STILLWATER, Okla. – In the Saturday afternoon atmosphere of friends gathering around Boone Pickens Stadium before Missouri played Oklahoma State, fans delivered one message clearly.
The Oklahoma State faithful would like their star football player back.
Bryan Brown, a Stillwater native and Oklahoma State fan, was one of several fans who wore orange shirts that read "FREE DEZ" in white letters. Other references to "Free Dez Bryant" could be seen on signs around the stadium.
Bryant, Oklahoma State's most notable wide receiver, was suspended earlier this month by the NCAA and has applied to be allowed to play again. He was unavailable for Saturday's game.
Oklahoma State fans are rightly aware of Bryant's importance to the team. Bryant, a junior who is already fourth all-time in receptions and receiving yards at OSU, caught seven passes against Missouri in 2008. The Cowboys won that game in Columbia, 28-23.
"Without Dez, the comfortability factor that (quarterback) Zac (Robinson) has with Dez, being able to throw a ball up in the air knowing Dez is going to go get it … we don't have that right now," Brown said.
Brown said Robinson doesn't have a go-to target with Bryant out.
"Against A&M, he threw to seven different receivers," he said.
Interestingly on Saturday, Missouri called upon its most heralded receiver to maintain possession on the game's first drive. Twice, quarterback Blaine Gabbert found wide receiver Danario Alexander for big gains which led to a Tiger field goal. The second Alexander catch was for 34 yards.
It became clear early, however, that Oklahoma State would do its best to neutralize a potential disadvantage. On the team's second play from scrimmage, wideout Justin Blackmon hauled in a Robinson pass for a 22-yard gain.
Later in the drive, on third down from the Missouri 35-yard line, Robinson found wide receiver Hubert Anyiam, who shed Trey Hobson's tackle on his way to the 11-yard line. The drive culminated in a touchdown for the Cowboys.
Brown described Bryant as one of Oklahoma State's more explosive and exciting players in recent years.
"We had Rashaun Woods, who broke all kinds of records, but he wasn't a special player like Dez," he said. "Dez Bryant's a game-changer. He's everything to us, he's everything. We've got Perrish Cox, who returns kicks and punts. He's a really, really good player, but he's not Dez Bryant."
Woods last played for Oklahoma State in 2004, and left as the Big 12's all time leader in receptions and receiving yards.
Brown expressed hope that Bryant might be allowed to play in time for Oklahoma State's Oct. 31 game against Texas. Bryant's future status is unclear.