The Rundown: Gundy Talks Baylor Win, Previews Tech at Weekly Media Luncheon

STILLWATER — After a big win in Waco, Mike Gundy and the Cowboys are back at it.

Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday to put a bow on the Cowboys’ win against Baylor and preview the upcoming matchup with Texas Tech. Here is what OSU’s coach had to say.

Opening statement

“So we’re back at it. We had a good workout last night, obviously the guys are off today. So, lot of work and preparation and film study. And looking forward to a good week of preparation and get ready for Texas Tech.”

On improvement in the secondary and expectations for challenge against Texas Tech

“They’re getting a little better each week. I mean, we’re a long ways away from being a finished product, for sure. But, I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making defensively. You know, we have young linebackers just like the young secondary. We played pretty well. We gave up a couple big plays last game, but overall they’re coming along.

“This will be a different challenge this week. This team is throwing it 60-ish times a game, so a different look for our defense. Last week we played a group that was more power-running, misdirection passing, play-action passing. These guys want to play fast. They are going to spread out and throw it 60 times, try to throw the ball out in the flat. So, you know, your question is valid in that it’s a little bit different of an approach this week.”

On depth on the defensive line being important against a team that passes a lot

“That’s always going to be important. Good news is we really don’t have anybody playing more than 42, 43 snaps a game, which is really good. We’d like to keep it that way. If you get in a game where you can very well have 100 plays on both sides of the ball, from the standpoint of we play fast, they play fast, so that depth could be important.”

On how familiar he is with Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire

“Well, I bumped into him when he was a high school coach. Obviously when we recruited players at his school. They always has six or eight players at his school every year. So I’d run into him down there, but other than that, haven’t crossed paths with him at all.”

On what it is like facing a coach that hasn’t been at the college level for a long time

“Not a lot. I mean, offensively and defensively, we’ve got several games, just like they have on us. So, in most cases a coach is going to prepare based on what they’ve seen and try to avoid chasing ghosts. I mean, sometimes I get a feel for head coaches, based on experience and what you’re talking about. Like we’ve talked about the last couple of weeks, guys that want to roll the dice on fourth downs and guys who want to play field position, just a little bit different personality. Defensive head coach and thought compared to an offensive head coach thought. So don’t know a lot about him yet. Seems to want to go for quite a few fourth downs. But other than that, not really feel for much.”

On whether there is an advantage to a college coach being at the high school level

“I think there’s some advantages to it. He’s seen the other side. I think that they have advantages in recruiting based on they can communicate with high school coaches. And I think at times high school coaches can say, ‘Hey, you know, you’ve been here’ or ‘I’ve been there. I know what you’re going through.’ You know, he was at Baylor for a couple years or so, however, I’m not sure how many years before he went to (Texas) Tech. And I think there’s some points of both ways there, but I know that in the end football is football, the adjustments of managing a big operation and the other side of the recruiting will be different. I’m guessing in high school, you deal with the principal you deal with the school board, you deal with the superintendent, and I deal with the athletic director, the President and the Board of Regents. So there’s some similarities there. But he’s done well and they did well at Baylor. And then obviously he’s you know, off to a good start at Tech.”

On what he learned in his early years of coaching

“First off, it takes a long time to really know what you’re doing. I’ve said this many times, I look back at my career and wonder how I ever got far enough along. You think you understand football and you can coach it. Five, six years later, you realize that you’re just starting to learn it. I was fortunate enough that I moved around, had several different head coaches and coordinators. One of the things that I think I was smart enough to realize is what to grab from each one of those guys that I thought was productive and could be good at some point in my career, and then leave some things that I thought weren’t as productive. You get good and bad from all level. So, that experiences is beneficial. One disadvantage I have is I’ve been in one place a long time. So, I don’t see a lot of what goes on at other places because I’ve been here for so long. Sometimes I wish I would have or had experience in seeing how things take place in other places, but I guess you can’t have both.”

On third-down defense being successful

“I think [defensive line depth] helps. Our pass rush has been good, not great. It needs to improve. But when you keep guys fresh, you have a better chance of pressuring quarterbacks. The way that the game is played now, I think that’s just as important as anything you can do. So if you can somehow be disruptive in a normal operation of a quarterback on plays, you’ve got a better chance of being a good third down team.”

On how the offensive line played against Baylor

“We were good, not great. But we were certainly better than the (Big 12) Championship Game. And that’s one thing I mentioned after the game, we talked about as as offensive staff after the game that that was our fault. That was my fault, that was the offensive staff’s fault that we weren’t better prepared for that. We had a plan, but we didn’t give enough credit to how good they were up front. And so that was a mistake. And what we said was, ‘Try not to let that happen again.’ And we were better in this game against a good front. They’re really difficult, in my opinion, to handle between the tackles. So, I was pleased with our improvement in that area.”

On what it would take the offensive line to be great

“Part of the issue we have is that’s not who we are. We don’t get a lot of reps with what we call heavy formations, tight ends, wings — the question I get from people, and even at the house, ‘Why don’t you put those people in and execute those play?’ It takes time, it takes practice. So, a good illustration is people talk all the time about when you’re a shotgun team and you get in short-yardage, why do you go in shot gun? You’re already five yards back. To get one yard, you gotta go six. And that’s true, but we don’t practice taking snaps under the center. So, there’s a risk reward. Now we work hard in the spring, work hard in the summer, and we worked hard this year where we’ve been good under the center. But there’s been times that we’ve messed it up by jumping under the center in a crucial situation.

“So, it’s the same thing in a heavy-personnel. That’s the world Baylor lives in. So, for them, short-yardage, goal-line, the fourth-and-1s, fourth-and-2s, that’s kind of the world they live in. I used to live in that world back when I was calling plays as a head coach. We had those types of tight ends and alignment. That was kind of carried over from Les Miles. So one or two yards didn’t mean anything to me. We were good at it. That’s the difference. We don’t live in that world, but what we’ve done is we’ve tried to allow enough time to improve that if we get in that situation, that sure we’d much rather be under the center to get one yard, than six yards.”

On being satisfied with ‘good’ given the inexperience on the offensive line

“Right, and that’s what I said, I was gonna clarify what you said. I’m pleased with what we did. We still, I mean,  I’d love for it to get into a short-yardage situation like this and that and just go for it all the time, but I also don’t want my pride to take over who we are on offense. And there’s give and take, you know, we can play fast, we can play catch up, we can move to it. So sometimes teams that aren’t built like us can’t do that. So there’s give and take on both sides.”

On how he feels about analytics and determining whether or not to go for it on fourth down

“Well, we talked about that last week or whatever, so I don’t want to bore anybody that’s been here to hear it twice. I tried that one year. And we had the book. We paid for the service, got all the information and had a guy on our staff that followed me around on game day and he would tug on my shirt on third down and say, you know ‘If they stop us here, the book says to go for it.’ And this went on for a whole year. And at the end of the year, probably 75% of the time or more, I didn’t want to do what the book said. My brain said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ I get it, but momentum, weather, maturity, their D-line, my O-line,  quarterback experience — for some reason, a large majority of time they were wanting me to do something and I wasn’t wanting to do it. So, I stopped doing it. I haven’t used it. Since then I’ve just gone on my gut feeling based on those situations. Sometimes I’ve been right, sometimes I’ve been wrong.”

On whether he continues to plan to go for it in short-yardage situations this season, or whether that was just against Baylor

“Yeah, within reason, but I just wanted our players to know that we could be better than what we were in Dallas in that situation, and I wanted them to know that it was our fault, not theirs. We didn’t prepare them for that. We put it out there. And I think that to be fair to — I’m not blaming (Kasey) Dunn and the offensive staff. I’m pulling myself into this as much as anybody — to be fair, we didn’t really expect it to be like that. That’s not really — we haven’t been in many games where it ends like that, but we learned. We learned to be prepared for that. I would like to continue with that, because it’s good if we can keep the ball and keep the drive alive, but we also have been very fortunate we have a really good target punter, who can play really good field position. And, you know, that field position got us a safety in that game. That field position two other times put them in a position that they have a less than 7% chance to score based on where they start. So, you know, it’s gone on forever. I don’t think anybody’s reinventing the game, I just think it’s a feel for, in my opinion, as a head coach, I have to make those decisions. And that’s going to be based on how I feel about us versus them, and who we are. Maturity a lot of other things can factor in. Is the playing surface wet? Is the ball wet. Can a guy slip? Can a lineman that’s blocking to get movement, can he slip? There’s just a lot of things going on. So, I guess there’s a long answer for, we would like to continue to do that, but we have to be able to prove to ourselves that we’re capable of that in crucial situations, but I certainly wanted to do it in that game just to prove to our players that we can do it.”

 On Tom Hutton and the coverage on punts

“We were pretty good at it last year. And so all those guys are back that are running down there and covering with the exception of little (Braylin) Presley. He’s kind of new, but I mean he’s built for that. And then Tom is a year older and more mature and has a better feel for it. And so, we’ve just been fortunate that with his experience and the guys that we have covering, they’ve gotten good at it. And you know, it’s interesting, and I’m not saying anybody said this, but it’s not easy as you’d think. People think it’s easy to just run down there and do that, but 1) you’ve got to get a release off a guy that’s trying to stop you from doing it, 2) you’ve got to know where you are on the field before you start looking up, because you can’t look up too early because you’ll lose proximity where you are. Can’t look up too late or you lose proximity to where you are. Then you have to locate the ball and make a decision, do I catch it or let it bounce. And a couple days ago that we were about as good as it as I’ve seen. There’s one time, I think it was [Jaden Nixon] that could have grabbed the ball on about the 7-(yard line). I think it landed on about the 11-(yard) line or something, and he got out of the way and then little (Braylin) Presley backed up, you know, and then took it on about the 1- or 2-(yard line) and I think that’s when we got the safety. Well, that’s hard to do, and for [Jaden Nixon] to have that experience just starting it, because he didn’t do it last year, and then [Braylin Presley] was playing at Bixby last year. So that was pretty good for those guys to have that maturity at that time.”

On being prepared for Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson

“You know, we never get enough practice getting ready for those guys. You know, they’re doing a good job rushing the passer. I watched two games on them this morning and I don’t know if I was ready to see that. But they pressured Kansas State and Texas both. Now they made some plays on them, the Kansas State quarterback (Adrian Martinez) runs around and makes a bunch of plays and can avoid it, but they do a good job with pressure. So, you know, we’ll see a different defense this week like we [will] on offense. This is a blitzing — they’re gonna come after us. They’re gonna blitz, they’re going to stunt, they’re going to twist, they’re doing to drop, they’re going to rush three, they’re going to rush four, they’re going to bring safeties, they’re going to roll coverage. They’re going to do a lot of different things to pressure us. We have to get ready for lots of pressure and lots of blitzing. Based on last week, that’s not what we saw at all. You get two completely different concepts on both sides of the ball against these guys. And they have done a good job in my opinion of rushing the quarterback.”

On how many different things Texas Tech does on defense

“Well, his background is that way. [Tim DeRuyter has] done that for a while. He’s been around a long time. He’s a smart football coach. He does a lot of things and just different philosophies, right? You know, (Dave) Aranda wants to play this front, this way, this gap, this coverage and this is what I’m gonna do. And you get in a variety of a lot of stuff from him and he wants to blitz and pressure and that’s what he’s going to do in this game. He’s gonna come after you and he’s gonna do it from a lot of different ways. And, you know, there’s times guys get cut loose when you do that. But, it’s just a different philosophy and he’s going to certainly go the opposite of what you just saw on Saturday.”

On communication on the back end of Oklahoma State’s defense

“They’re getting better every week. We’re certainly not where we were last year with those guys, but the defensive staff is doing a good job of putting them in a position to have success. Most of the time, in the last couple games, they’ve been much, much better of listening to each other and understanding the concepts. I messed them up on the fourth-down call. I told you after the game, and they didn’t get it communicated because they didn’t have enough time because I told them to change. But other than that, most of what we’re trying to get accomplished has been pretty good. And this will be a challenge this week because you’re getting a variety of things on offense. You’re getting a fast pace. You’re getting runs. You’re getting read zones. You’re getting quarterback runs. You’re getting tunnel screens. You’re getting fake tunnel screens. You’re getting vertical threats. You’re getting all different kinds of things, so communication obviously is important.”

On Jason Taylor’s performance against Baylor

“Jason seems to be a guy who makes big plays. He made the big play there at the end. He somewhat baited the quarterback into throwing it there. He was in two-deep and came across and made a great catch. The deep ball they hit for a touchdown, he needed to be on top of the deepest guy. He got caught a little baiting on that one. But he’s made a lot of plays. A couple times, he gets his eyes down in tackling in space that he needs to improve on. But the one thing you get with him is he’s capable of making a big play at any time. He just has that savvy and that ability and if he gets his hands on the ball, he’s usually gonna make a play.”

On other defensive players he has coached who make plays like that

“Malcolm (Rodriguez) was that way. Shaun Lewis was that way — Justin Gilbert. We’ve had some players that just kind of end up being in the right place at the right time based on their football knowledge.”

On executing kickoff returns

“Yeah, they were on there guys. We had a couple of things happen on that play where it worked in our benefit that it wasn’t designed the way it was designed. The kick location of the ball worked out good for us. Because of the kick location where the ball was in the middle, their looper looped this way, and they had another guy that was making up for him and went across this way. And essentially, our guys saw it and kicked the guys out and created a big seam. So, we had a couple things work to our favor there.

“And then the one that Presley ran back to the 50 or whatever, we had guys locked on guys. We had two guys that didn’t. We still got a good return. And then there was another time we got out to about the 30 that we had it blocked better than that. We actually had it blocked better than any of them, and then one guy lost his guy and that guy got into the hole and mess it up or that would have been a clean return.

“Kick return is interesting in that if you could just somehow play one-on-one basketball and get between your man and the guy that’s returning it, like I don’t play basketball but I’m guessing they tell him if he’s got the ball, my job stay between him and the goal, and kick return is that way. If you can just play basketball with him stay between your guy and the returner and you have good returners, then you have a chance. We’ve been very fortunate we have good returners, and they’re fast. When they get the open field, they gotta go. And that’s the difference, right? So if your guys doesn’t have great speed, like Nixon has great speed, if he doesn’t have very speed, he gets in the open field and he gets caught. There’s a difference in it being on the 20 versus a touchdown.”

On how he decides whether Jaden Nixon or Brennan Presley goes out for kick return

“Woz, (John) Wozniak, runs that show. I don’t know how he makes that decision.”

On the trend of coaches getting fired early in the season

“Athletic directors think that they can get a head start in recruiting, get a head start in the transfer portal. If there’s big name guys out there that they have their eyes on, they feel like if we can get started on them right now. There’s kind of unwritten laws about not tampering, but the tampering is taking place. I think they feel like that they want to get a head start. And it’s interesting, I didn’t find out they the guy go at Wisconsin until last night when I got home later on they told me, so I asked somebody to look his record up, and one of my boys said he was like 67-26 or something. So, maybe there’s somebody out there they want that they want to go get now. But I don’t know. I guess everybody’s got reasons for what they do. The interesting thing is, some of them, the buyouts double or they get cut in half if it’s just like two months later or three months later, and people don’t care. They just roll with it.”

On his coordinators being linked with jobs

“We could talk about this for a long time, but we all know what it comes down to. It comes down to one thing. It comes down to money. Money is driving all this. There’s a lot of money in this game, and slowly but surely, it’s turning into the NFL. Free agency is the portal. So the free agency is the portal. It is what it is. It’s not going to change, but when there’s just massive amounts of money involved in anything we do, this is what can happen.

“These guys, I don’t know who’s interested in our assistants or whatever, but they should be. There’s guys on this staff here that are going to be head coaches, going to be good head coaches. And I’m not trying to pump my own tires up, but they’ve been in a program that has had a lot of success, and they’ve seen it from from start to finish. So why wouldn’t they be good candidates?”

On mental health awareness week

“It’s all of us, right? I mean, we live in a society that’s driven with fast and we all have anxiety, and anxiety causes problems. Mental health has been an issue since we’ve walked the face of the earth, and it’s just never been talked about. People discard it and act like it’s gonna go away, and it’s not. I bet there’s probably 90% of the people in this room that have had somebody in their family at some point that has had some type of anxiety or mental health issues. And now the good news is people are discovering that it’s a fact. And people can admit it can get help. And it’s very, very important. And we made huge strides here. We just hired another person two weeks ago.

“We have three people now that were tied in with the medical school in Tulsa, and we started it a few years ago and it’s grown since Dr. (Kayse) Shrum has been involved and with Chad (Weiberg). We have people that are tied in, and we have more outlets now for players or coaches or anybody that needs some type of counseling than we ever have before. And they’re in demand everywhere in the country, in my opinion. And I think it’s a positive for us. Forget football, it’s a positive for us, for all of us to know that we have people that can help if you have some type of depression, anxiety, a lot of things going on daily.”

On concussion protocol

“So they have a protocol that’s, or procedures I should say, that are in place and then anytime we have this, and we’ve been fortunate that we wear those things on our helmets in practice now that have been really, really good because most of your, just what I would call, mild concussions would be in practice. Because it’s not the big hits, with the exception of the unfortunate situation with Tua (Tagovailoa) the other day, when you get slammed and the back of your head, or I guess anywhere in your head, slams like that, that’s different than like a direct hit. And it’s the continued hits is what they tell us that causes this. And so ours have gone way down by us wearing in the guardian caps. And then anytime we think, I shouldn’t say we, our medical staff, they’re very well trained now in trying to identify that. They’ll come to us and tell us, and then they’re shut down. They have to go through a procedure to get back. Very seldom do we ever get a young man back, even if he didn’t have a concussion, but he got dinged, in less than three to four days.”

On Matt Hembrough

“You don’t ever talk about holders or snappers until they mess it up. Everybody just thinks it’s gonna happen. And when something doesn’t happen that’s favorable, then we start talking about it. But he should play in the pros for a long time.”

On whether there is any area of his special teams he isn’t pleased with

“We have quite a few young guys that are out there, but they’re showing maturity beyond their years so far. And I was concerned about it when I went to Baylor. I told you guys that. We kicked off at Baylor in the end of the third or fourth quarter, I don’t know what it was, and I counted we had eight guys on the field and running down that have never played college football last year. And those things concern me, but they’re playing a little better than they should based on their experience. And our coaches, the four guys that coach those units, have done a great job with them. And we’re getting good effort. I’m comfortable, and I said this a month ago, with our special teams, and so far they’ve they’ve played well.”

On whether he has dedicated more practice time to special teams

“Four or five years ago we added. I haven’t changed in the last four or five years.”

On whether Braylin Presley and Stephon Johnson will redshirt

“They’re gonna play.”

On Kendal Daniels

“He’s getting a little better every game. We just talked about that a second ago, and he falls in that same category. At this time next year, I’ll probably be able to say he’s really reliable. And he’s somewhat reliable now, but he’s gonna make mistakes. That’s just the way it is, but he’s learning. Just getting a little bit better.”

On Bob Fenimore

“The guy did just about everything. And obviously was a first round pick, right? First player, first round. He’s way, way, way back for me, but I know that when you hear people talk about him they talked about how he’s kind of a once in a lifetime guy athletically, and then they talked about how awesome a person he was, said he was just humble, great guy, great family.”

On the Ring of Honor

“I take a lot of pride in this Ring of Honor that they put together. I’m very appreciative that they’re doing that. There’s a lot of players. If you go back, most y’all are too young, but if you get some of the older people to go back and talk about the players, we can fill this stadium up real quick. Oklahoma State’s had a lot of great players, so they can fill this place up pretty quick.”

On Jaden Bray’s status

“He practiced last week. He’s out there rolling. Could [play this week]. He’s, I guess the correct term is, day-to-day. He wasn’t really conditioned like we wanted him to be last week because he hadn’t done anything for six weeks. I mean, he’s been out there conditioning, but not football conditioning. But he’s practicing.”

On whether Spencer Sanders is underappreciated

“I think he is underappreciated for what he’s done. And the reason why is because he’s gone through different times in his career. One time we were out of offensive linemen — no fun for a quarterback. Last year we were, we didn’t have any receivers left. He was out there playing with freshmen. And he just keep playing. And he just keeps finding a way to win game. He has a competitive nature, and now he’s developed a calmness and a humbleness about him that is hard to replace. He’ll be hard to replace.”

On Tyler Lacy returning after being carted to the locker room

“He said it was like the bottom of his feet were on fire, something that had to do with the turf. They took him to X-ray because I think it had them stunned a little bit on what this was. I barely made a C in biology, so I don’t want to, I’m sure it had something to do with the nerves, the nerve endings on the bottom of his feet. Something happened, you know, like you know when you hit your funny bone and it burns and it tingles. Well, I think that he must have done something in his joint area in his ankle, and it sent sensations through his nerves, and it was tingling and it burnt. He said he thought his feet were on fire. So, I said, ‘I need you guys to get an extinguisher and put his feet out and get his ass back on the field.’”