PITTSBURGH — “Oklahoma State is on the clock,” Pitt linebacker Mike Caprara said just minutes after having defeated Penn State at Heinz Field on Saturday.
The sentiment Caprara was expressing is that the Panthers need to turn the page over their dramatic 42-39 victory over arch-rival Penn State, and do it quickly, as they’ll be traveling into something of a hornet’s nest in Stillwater, Okla. this Saturday.
What Caprara didn’t know at the time is what happened to the Cowboys last week that could affect how they prepare for the non-conference showdown this weekend.
Oklahoma State lost at home, 30-27, to the Central Michigan Chippewas. That in of itself could make for an angry Cowboys teams. But the way they lost will exacerbate the problem, to say the least.
The referees in the game incorrectly interpreted the rule that the game should not end when Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph intentionally threw the ball out of bounds as time expired. Instead, the referees gave Central Michigan an untimed down, and this happened:
The referees’ mistake was never revealed until after the game, meaning the Cowboys are 1-1 with a giant asterisk next to the loss. Head coach Mike Gundy was philosophical about the situation on Monday.
“It was a great opportunity to teach and try to coach up young people that life doesn’t always go the way that you wanted it to,” he said via teleconference. “Adversity is going to be a part of their lives. We all know, at times, we get bad breaks. We always communicate with our players about controlling things that we actually have a factor in. We can’t control the things we don’t, which took place last Saturday. It’s not going to do us any good to dwell on it.”
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi, on the other hand, had a different take.
“I would guess that they’re going to be pretty upset and angry,” Narduzzi said. “I would imagine that we’re going to be walking into an angry stadium on Saturday. That’s the way I’m going approach it. I’m sure Coach Gundy is going to have him ready like he always does.”
The Panthers will be able to take some solace in the fact that they went 5-1 on the road a year ago, with the only loss coming on a last-second 59-yard field goal at Iowa, which finished the year 12-2.
“We just go out there and we do what we need to do,” nose tackle Tyrique Jarrett said of the Panthers’ mindset on the road. “We go out there with a plan and we try to execute the plan as good as possible.”
The 972 mile flight to Stillwater will be longest trip for the Panthers since a pair of visits to Miami (one for the Hurricanes, one for Florida International) in 2014. Jarrett said he “doesn’t get out of Pittsburgh much” and has definitely never been to Oklahoma.