There was never any doubt while Noah Franklin was growing up which school his family would be rooting for when it came to the annual Bedlam football game. The Franklins from Vinita, Okla., are now, have been and always will be Oklahoma State Cowboy fans.
“Both my parents went to school here, so I grew up with orange stuff all over my house,” said the Cowboys starting left guard. “They weren’t really big sports fans but when I started getting into sports when I was younger my best friend back home was a huge OSU fan.”
How big of a fan? Just ask Franklin if he remembers Oklahoma State’s last victory over instate rival Oklahoma in Norman.
“I remember where I was. I was listening to it on the radio while working with my dad out on the farm,” said Franklin of the Cowboys 16-13 victory over the Sooners in 2001. “I remember it being close and thinking, we’re actually going to do this. We’re actually going to win.
“It was exciting for me. That was a ‘we won.’ I grew up that way,” Franklin added.
But a “we won” moment this Saturday would mean even more to the 6-foot-5, 310-pound fifth-year senior. First, and foremost, it would all but assure Oklahoma State of securing an at-large Bowl Championship Series berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Secondly, a win over the Sooners would be a source of pride for Franklin, who is 0-4 against OU since arriving at Oklahoma State.
“I grew up really disliking this team and having the passion for wanting to beat them every year. So yeah, it means a lot to me to go out in this the last game of the regular season and feel like we’re prepared to have a good chance to compete with them, and have a chance to beat them. So, it’s exciting,” he says.
Franklin dislikes them? “I don’t want to get too in depth with it but a little bit, yeah,” Franklin said with a grin. “I just grew up an OSU fan so it’s just an automatic hatred.”
The 23-year-old Franklin played sparingly until this season when he earned a starting berth at left guard, and has been a mainstay on the Cowboy offensive line.
He will team with center Andrew Lewis and right guard Lane Taylor, who also will be playing in his first Bedlam game, against the interior of the Sooner defensive line.
Is it safe to say how Franklin, Lewis and Taylor play against OU defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Adrian Taylor will play a major role in Saturday’s outcome? “I do. They’re great players, for sure. It’s going to be a fun challenge. I think it’s going to be a lot of work and take a lot of preparation this week. They’re great players and I’m looking forward to it,” says Franklin.
How good is McCoy? “He’s really, really good. I don’t know what else to say about him. I remember watching him play last year and I’ve been watching a lot of film on him this year, and he’s just one of the best, if not the best, in the nation.”
OSU offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said, “Those two inside guys are tremendous players that are going to play on Sundays, and one (McCoy) is maybe the best player in the nation at his position. They’ve got a lot of respect from us and everybody else. They can really disrupt things, and we’re aware of that.”
The Cowboy offensive line struggled early in the season with Franklin and Taylor joining returning starters Russell Okung, Lewis and Brady Bond. They were just beginning to become a cohesive unit when Bond suffered an ankle injury several weeks ago. But backup Andrew Lewis has stepped in at right tackle and the Cowboys have continued to roll up the yardage.
OSU has the nation’s 16th-best rushing offense (203.5 yards per game) and 20th-best scoring offense (32.9 points). Keith Toston has rushed for 1,130 yards – just the 13th player in school history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season – and 11 touchdowns.
“The numbers show that they are playing better,” Brewer said of the OSU offensive line. “I think the continuity factor as we go through the season shows they’ve gotten better while playing with each other. They are a team of horses and what they’ve been able to do is grow together.
“We’ve had our share of injuries, quarterback changes, running back changes, receiver changes, and those affect everybody on the offense, but one thing about it is Coach Wick and Coach Meacham have done a great job of keeping those guys focused,” Brewer continued.
Franklin is looking forward to Saturday’s showdown and hopes to make it into another Bedlam memory he can look back on fondly.
“In this game it seems like everything can go out the window as far as how things should go or how people perceive it because of the magnitude of the rivalry,” he says. “You kind of forget about that … at some point it comes down to who wants it more, and talent and depth kind of goes out the window.”