didn't not work hard and just win. It kind of makes you want to work harder. Want to make those guys proud.”
A bowl game, just any bowl game, won't do it. Not anymore.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.