The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said in his Pre-Baylor News Conference

STILLWATER — After sitting out during a wild opening week to Big 12 play, the Cowboys will travel to Waco for a Big 12 title rematch against Baylor.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy spoke with reporters for about 30 minutes Monday at his weekly news luncheon. Here is everything he had to say.

Opening statement

“We practiced up through Thursday, as I told you guys, gave them Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday off. Practiced last night, and then obviously a day off today and back at it tomorrow. Need a great week of practice. Playing a good football team on the road. Our guys, I can tell they’re excited about the challenge this week. Coaches got to put together good plans, finish them up here the next day or so and get some good reps in and get down there to Waco. Got a 2:30 kick — college football when it’s supposed to be played. So, it should have a great environment. Looking forward to the game.”

On whether they did anything in the bye week that they wouldn’t have time to do in a normal week

“We worked the young guys last week, which I shared with you, and then continue to try to improve on just our base in all three phases. And then started on Baylor a little bit on Thursday. And then obviously will be into Baylor [game plans] tomorrow.”

On how the team responded to the time off

“I thought it was really good. They lifted yesterday and then came back and practiced well. This group is pretty focused and committed to each other. I feel good about the chemistry amongst the guys and the leadership we have. So, that plays a role and in the question you just asked.”

On the identity of the team in practice and film sessions

“I think we’re focused. I think it’s important to them. I think they care about each other. We’ll know a lot more about ourselves as a team in a month. We’re getting ready to get into the meat of it. We’ll get a pretty good feel. We’ll have some conference road games and home games against good teams. So we’ll know a lot more about us in a month.”

On the differences in this Baylor team and the one OSU played in the Big 12 Championship

“A lot of similarities. Their concepts are the same. Not a lot of personnel changes, other than the safety [Jalen Pitre] that was a really, really good player that’s not there anymore and a couple skill kids on offense. But, they look essentially the same scheme-wise. Quarterback is back now, obviously got more experience than when we saw him, but same group.”

On Baylor playing slow on offense and OSU playing with more tempo

“Well, it’s just two different philosophies. I guess you could say a defensive head coach and offensive head coach, maybe. They’ll run the clock down and play with some tight ends and fullbacks, and they’re going to run the midzone play. They’re gonna run boots and nakeds off of it, trying to get the ball out flat. They’re gonna max protect and throw it down the field, and we spread out more and play at a much faster tempo. Some of the things are similar, but for the most part, the philosophies and how we get there are different.”

On how much they know about Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen compared to last year

“Their concept offensively, from an outside looking in, is the same as it was in the championship game. So, you’re gonna control the passing game. I mean, he might complete 14 passes in the game, and it may only be for 75 yards, but three or four of them might be converting third downs. So I don’t really see a lot of difference, and it looks like they programmed him in that direction until they play-action, max-protect and try to throw it over your head.”

On Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika

“Well, he’s an issue. He’s a problem. He should be playing on Sundays right now. We definitely have to know where he’s at on the field because whenever he comes off the ball and goes straight that direction [in the backfield], whoever’s in front of him is going that direction [in the backfield]. So we have to be smart in how we handle him, but he’s a good player.”

On the message to OSU’s offensive line when blocking Ika

“Block him. I told them a Sunday ago, look, we all know that they have a good team. We’ll start with that. They have good team. They’re well coached. They play hard. And they have a good team. But when you’re dealing with a guy like that, you have to treat like everybody else. You just have to have some concepts with your coaches to give the players to help them at times. You don’t want to single him up a lot. You want some help on him. And really that’s what we told them, ‘We’ll give you guys help sometimes, but sometimes you’re gonna have to hold your own.’ He’s gonna make some plays. You’re not going to stop him from making plays, but we need to make our share of plays against him.”

On what Ika does so well

“He pushes everything back into the backfield. He’s low center of gravity, obviously. I’m guessing he’s very strong, and his power comes from [his legs]. So, he dumps everything back in the backfield, which creates a problem for an offense. The simple part of it is offenses are trying to move forward and backs making cuts beyond the line of scrimmage. And when offensive line is running in space, you know, they’re not getting anywhere and backs are making cuts behind the line, it’s not as good a play. So, it sounds really simple, and to a certain extent it is, but he does a good job of just carrying people back in the backfield. And when they double team him, he’ll swallow two people to kind of sit down and eat up space. It’s very similar to what they do in the NFL, those big guys. You see those giant guys on the field. They’re just eating up gaps. He does a good job of that.”

On whether he feels the offensive line is in a better position now than it was in the Big 12 Championship

“Sure, we have guys that are more experienced that are in there. We’re fairly healthy up front, which is good. We were beat up a little bit at that time. [Ika] started to come on kind of the middle year, toward the end year last year is when he started to come into his own. We caught him down there, and he was playing pretty good. Ole Miss got a dose of it in the bowl game. And so he’s continued on with that. So, I feel good about our guys. We can’t go beyond he’s a good football player. We know he’s there. But we play other good football players, right? We played guys from Notre Dame that were long and tall and created issues for us and throughout the league. So, we’re not I’m not afraid to give him credit for who he is and what he gets accomplished, but I expect our guys to block him.”

On OSU’s defensive line going against Baylor’s offensive line

“It’s a good matchup. I go back to what I said. In my opinion, they stay in their box on what they’re trying to get accomplished on offense. They have good players. Baylor’s always had good player. They sit right in the middle of 300 Division-I offers a year within a four-hour drive. It’s a good location to get good players. And they’ve developed them, and they know what they want to get accomplished. One thing to watch is the matchup between those two groups that you just mentioned because they’re both pretty good groups and should be interesting to watch and see how it plays out throughout the game.”

On whether OSU offensive line coach Charlie Dickey is an old-school guy

“He’s been around a long time and obviously raised and developed in Coach [Bill] Snyder’s system at Kansas State, which is tough, hard-nosed offensive line play. So he has that instilled in him. He was there for a long time. That’s why we wanted him to be a part of our staff. He understands the challenge that we have this week, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the same thing that they’re trying to get accomplished against our defensive line.”

On why young players can be attracted to Dickey’s style of coaching

“I think young people now are attracted to people that are honest with them and know that they care about them. This generation of young people, in my opinion, can see through what I call a fraud, trying to be somebody you’re not. Charlie, obviously, is about as good, down-to-earth person there is, and I think they probably appreciate his personality.”

On whether Spencer Sanders is playing better than he thought he would be

“He’s playing pretty good. When we protect him a little bit and rush the ball some, he’s a pretty good football player. He’s got good skill. He understands what we’re trying to accomplish. We’ve talked about this a number of times, but he’s had a lot of experience now. Things come to him much easier than they did a couple of years ago.”

On whether he trusts Sanders more than he’s trusted a quarterback

“We let him do whatever he wants to do. He goes at it, has fun. He still does some things. He’s a risk-taker. He’ll run more, takes more hits than he should. He’ll throw into coverage some, but it’s kind of the way it is. We have a lot of confidence in him allow him to go out and make his plays.”

On OSU’s receivers vs. Baylor’s secondary

“They’re gonna stay back, in my opinion. Their safeties are gonna play at 12, 14 yards. I would guess they’re gonna stay back. His personality from what I’ve learned over the last few years is he’s not, like we all are, but their defense is set up to not give up big plays. We’re gonna force you to rush the ball and be a successful intermediate passing team. We understand that. It’s no secret. So, I would say those guys are probably going to be back there pretty far in trying to defend downfield throws.”

On the increase of teams going for it on fourth down

“I think there’s more the analytics that coaches are looking at. They’re getting percentages on certain specific situations in games, and right or wrong, they’re buying into that formula that is being presented to those coaches at that time. I don’t know that to be true. I think that’s where most of this has started. And then there’s a side of it that’s based on who you are as an offense. And then, in my opinion, is who you’re competing against. This is probably an exaggeration, but if it was 4th-and-2, and I was going against a front like Georgia, I wouldn’t really be fired up about going for it because it’s hard to knock those guys back. So, I think there’s a matchup of an offensive front versus a defensive front, and then do we think we have a good scheme to trick them? We can catch them for a reason to make us think that we have something where we can get them lined up a certain way. It could be based on formation, could be based on personnel, could be based on where the ball is located on the field — hashmark. Gives you good reasons to go. But you’re seeing more coaches do it now, particularly in this league. I haven’t paid as much attention to some of the other games, but in this league, I don’t know somebody could do the research, there’s probably more fourth downs attempted this last Saturday than maybe ever on one single Saturday in Big 12 play.”

On Vernon Grant

“Very enthusiastic, undersized, tough guy, competitive, great smile, great personality.”

On how Baylor was able to force turnovers against OSU last season

“I think it was four, I went back and looked at that, four of the seven [Spencer Sanders interceptions against Baylor], I think four of them he was being hit when he let go of the ball. And then one he threw off his back foot on a crossing route, overthrew a guy and hit the safety in the stomach. So, we certainly want to be more protective with the ball against them. And I’m not really concerned about it based on the number of turnovers that he had. He was being hit when he threw the ball.”

On OSU’s ball protection so far this season

“Well, we’ve been pretty good, but the other day Dominic (Richardson) let them take it away from him. And then we had one early in the season. So we’re still to a point in the season where special teams yards, turnovers and missed assignments play more of a factor than anything in the game. We’ll grow out of that two or three weeks when teams kind of get settled in. Those turnovers are a big factor in the games, we all know that. It’s math, right? We get around 12 to 14 possessions each offense a game. If they get three more and I get three less, all of a sudden they get 17 and I get 11. Now their percentages go up to score points. Mine go down. Very, very important part, and we need to do the best we can and take care of the football.”

On if Spencer Sanders will press too much because of what happened against Baylor last season:

“Spencer is highly intelligent and he knows. He knows (if) he gets hit, the ball goes a different direction. He can’t control it. He’s not gonna tell you guys that because he’s not going to push the blame on anybody else. But just because of what you said about him when you described him, when he watches it, he knows. I’m not concerned at all about it, because I think he realizes what took place.”

On having Trace Ford back

“Trace has been great, I’m thrilled for him. He’s was very hesitant a year ago and somewhat hesitant six months ago, and then even at least a small amount hesitant even a month ago. He’s gotten better every day in practice, and then you guys can see him in games. He’s starting to look like himself. His attitude has been fantastic. His work ethic has been fantastic. You know, as I mentioned, from the last game we asked him to block a punt and put him there because we felt like he’s perfect for that role. And he took it upon himself to practice hard and took it upon himself to do it in a game. So, we benefit in a big way from those types of leaders and personality that he brings to our defense. Those are things that you can’t replace, and they’re things that you can’t fast-forward, which is his experience.”

On watching Trace Ford go through his injury process

“Well any time a player gets hurt, even when I see games and guys get hurt on TV, you know, it’s just difficult to watch. You know, unfortunately, this is a live game and sometimes players are gonna get hurt, but it’s never fun to deal with and it certainly it’s not fun to see with young men because they put in so much time just to get to play a minimum of 12 games during the season. That’s it. So it’s difficult to watch those things take place.”

On getting Trace Ford help

“We try to get people to help him if he needs to talk to somebody about things that go on. They’re still young people. They’re big, strong, fast and tough, but they’re still young people. They can still have mental health issues. Anxiety, we all — I say we all, most of us in here have had anxiety in our life, or still have it today. And so he went through a lot of that where he was anxious and concerned about certain things. And so, we try to handle those the best way possible, because we’re all different. Everybody in this room is different, and he’s made great strides in the last six months, and really even more in the last two to three weeks when he’s gone out there and realized everything’s okay. We couldn’t tell him that, he had to learn that on his own.”

On his thoughts about the Big 12 Conference

“I mean, I think the parity in this league is maybe more than ever, each year. And I’ve said this for a number of years, you might have a team win this league that has two or three losses this year, just from what I’m seeing. Now, I haven’t studied the other games, I just see the scores, but there’s quality in this league and the competitive nature of playing road games, which are difficult, you’re just seeing a lot of teams that are just about the same.”

On whether that parity is good or bad for the transition of the Big 12

“I think this is as attractive league as it gets. I don’t know if there’s very many teams in this league that have a losing record right now, if any. So, when you look at conference realignment, you’re looking at the parity in this league and then Cincinnati is playing good, UCF playing good, BYU — we’re getting right back into that. Now you’re brining in a number of teams that are all good football teams. So you’re middle of the pack, year-to-year, league games have teams that are playing well and have winning records, so more people turn the TV on. Obviously that pays the bills.”

On whether that can hurt the conference for a bid in the College Football Playoff

“Well, I mean, three losses might be an exaggeration, but they’re expanding this 12 teams, right? So you’re going to have teams in the playoffs (out of) 12 teams that have two losses. You’re not going to find 12 teams that have one loss or no losses in my opinion. I think you’re gonna see teams that are in the playoffs now that have two losses. So, I think that’ll just be common game from here on out.”

On how much of the playbook Oklahoma State has used during non-conference play

“We’ve practiced just about everything that we run. I don’t know that we — well, we haven’t run everything, just based on what defenses give us, and or what offenses have given us. But earlier in this press conference when I said that ‘This is pretty much what Baylor does, we kind of know what they do,’ they know what we do. Things that we haven’t shown up to this point for whatever reason, they know that we have it and they’ve reviewed it and practiced it. We might not have done it because of a variety of reasons, but there’s not really any six secrets or anything that we’ve held back.”

On how he feels about his team overall going into a tough matchup

“Well, I like the focus and the chemistry and the makeup of these guys. Tackling will be very important moving forward. You know, it’s tackling, it’s special teams, it’s missed assignments and turnovers.  Those are things that we have to be successful at in conference play, and as I mentioned a second ago, we’ll know a lot more about are team in three or four weeks.”

On whether the missed assignments and miscommunication has decreased on defense

“Yeah, we’ve been better with missed assignments since the first game. We’ve gotten a little better against Arizona State and then we got a little better against (Arkansas)-Pine Bluff. Most of those guys weren’t in past the first quarter. Defensively, to be able to keep the ball in front of you and minimize giving up big plays, and then, as we learned last year, being good on third downs gives you the chance to hold teams to minimal numbers.”

On Bryson Green

“He’s a big physical receiver. And he’s just now gaining experience. So, he was around last year, but didn’t play really enough to get much experience. Now he’s getting quite a few reps in games, so he’ll you’ll start to improve now. He’ll see himself out there, make mistakes, fix the problem, get a little bit better, become a little more comfortable based on total number of reps that he’s played. But he’s been very steady for us and we’ve been able to benefit from some of the physical features he brings to the table. He’s big and strong and we can do some things with him on the perimeter with him blocking. He uses his body in route running, and he should just get a little better every week based on experience.”

On Jake Schultz shifting to Cowboy back

“Well, first off, we were had a lot of defensive ends. So he’s a pretty good defensive player and could never really break into past level three, because of what we had. And he’s tough, he’s intelligent, and when we went to him and said, ‘We think that you can help us offensively and get on the field, and with the youth that we have in your position on defense, you could be a guy that goes falls by the wayside just based on being at the wrong place at the wrong time.’ And so he was willing to make that change. And by him being able to go from defense to offense was based on his size and strength. He had to fit the role, which he did, and then being smart enough to pick it up, which we felt like that he could do that and he’s done a nice job.”

On what it is about Cowboy backs and players switching to that position

“It’s kind of a tweener body-wise. You can play with a Blake Jarwin body, or what would be Tracy Moore — ya’ll are too young, you might not know who he was, but Tracy Moore was a 230-ish pound wide receiver. He would play that position now. And so there’s a tweener body-wise. You could play with — well, [Rashod Owens] is playing it now, he’s 220 (pounds), and then you can also have a guy up to as much as 250 playing in it. It’s a pretty desirable body, meaning that you don’t have to be the fastest guy, and you don’t have to be the toughest guy. It’s not like you’re old-school tight ends or fullbacks. So, it can be one of either and then we have to do a good job as coaches of putting them in a position to have success, based on what we asked them to do. So like Jelani, when he was here, we’re not asking him to go out and run backside post routes. You know, he can iso-block the defensive end. Well [Owens] might do some different things route-wise, but we don’t want him blocking a defensive end face-to-face. So we have to kind of handle that as coaches.”

On if that makes Jason McEndoo’s coaching job difficult

“Not really. Individual drill-wise, they’re going to work the same stuff. Mainly it just comes down to (Kasey) Dunn knowing what to do with that particular position depending on who’s in the game.”

On if he is surprised about how fast Dave Aranda has gotten Baylor to the level it is at

“I’m gonna tell you again, now, they have good players down there. It wasn’t too long ago, (Art) Briles was winning 11 games down there, okay. So, (in) 2020 — ya’ll would have to ask Dave (Aranda) this, but 2020 was a mess for them for a variety of reasons. Best I remember they COVID-ed out several times, they had whatever issues. I think he made several coaching changes after the first year, but they still had players that had been recruited, hangover players that had been recruited when coach Briles was there and they were winning nine, 10, 11 games a year. And they were just kind of sitting there. So he’s done a really good job of bringing them all together and now I’m sure he feels comfortable with his schemes, and they have good players, period.”

On that status of Jaden Bray

“He should be practicing this week.”