STILLWATER — Mike Gundy’s Cowboys finish the regular season 7-5, the worst they’ve done in a regular season since going 6-6 in 2018.
Oklahoma State fell to West Virginia 24-19 on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium. Here is everything Gundy said after the game.
“I told the players after the game I was proud of the way they finished. We had, it’s kind of ironic, after Wednesday’s practice, I mentioned to the players that if you’re a backup, the way some of this has gone this year, make sure that you understand what’s going on and make sure you know the game plan. We’ve had so many players that have had to come in and play, and one of the most difficult things for young players to do is to prepare like they’re going to be a starter when they’re in a backup role.
And unfortunately, that held true today. And I think some of those guys came in and played pretty good, that I mentioned, ‘Hey, you better be ready in case some guys get dinged up.’ So, without watching the tape it looked like guys competed, played hard. I mean, obviously defensively we gave up two big runs. We actually rushed the ball better on offense. In fact, it’s probably the best rushing game we’ve had maybe all year or in a long time, but we gave up two big runs in the third quarter, which everybody knows. That was an issue. We’ll have to look and see what happened. We obviously would like to get that cleaned up. Turnovers were about the same. Jason Taylor obviously continues to be in the right spot and make plays. Field goal kicker was good again in the conditions. Did a good job of that. And then Ollie (Gordon) was able to come in and make some runs. Nice job of rushing the ball. We lost Jaden (Nixon), and so Deondre (Jacks0n) came in and got some carries. You know he averaged over 4.5 (yards) a carry. Ollie averaged eight yards a carry, so that was encouraging for us.
“I thought (Garret) Rangel competed, you know, obviously it wasn’t a great day to throw passes, but he competed and made some plays. There’s some times he missed some throws and stuff, but overall, you know, it was a tough one for us. They made a few more plays than we did. They called a few more successful plays than we did.
“But I did tell the team that they’re going to get a week off. They need a week off. We need a week off. We need to recover a little bit, try to get a few guys back maybe, that have not played in a while and looking forward to getting started back up. They get to play one more game together and I want them to practice well, be enthusiastic and try to play the best game they’ve played in a few months. You know, we might be able to get a few more people back, which would be back. If we can get some guys healthy over the next couple of weeks. Give them a chance to compete and go out and play the best game they’ve played in a few months if we can get a few guys back. And told them I appreciate their effort, which I did.”
On whether Spencer Sanders was unavailable
“Yeah, I mean, for the most part, yes.”
On what his takeaway is from this season
“We just haven’t stayed healthy. We don’t have enough guys to practice. It’s difficult to mix and match, and when you don’t have guys — I don’t know, somebody told me 22 first-game starters this year. Normal season we have six or seven. I would say that would be the biggest issue.”
On whether those injuries are bad luck or is there something else to it
“I don’t know. I’ve not ever had a season like this. So, I wish I knew what it was. I’m hoping it’s bad luck.”
On what he means by 22 first-game starters in a season
“For a young man to be a starter in a game for the first time in his career.”
On why the running game emerged so late in the season
“Well, we’ve been working on it. We just haven’t seen any results, but we rushed the ball better today. We can cover guys up. You guys are up higher than I am, you watched it, it looked like there were some creases in there. Guys could get up in there and run a little bit. We hadn’t had many creases in about six weeks. It looked like there was some creases in there and backs could kind of get up there and run a little bit.”
On whether the run game success is based on opponent or more credit to the offensive line
“I think we blocked better up front. I think we covered guys up. It didn’t look like to me from ground level that we turned guys loose in the backfield. Maybe a couple times, but I mean, we’ve been doing it eight, 10, 12 times a game. It looked like to me we covered guys up a little better.”
On Ollie Gordon
“Well he had a lot of carries, right? So [Dominic Richardson] wasn’t available and then Jaden (Nixon) went out, so [Ollie Gordon] and [Deondre Jackson] reps go up, and he ends up with 17 carries. So he got a chance to roll into it pretty good. Hopefully it’s a build up. I guess I’m agreeing with you, hopefully. But he ran pretty good today.”
On the weather conditions
“In the third quarter and the fourth quarter, it wasn’t much fun for passing. You can do it, but it’s not real easy. Early in the game really, the weather wasn’t a factor in my opinion. So I would second half, yes, first half, not really.”
On the wheel-route to Ollie Gordon
“Well it depends on how they play us defensively. In most of your concepts you have a zone side and a man side. And those are concepts that are drawn up based on what you see on tape.”
On whether Garret Rangel was better Saturday than he was against Kansas
“Gosh, based on the things we do with quarterbacks, it would be somewhat unfair for me to say that without watching the tape, because I can’t see as well from ground level, some of the things that he’s trying to get accomplished from a read standpoint.”
On whether this season was frustrating given the circumstances
“No, I mean, not frustrating. I mean, I’m aware of what’s going on. I know the situation and so my job is to evaluate what’s available for us and where we’re at. Evaluating coaches and concepts and schemes based on the availability of players. This was a little unusual because we had some availability that would be up through the week and then not end of the week. And so that kind of threw us curveballs at times, but overall I mean, I’m not frustrated.
“The only time that I ever get frustrated is if our guys weren’t competing and playing hard. And I have not seen that this year. I’m fairly certain I did not see that today. Again, now there’s times for example, when we give up a big run, you know we got scooped, we got out of our gap. Okay, I get it. Our technique needs to be better. We need to stay square with our shoulders. But without watching the tape, I don’t know that it was anything to frustrate me. We just need to continue to coach and get better. We get beat on a pass protection. Okay, our technique needs to be better. A throw, a read, so on and so forth. But not frustrated. I understand the situation. I know what’s going on. So it gives me a little bit of an advantage.”
On whether Spencer Sanders was available
“I’m not sure, really, how to answer that anymore,” Gundy said. “It just depends on how he feels and kind of where our medical people are. It’s not an injury that’s black and white. It’s a gray area so you just kind of roll with it as it goes.”
On whether he has conversations in the coming days with players on their decision to return or not
“No, I don’t have those conversations. A little bit different times today. These players have conversations with their family and their representatives. And at some point they’ll let us know two, three weeks from now probably. I don’t get involved in those conversations.”
On why he doesn’t get involved in those conversations
“I mean, what am I going to say? It’s their future, it’s their career. They’ll have a representative, they’ll have family members that’ll have thoughts on what they want to do. The head coach is really not a factor in that.”
On whether he saw something schematically on trying to beat West Virginia with deep passes
“We were close a bunch. We had chances. Close doesn’t do you any good. Part of it, you off set it to balance it for the run. And you take your shots. And we had a number, I don’t know, four or five times we had a chance and were really, really close there to making a play. We just didn’t get it accomplished.”
On whether Garret Rangel has showed him enough to be confident in him as a quarterback in the future
“Well, yeah, he’s a good young player. Yeah.”
On Lyrik Rawls
“He was one of the ones I was talking about. He had to play significant snaps, and I think he did fine. But again, it’s a little more complicated for me to say on ground level exactly what his responsibility was and what he was able to get accomplished. But seemed like he did OK.”
On Jason Brooks entering in the middle of the game
“I thought he played aggressive. I kind of watched him a little bit. He only practiced ,well, half of one day this week. But, we felt like that he had been very competitive and had some aggressiveness to him, so we wanted to put him in. I watched him a little bit. I thought he did fine. Hopefully he’ll be fine to practice in a week. I kind of hold my breath on some of these guys, but I think he did pretty good from an aggressive standpoint and helped us out a little bit.”
On whether he felt OSU played a dominant game outside of West Virginia’s three big scoring plays
“We played good. I wouldn’t say dominate. I didn’t bring it up. It is what it is. Every play counts, but we gave up two big plays, well, three because the quarterback run, you’re right. The bad news is they count. But other than that we played pretty good. Got out of our gap on the second level, so we got to do a better job with that. But they were competitive, they challenged throws better than what we had done in really the last month, we challenged throws, we made it more difficult for them to complete passes, and that helped us. We just got to clean those things up and work hard to get better in the bowl game. Try to be more sound in those areas and not give up big plays.”
On whether West Virginia’s quarterback change made anything different for OSU defensively
“Not really. Obviously, we knew a little bit about [Garrett Greene]. We didn’t know much about [Nicco Marchiol], but they ran with him some of the same concepts they were trying to run with the other guy. So I don’t really think there was anything that changed much in my opinion.”
On the difference an experience running back makes for an offensive line
“It is what it is, right? Ollie was a young guy and played good today and got a lot of yards, but what happened to us is not having the ability for the same group of guys to practice during the week for the season, or at least most of the guys. The consistency there hasn’t been there for about six weeks. Then we had aan unusual setup where we went through the same thing with the running back position, so you’ve got guys there that are practicing some, not practicing, and the running backs are practicing some and not practicing. We actually got out of it pretty good today and did a little bit better. But the consistency has not been much, so that’s why I’m hoping maybe we can get a couple of weeks practice for the bowl with you know the same guys. That’d be nice to get some work. I don’t think we had any offensive linemen get hurt today — that I know of.”
On what he is looking for between now and the bowl game apart from getting healthier
“Well, they need a week off. They’re gonna get a week off. Coaches will be able to — can’t go on the road yet — but some recruiting and catch up there. We’ve got official visits and things going on. But the players need a break. We had a pretty early open date this year, so it’s been a while since they’ve had a break. They need some time away from us. They need to do volunteer lifting if they want to lift and heal up a little bit. Classes, we’ve got a couple of weeks left of school. They need to buckle down there and make sure we don’t slip up anywhere academically. And it’s good for him to to get away from us and clear their mind a little bit — good for them. And it’s good for coaches. It’s a grind for everybody in college football, but honestly we just kind of need a break. I’ll tell you the same thing I told them, I’m excited about you guys coming back and having two really good weeks of practice and playing a good bowl game. I look forward to that. I don’t know.
“People want me to be upset and throw a fit about losing, but I just don’t see it that way with where we’re at because guys are still competing. And I want to win. I guess I need to clarify that. It’s important to me to win also, but it’s also important to me in my position to understand where we’re at and what’s going on and then allow our team to get a break and come back and clear their minds and be fresh, and they need to enjoy the two weeks of practice or two and a half, whatever we get based on where we go, and go compete and have fun and play hard. You don’t get these days back. We get to play one more game in a bowl game. They need to enjoy that process and go play their ass off.”
On why he went for it on fourth down in the first half
“Do you want an honest opinion? The crowd. They kept saying go for it. I listened. And I just said, ‘I guess they’re right. We’ll go for it.’ I’m usually pretty tuned into that. And to be fair, I was teetering one way or the other. You have some inconsistency on offensive line, you’re playing freshman quarterback, it’s wet outside — it’s bad combination for going for 4th-and-2, whatever it was. But I thought, ‘I don’t know, maybe they want to go for it. Let’s go for it.’ Combination of both of that. Honestly, that’s why I said, ‘Alright, let’s roll.”
On Rangel throwing it 42 times given the conditions
“We felt like that we needed to be able to try to balance out some of our issues rushing the ball. We felt like if we could try to get a little more depth and width with the defense with passes, it might open up a little bit of running game, and I’m not so sure that it didn’t work. And then little bit of those numbers will be inflated because of the last possessions. Like we’re behind. He probably threw it 10 times in the last 15 plays, so that got inflated a little bit based on being behind and trying to conserve the clock.”