October 2, 2008

Cowboys hit No. 21 in the AP poll

Oklahoma State is back in the national polls.

For the first time since the 2004 season, the Cowboys have re-appeared in the Associated Press poll. Their win over Troy last weekend helped propel the Pokes to No. 21 in the national rankings.

That's a nice early-season reward for a program which has been fighting to get back to the rankings since slipping from the national spotlight in 2005.

For the players, finally cracking into the polls was something they had been expecting.

"We were pretty sure we made it because we played a pretty good game on Saturday and before the game we were like No. 26," tailback Keith Toston said. "We saw a couple of teams lose that was in the 20s, so we kind of knew."

For older players, such as David Washington, getting back into the polls is nice, because they remember what it was like under Les Miles. He was a true freshman the last time the program was ranked.

"It just feels great," Washington said. "I'm sitting in a situation of how it was when I got here. It just lets you know that the program is actually rising to the occasion and we're starting to get to where we were when Miles was coach."

While rankings are pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, it's still an important goal to achieve for any team during the season. If a team is able to hold onto a ranking all season, it typically means they have a good to very good record and that translates into more visibility nationally. In turn, that makes it easier for bowl committees to know the program and extend bowl invites after the season.

And since the Cowboys have made bowls the past two years without the boost of a little number to the left of their name, is this another sign of progress for the program?

"Yes, to us that's the next step that coach Gundy has been talking about," Toston said. "We thought we were good the last two years but we couldn't finish certain games. I feel this year our chemistry is a whole lot better and we understand more so about winning and finishing. So that's just something that we work for."

As for the head coach, making this week's poll isn't as big of a deal for Mike Gundy. While he said he doesn't want to downplay the news and that he believes his players enjoy the status, he said it doesn't change the focus for the coaching staff.

"We're going to come to work early and do the same thing that we've done," Gundy said. "I'm sure the fans will enjoy that and I'm proud of our team for accomplishing that goal. But we'll have a task at hand next Saturday, and whether we're ranked in the Top 25 or not, those guys will come in here ready to play. So we just have to focus on what we have this week."

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