Skip to main content

Emotions run high as Hoosiers, Cowboys meet in Insight Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has a theory about bowls.

He's noticed the team that wants to be there the most often wins the game.

"That's always a question when you are playing a bowl game, who's going to be the team that's more excited to be here?" said Gundy, whose Cowboys will face Indiana in the Insight Bowl on Monday in Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium (6 p.m. ET on NFL Network).

The Cowboys (6-6, 4-4 Big 12) are in a minor bowl for the fourth time in six years.

Indiana, by contrast, is making its first postseason appearance since 1993. The Hoosiers (7-5, 3-5) have been smiling since they beat archrival Purdue 27-24 on Nov. 17 to guarantee themselves a holiday trip.

"For a lot of us, it's like being little kids again," said fullback Josiah Sears, a captain.

Advantage, Hoosiers?

IU coach Bill Lynch doesn't think the novelty of playing in a bowl game will help his team.

"Once it's kickoff tomorrow night, I don't think it's a factor," Lynch said.

But Indiana also is motivated by the memory of coach Terry Hoeppner, who died in June at 59 after an 18-month struggle with brain cancer. The Hoosiers have made Hoeppner's "Play 13" slogan a reality.

In college football, 13 is a lucky number, because that's how many games a bowl-eligible team can play.

Hoeppner had bowl dreams from the moment he took over the once-downtrodden program three years ago.

"When he first came, he was asked the question when the football banquet was," said Lynch, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Hoeppner. "At the time, Indiana hadn't been to a bowl game in quite a while. He said the football banquet is in January, after the bowl game. Everybody kind of laughed at him."

No one's laughing now. On Sunday, Gundy said Indiana is a better team than the one Oklahoma State faced in the Independence Bowl last year - Alabama.

The Cowboys understand the Hoosiers have won a lot of supporters after what they've gone through this year.

"I mean, it is a good story," Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson said. "We know they're a good football team and they are playing for a lot. So we've got to be ready."

The Cowboys' motivation isn't as dramatic or obvious as Indiana's. Oklahoma State's season may best be remembered for Gundy's "I'm a man" tirade against an Oklahoma sports columnist. Gundy's September meltdown quickly made him a YouTube star, but it didn't help the Cowboys improve on last season's 6-6 regular season record.

A bowl victory would give Oklahoma State a winning record for the second time in three seasons under Gundy. For now, at least, that's the goal for a program that aspires to win Big 12 championships.

"Our players understand what we are trying to accomplish," Gundy said. "We're a better football team (than a year ago). We're further along in our program now than we were last year."

Gundy said he senses that his players are fired up to take on the Hoosiers.

"Our team is thrilled to death to be here," he said. "It is not a situation where we feel like we should have been somewhere else because if you should be somewhere else, you should have won more games and come back here and played in the Fiesta Bowl. So our team understands that."

The teams may have different motivations. But they share one goal on Monday night: stopping the other team's potent attack.

The Hoosiers average 31.6 points per game, about two points fewer than the Cowboys.

Indiana is led by sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis, who threw for 2,839 yards and 26 touchdowns this year. He had 10 interceptions.

Lewis also rushed for 653 yards and eight touchdowns.

"He's a playmaker," Gundy said. "He's an operator."

The Cowboys also have a talented sophomore quarterback. Robinson set a handful of school records after replacing Bobby Reid as the starter in the season's third game.

Robinson's 3,299 yards were the most total offense in Oklahoma State history, and his 486 yards against Texas set a school single-game record. He also set an OSU record with 430 passing yards against the Longhorns.

Robinson has plenty of targets. Four Cowboys have at least 25 catches, led by senior Adarius Bowman with 61, seven for touchdowns.

"They're pretty scary, if you ask me, because they are so balanced," Lynch said. "Those are always the toughest teams to play against."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.