It’s easy for Les Miles to look back fondly at the times he led a football team onto the field to take on powerhouse Oklahoma.
Miles, in his first year as the head coach at the University of Kansas, hasn’t faced the Sooners in nearly 15 years. But his underdog Oklahoma State teams gave rival OU enough fits when Miles led the Cowboys that his mostly favorable memories also include at least one instance of feeling some Bedlam-fueled wrath.
“I do know of one fan that absolutely did not enjoy me, and he made it very clear in the number of words that he chose to speak to me,” Miles recalled earlier this week of some unrepeatable expressions one Oklahoma fan spouted his direction.
The livid OU supporter who lives on in Miles’ memory must have grown tired of seeing the head coach’s OSU teams upset their in-state rival.
Miles, who will coach against Oklahoma on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium (11 a.m. kickoff, ABC) for the first time since his days wearing OSU’s orange and black, owns a 2-2 record against the Big 12 behemoth — with all four of those games coming against OU teams ranked among the top four in the country.
The Cowboys even knocked off Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., in Miles’ first year on the job. OSU entered its season finale with three wins and OU was ranked No. 4 in the country.
Now coaching a 2-3 KU team against a 4-0 OU squad ranked No. 6 in the AP Top 25, Miles explained this week what made his OSU teams so successful.
“I thought we were a team that knew their players and had a comfort with how we were going to compete and what was going to happen,” Miles said. “I think there was a great competitive group of young men at Oklahoma State at that time.”
OSU won the Bedlam matchup each of Miles’ first two seasons with the program before OU won the next two in the series. In Miles’ final appearance in the rivalry matchup, the Cowboys were ranked No. 20 and lost 38-35 to the No. 2 Sooners.
“I think we played them very well virtually every one but one game,” Miles said, referencing an OU rout in 2003.
The Cowboys’ 16-13 upset of OU in 2001, Miles’ first year as a college head coach, served as the initial marquee victory of his career, as almost no one gave OSU a chance against the heavily favored Sooners.
“I think that they had that within themselves,” Miles said of his Cowboys. “They just needed somebody to talk to it, speak to it, enjoy the moments where you daydreamed about beating a very quality team. I think they dreamed big and they got a very, very big dream come true for them.”
Five touchdown underdogs this week against an OU team averaging 55.5 points per game and 10.4 yards per play — yes, the Sooners are averaging a first down per snap on offense — Miles’ Jayhawks, coming off a 51-14 defeat at TCU, seem colossally overmatched.
“It’s going to be a great challenge to us,” Miles said. “Again, we look forward to it.”
2001: Oklahoma State 16, No. 4 OU 13 (Cowboys finished season 4-7; Sooners finished 11-2 and ranked No. 6)
2002: Oklahoma State 38, No. 3 OU 28 (Cowboys finished 8-5; Sooners finished 12-2 and ranked No. 5)
2003: No. 1 OU 52, No. 14 Oklahoma State 9 (Cowboys finished 9-4; Sooners finished 12-2 and ranked No. 3)
2004: No. 2 OU 38, No. 20 Oklahoma State 35 (Cowboys finished 7-5; Sooners finished 12-1 and ranked No. 3)