For a moment he dreamed of what might have been. "Being on the pitcher's mound in Yankee Stadium would have been incredible," said Oklahoma State junior quarterback Brandon Weeden as he stood in an empty conference room at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater late last Saturday afternoon. "But I'm happy my journey led me here. We've got a chance to do something special."
How special? After spanking Baylor 55--28 on Saturday, the 12th-ranked Cowboys (8--1) are alone atop the Big 12 South standings. OSU has never captured a Big 12 division crown, but that will change if the Cowboys can win two of their final three regular-season games, all of which are against foundering teams: at Texas (losers of five of its last six), at Kansas (Big 12 record: 1--4) and at home against Oklahoma (a 33--19 loser to Texas A&M on Saturday).
The driving force behind OSU's rise has been the 6'4", 219-pound Weeden, who is one of the oldest players (27) in college football. As a senior in the fall of 2001 at Santa Fe High in Edmond, Okla., he threw for 2,863 yards and was recruited by Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, then an OSU assistant. But Weeden was also an all-state pitcher, and after the Yankees took him in the second round of the '02 MLB draft, he signed a minor league contract. Shoulder problems ensued, and by '06 he was out of baseball. In '07 Gundy, now the head coach, allowed Weeden to walk on to the team.
On Saturday, Weeden, in his first year as a starter, showed excellent arm strength and accuracy, setting school records for completions (34) and yards (435) in a game. The Cowboys' offense has become especially dangerous—Oklahoma State is third among FBS schools in total yards per game (549.2)—because Weeden and sophomore wide receiver Justin Blackmon have developed into the nation's top pass-catch duo. Though Blackmon, who caught 13 passes for 173 yards against Baylor, was suspended for OSU's game at Kansas State on Oct. 30 following his arrest on a DUI complaint in Texas (the case remains open), he leads the country in receiving yards per game (160.6) and touchdown catches (15).
"Brandon and Justin keep getting better," says Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "When he was in the pocket, Brandon used to think he was on the pitcher's mound and [he was too deliberate], but now he's got a sense of urgency. We'll see where he can take us."
That place is most likely one that the Cowboys have never been before.
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GREG NELSON (WEEDEN)
SECOND CHANCE Weeden (3), a former pitcher in the Yankees' farm system, was first recruited by OSU in '01.