STILLWATER — After back-to-back thumpings from schools from the Sunflower State, Mike Gundy and the Cowboys mercifully return to Boone Pickens Stadium this weekend.
Oklahoma State will host Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday. Here is everything he said.
“Alright, so we got everybody back, and guys are in good spirits, really. Obviously, they would like to have won the game, but they were good last night. Had a good workout. I’ve seen quite a few of them over there today watching tape, so we’re on to the next one. Iowa State could have three more wins really easy. As we all know, in this league, they’ve been in close games. We’ll certainly have our work cut out for us. We have to really practice well and be able to rush the ball. I continue to say that, but regardless, it’s a fact. We have to find ways to rush the football and maintain some on-the-ground yards. Then we’ve got to improve in the running game. We’ve got to commit to more of it and play harder up front and be gap sound and slow down the run. That’ll get us back on the field offensively and then find a way to stay balanced. We all know about their defense. I don’t know, I know they’re ranked probably in the Top 10 in the country in defense. They’re very good on not giving up a lot of points, a lot of yards, so we’ll have to work really hard to come up with a good plan. But I’m convinced the guys will commit this week and play hard.”
On the run game against Kansas after watching the film
“I just think we got some new guys in there that are learning, and we’re rotating backs through. Just not getting creases and taking off. We’re not getting many like 15- and 20-yard runs. We’re getting some four and fives, but we’re not getting clear, making a guy miss and getting 12 more or bouncing off or we’re not getting a clear run at it. So, it’s not any one thing. But I had a pretty good idea of what I thought it was, and I was pretty accurate. You know, we just got to get better.”
On having success on the ground in the first quarter against Kansas
“We had two turnovers in the first five minutes or so, and then they scored off it, and then it became a three-score game before we knew it. Then we had the fumbled snap, and before you know it, it was 24-7 and so now we’re not really in a balanced game plan. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”
On the Cowboys’ struggles in stopping the run against Kansas
“We missed more tackles in that game than we have. Quite honestly, we looked tired in my opinion. Defensively, we looked tired. We had our head down. We had two or three fits that could have been better, concept-wise. But we looked tired in my opinion. We had our head down. We didn’t tackle very good.
“We just don’t have as many numbers as we had when we started the year, but we have to find that happy medium of how much of to practice because we got to be sound in all those areas, but also try to keep them from getting fatigued. But when I looked at their computer chip that was in their shoulder pads and looked at the speed of the guys on defense, their speed was less in that game than has been all year long.”
On Garret Rangel’s performance after watching the tape
“I thought he played good, made some plays. Obviously, he had some mistakes, but that’s gonna happen when you’re young. He had some turnovers and things that were unfortunate, but I liked the way he competed, liked the way he threw the ball at times.”
On what the heck has happened
“We got some new guys playing. We’ve got guys that are trying to work into roles that haven’t had much experience. We have some key players — I mean, I’m sure you noticed; I’m not trying to be a smart ass — we didn’t have Spencer. Makes a big difference. So, we just had some new guys and just trying to get reps and get them going. But there’s nothing spiraling out of control. We just got to keep working. And I think that if you look across the country, you’ll see that there’s quite a bit of it going on. People around here have gotten accustomed to winning a lot of football games and expecting it to be every week no matter what, and sometimes when it doesn’t go that way, everybody’s like, ‘What hell’s going on?’ It’s good problem to have. My first few years here I was wondering what the hell was going on and we didn’t win any.”
On when the last time was that he talked to Spencer Sanders about next year
On him saying in the past he thought Sanders would return for an extra season
“I said he could be. I don’t know. I don’t talk to players about what their potential NFL thoughts are. That’s between them, their family and their agent. I stay out of it.”
On whether the injuries Sanders has suffered makes him more or less likely to go to the NFL
“You would have to ask him that. I would hate to answer for him. Spencer loves to play football. He’s gonna compete and play unless he can’t compete and play. So, you would have to ask him. It would be unfair for me to answer a question related to his future or career, whether it be this level or the next level. When the season is over, I’m sure he’ll give you a good answer. But I don’t talk to him during the season because it’s irrelevant.”
On the importance of these reps for Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy if Sanders doesn’t return
“I don’t think it’s any more than ever. It’s the same way it’s been around here forever. It’s no different. When we have a guy move on, we played Spencer when he was a freshman. He was young, had some growing pains, played him. We put Mason (Rudolph) in early in his career, which I think would have been his sophomore year. He had quite a few growing pains. We go through it. The guy that, interestingly, that I kind of laugh about it, the guy that didn’t have any growing pains was Corn Dog [Taylor Cornelius]. He threw for 3,500 yards, a whole boatload of touchdowns and rushed for about 400 yards, and all anybody did was not like him. And he didn’t have any growing pains because he had been here four years.”
On if Garret Rangel will play again if Spencer Sanders can’t
“We haven’t talked about that yet. We could very well do either [have Rangel or Gunnar Gundy play]. We haven’t had that discussion.”
On if Sanders will return at some point this season
“I’m not gonna that talk about any injuries with anybody. It’s not fair. That’s a good try, though.”
On whether it’s rare for two guys to be as close and Rangel and Gunnar Gundy were when they were graded last week
“We’ve had it before. Spencer, we graded him like that with him and [Dru Brown]. JW (Walsh) and Clint (Chelf) went through it, and they went back and forth — Clint played, JW played, Clint played, JW played. We’ve been through that before. We could talk about it forever, but what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to give each one of them a fair chance to go play and see what they can do. Because we really never know until they play in games. You go out there, you play, let’s see what you can do in a game situation and then try to evaluate you and move forward. JW and Clint is a good example. We went through that for pretty much full year.”
On what Rangel did to have an edge in practice
“I don’t want to talk about any details on personnel decisions that we make in practice, or injuries.”
On if he is comfortable with Rangel starting the rest of the season if need be
“First thing is, I’m not going to say we’re going to start anybody the rest of the year at any place. But I liked what he did. I liked how he threw the ball and what I liked is he competed. I thought that was important. You’re going to make mistakes. I mean, that’s just the way it is when you’re a freshman, in most cases. Maybe some guys don’t. Those guys are usually first-round picks.”
On why OSU’s defensive line isn’t getting as much pressure
“Well, we don’t have a lot of the same guys. We’re playing a lot of different guys, so it’s just a common-sense deal. Those guys go play, they compete, they play hard. I graded effort with every player. Didn’t have any issues. But it’s just a fact when you have some other guys that are mature and experienced and aren’t playing as much due to whatever it could be, then you’re going to see different results. I mean, that’s just common sense. That’s what happens.
“They’re trying. They’re trying to get to him. There’s also a different scenario in the back end that’s going on than we had last year. So, quarterbacks might see guys that are available quicker, might not hold the ball and they don’t go down as fast as what happened last year.”
On the difficulty of piecing together a gameplan considering the injuries
“It’s not as fun as when you have all your cards, right? It’s like when you guys play PlayStation or whatever those video games are, and when the Patriots went on that run where they won a bunch of Super Bowls you got to pick the Patriots and you played somebody that was the Browns. You had more fun on that video game than the guy that picked the Browns.
“It’s not an issue with (Derek Mason). He just has to piece things together based on his availability and go play. See what I’m saying? The concepts aren’t going to change that much. It’s just you have different people in places that you’ve got to try to find ways to put them in position to be successful.
“We could put Malcolm Rodriguez anywhere. It didn’t make a difference where we put him. He was fine. But we don’t have that luxury now. We’re bringing along a young guy and he needs to be in different spots. That’s the best example I can give you. We had a lot more flexibility. Right now, we’re just trying to bring guys along.
“But we should have played better. We should have played much better against the run, 100%.”
On if this is a chance for OSU to get healthier against teams lower in the Big 12 standings
“I’d love to agree with you. I think it has zero at all. We beat Texas, Texas just beat Kansas State at Kansas State and Kansas State beat the brakes off of us, and it was within seven days. West Virginia beat Baylor. So, I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason for any of it. I think it’s all based on focus of each team that’s prepared to play that week. I think it’s based on who some teams have available injury-wise, if they don’t. I’m going to guess that OU would have played Texas better if they had a quarterback. I’m just guessing. I don’t think it has to do with anything other than the availability of players on Saturday and the focus of that team in preparation during the week.”
On playing back at home
“I don’t know about the team but it sure as hell helps me. I feel a lot better. We need to come home, we need to get in front of this crowd, we need to be in front of the Paddle People. We’ve had great crowd support, great home settings. And there’s not any question people like playing at home. More comfortable. Shooting free throws in your own gymnasium, you’re better than you are on the road. I’m excited for us to be able to play at home.”
On Military Appreciation Day
“Isn’t Friday Veteran’s Day? You know what’s interesting when you talk about holidays — I know (Kevin) Klintworth is getting nervous because I’m trying not to enter politics — but this is a good thought. We all have different thoughts. We all have different political views. We all have different religions. Whatever, across the country. But on one day everybody should be in support, if you think about it. Some of us have Christmas, some of us have Hannukah, some of us have whatever. We’re all different. But one day Friday, everybody should be in support. Think about that. That’s one day everybody can come together on Veteran’s Day. That should be a big deal. That’s just my opinion. I thought about that this morning driving in. Everybody can come together on Veteran’s Day. We live in this country. But anyway, let’s go to football. That wasn’t that bad.”
On the portal playing a factor in some depth issues
“We’re not big portal people and I’m never going to be a big portal guy. I’m going to believe in the guys on our team. I’m not saying I’m against it, I just don’t believe in it. I just think you’ve got to raise the ones you have here. Now, if you get a massive number of injuries at a certain position or if you have kids portal out on you, which the portal’s going to slow down. The portal’s going to slow down — I’m going to guess there will be 80% less go into the portal this coming year than there were last year, so it’s going to slow down big time.
“But for us we just have to look at things and say this is the way it is. Defensively, we’re playing basically 60-65% of our team is a new team. And then we still had some other guys that were veteran guys that are experienced that aren’t here. There’s one at LSU, there’s one at Ohio State and there’s one at Missouri. Those guys aren’t here, so that adds up more.
“So when you have new guys playing, we’re trying to adjust. Could we play better? Sure we could. Does some of the juggling people around because of injuries mess with you? Sure it does. It’s not a secret. Iowa State knows it. They know exactly what we’re doing. They know we’re struggling to practice with numbers and such, so it’s not a secret.
“But it doesn’t matter. We still have a certain number of guys that we’ve got to put in there, we’ve got to get them ready, we’ve gotta make it simple enough they can run to the ball and play hard on defense. And then offensively we’re juggling some guys around on the offensive line. And everybody knows that’s not good when it happens. But we’ve got to put them in a position to be successful, we’ve got to ask them to go play hard and then we got to run through some tackles and make some guys miss to balance our offense so we can throw the ball downfield a little bit. That’s really what it is. It’s that simple.”
On whether he has considered giving more scholarships back to the offense
“No, I just think it’s important. I thought about it though, because I’ve thought about everything, I think. Obviously not enough, it hadn’t worked in the last two weeks, but a lot of those guys on defense that are on scholarships play on special teams. Not very many offensive guys play special teams. So that number goes up in a big way. When you get deficient numbers-wise with injuries, your special teams is an issue, because you don’t have guys to put out there to cover. So there’s a lot of that going on, but everybody needs to relax. It’s fine. Everything’s gonna be fine. We’re bringing along the guys that we get that are available to us each week. And we will discipline them and we’ll train them and we’ll coach them better. And they’ll go play hard. And I’m not concerned about that. Now, are we the same team we were this time last year? Certainly not. We don’t have those guys. But we’ve got guys that are giving everything they have and that’s all we can ask. So it’ll all be fine. We don’t really need to change the concept, we just need to bring along some of these other guys and be a little smarter coaches.”
On Langston Anderson
“First time we’ve had him in what, six weeks? Made a couple plays. I told him, you know, after the game, everybody’s down and pouting and all that. Just think I have to motivate 140 players and 37 personnel on a Sunday when everybody’s pouting. Give that some thought. So I told Langston, I said, ‘Hey look, be careful walking to the bus. If we can keep you healthy, you made a few plays, it’d be nice to have you next week.’ That’s what we brought him here for. And it’s the first time we’ve gotten that out of him. How many years has he been here? Four? Been here four years and that’s the first time we’ve gotten that out of him. He’s been healthy and made a few plays. That was nice.”
On whether the large number of injuries made him considered changing up offseason training or practice
“Not one chance. I’m not changing anything. We’re just fine. We’ve had an unusual number of chronic injuries. It is what it is. The players that are injured don’t like it. The coaches don’t like it. Fans don’t, nobody likes it. But it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. And so I’m just glad we have a culture that we have in place that we can keep things going. And I was watching closely after the game in the locker room, and I was watching closely on the plane coming home, and I was watching yesterday to make sure that we don’t have any uneasiness, saltiness, anger, and guys are fine. So there’s no reason to change something that’s been in place for 19 years just because we’ve had a few things happen.
“And I want to say this, we can coach better, okay. I started my meetings with those guys Sunday morning early, and they weren’t big Gundy fans when the meetings were over. But that’s my job because we have to share the deficiencies with the team. We can’t just push it on the team, because it’s not all the team. We could have coached better also. And so they need to be able to make adjustments based on the availability of the players that we have, and be reasonable with, ‘Okay, here’s what we have available. What can they do?’ I don’t care what you know, what can they actually do and function in a game and go run and make a play on either side of the ball? So that’s where as coaches we gotta do a better job. And I do also. I do also. I’ve got I’ve got to be better.”
On Bryson Green
“He’s doing good. And you gotta realize, you know, it’s basically his first year. I mean, he didn’t play enough last year to talk about. He’s getting better and better and better. And if we can get some of those guys healthy at his spot, and run some of those guys out there like him to where he doesn’t have to play 69 plays a game, he’s going to even be better, but he’s a tough guy. And he loves to compete, and he loves OSU. And he’s getting better and better.”
On the key to Iowa State’s defensive culture
“I think that guy’s a heckuva football coach. I think he’s really smart. And I think that they built a system, oh, I’m gonna go back to, because I’m pretty sure I know why they built it in the research I did. Charlie Strong was the head coach at Texas. They hired a coordinator from Tulsa that used to be in (Art) Briles. I don’t know, names or anything. I don’t even know what year that was. That would have been like ’16 or something like that. So ’15-, ’16-ish. He hired an offensive guy from Tulsa who was a Briles guy, (Sterling Gilbert).
“So they hired that guy, and they were doing all that stuff where they run people down the field, all that. And when we saw it on tape later is when they took that guy and put him in the middle of a field that you see in their defense. And since then, however many years it’s been now, what, six, seven years. They haven’t budged from it. They’ve only gotten better and better and better at it. And there’s been a lot of people across the country try to emulate, or try to copy it. Even people in this league. And since then, I don’t know him, I just know that obviously he’s a smart coach. He knows what he’s doing. He hasn’t changed much. He’s tinkered with it here and there, I think, based on his personnel, and then over the years they’ve done some different things to try to improve against where they thought their deficiencies were, but they stayed with their core. And I’m guessing they practice the same thing all the time, would be my guess.”
On whether he would have to limit what a young quarterback does against Iowa State’s defense
“Somewhat. I would say not much more than what would be normal. You can only have so much versus what they try to get accomplished defensively anyway. When you play them., it’s more of a reduced package offensively. It always has been.”
On how long it takes a quarterback to be able to track Iowa State’s “joker” on defense
“I would recommend quickly figure that out. But, comfortably it takes a little work because it’s an unusual situation. But this goes back to what we talked about, we got to coach them. We got to make sure they’re aware of what’s going on out there. And we know he’s going to be there. He’s been there for seven years. So we have to be aware of where he’s and what he’s doing.”
On Rangel running tempo comfortably
“It’s actually easier for him, because we don’t have to do as much. When we play at that speed, the quarterback either does this or this and it’s over. So actually, it’s an easier system than the other part of it for us here.”
On whether alignment or other factors could slow down a young quarterback in the up-tempo offense
“Nothing, because we get lined up and we snap the ball, and they don’t even check everybody else. Everybody else being lined up. If they’re not lined up, we’re gonna get a penalty. He doesn’t have time to check everybody and then hold for the ball. That’s just everybody, they’ve gotta do it.”
On whether he is surprised Matt Campbell has stayed at Iowa State this long
“It’s hard for me. Matt and I have good conversations and we’re friends, but we don’t talk to each other much. I don’t know about his personal life or whatever. It’d be hard for me to answer that, especially since it’s been him. He must like it there. If all the hearsay is true — I’ve never asked him about any of it — but if it’s all true, he obviously likes it there.”
On Iowa State replacing NFL guys on offense
“The core of it’s the same. A little bit different approach, based on not having those two guys and then the running back (Breece Hall). It’s the same concept, but a little different. When they had those guys, they could freelance and do some other stuff. But the principles of the pull plays, the tight end, the wing, the change of strength with motions, that’s pretty much the same. No. 8 (receiver Xavier Hutchinson), he’s a good player.”
Of whether he is surprised no one has hired away Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock
“One hundred percent I’m surprised. Or tried. Maybe he likes, you know, they have beautiful fall/winter grass up there, grows year-round. Maybe he just likes it up there. But I am surprised, yes.”
On cornerback Jabbar Muhammad adjusting to nickelback when Thomas Harper has been injured
“Well, I’d like to get him back to one spot. Playing two spots in a game, it’s not fair to him. He’s playing 79 plays a game. We need to get him in one spot. Hopefully if we can get a couple guys back in practice all week, then we can get him located in one spot. But to answer your question, for what we’ve asked him to do, which is almost unheard of — for a guy to play a nickel safety and play a corner in the same game and know the rules, is unfair. But we’ve had to do that based on what cards we had available. I’d like to get him back to one spot.”
On maintaining defensive philosophy
“I’d say we’re 85 percent. That’s a good number, but I’m bad with percentages. But we’re doing the same stuff. Now, that’s gonna vary based on style of offenses we play. Even when Jim (Knowles) was here, what we did, we used some stuff against this team, and some stuff you don’t use. That’s the same. I’m pleased with the transition and where we’re at. But I’m gonna go back to what I said. We need to coach them better with the availability that we have, and then we gotta get those guys to where they can go run and play fast, not do so much thinking.”
On whether they have to give the players Tuesday off for the election
“No, our athletic administration has something set up for them at a later date, Thanksgiving week when they’re not in school. It’s funny you mention that, because I was just gonna put out the text this afternoon that they all need to go vote tomorrow. But we have something set up for them Thanksgiving week.”
On the challenge of maintaining a run of good running backs like OSU and Iowa State have done
“When you have a guy at that position who has a little maturity, and he’s potentially good enough to get drafted, your offense is completely different, because he can make up for not blocking correctly, or a missed block. I think the guys we have in our program, a year from now, are gonna give us that. Right now, we’re not seeing that up to this point. They’re learning on the run, compared to what Jaylen (Warren) did last year. He got us 60-70 yards a game that wasn’t blocked, in addition to his original 60 or 70. It made a big difference. They’re hard to find. When you think about it, I don’t know the last time — when have we had an in-state four-star or five-star running back that people have… when’s the last time we had a high school kid in this state? Just kinda answering your question. I don’t know when the last one was that people regarded as a game-changer.”
“Oh, yeah, but nobody even knew about him until the end of the year. Sure wish we would’ve got in on him early. He had that capability, but nobody even knew about him. But other than that?”
(Barry J. Sanders?)
“That’s what I’m saying. And he ended up being an average college player. This is a bad example, but Thurman Thomas was highly recruited. Billy Sims, Marcus Dupree, Terry Miller was highly recruited. That kind of guy. I think it’s been a long time. They’re hard to find. “
On whether they knew what they had when Jaylen Warren arrived
“No, we thought we had a reliable, 212-pound, great kid that would play his butt off and we could rotate him in and get eight or 10 snaps a game. That’s what we thought. And he came in here and started training with Rob Glass. After six months or something, we were like ‘Holy smokes, this is the real deal.’ We hit a home run. We got lucky. “