After OSU defeated Georgia 24-10, the most dazzling of the 2009 Cowboys — Dez Bryant — was pictured on the SI cover as he dived into the end zone for a touchdown.
There was the sense that those Cowboys could contend for Big 12 and national titles — and then Gundy was jarred by a series of issues, starting with a Game 2 home loss to Houston.
Kendall Hunter, who still might have been the best of all Gundy-era OSU running backs, sustained a foot injury that wound up sidelining him for most of the 2009 season. In a situation that began with an offseason meeting with Deion Sanders, Bryant was suspended by the NCAA for a full year.
Before the Georgia game, a really good OSU linebacker — Orie Lemon — sustained a serious knee injury.
The combination of Hunter and Bryant would have resulted in a 42-point, 500-yard attack for the OSU offense. Instead, the averages were 29 points and 367 yards. Without Hunter and Bryant, every week was a grind.
I still regard the 2009 season as having been among Gundy’s better coaching jobs, with regard to coping with injuries and the Bryant suspension. OSU responded with better-than-expected defense, a 1,218-yard rushing performance by Keith Toston, Robinson’s gritty leadership at quarterback and a final record of 9-4.
There was a tough, 36-31 road win over Texas A&M. There was a gut-check home win over Texas Tech. When Robinson was injured and couldn’t play against Colorado, Brandon Weeden was heroic during the second half of a 31-28 Cowboy triumph.