The Rundown: Mike Gundy Talks Spencer Sanders, Defense after Central Michigan Win

STILLWATER — After a high-scoring affair, the Cowboys are 1-0.

Oklahoma State defeated Central Michigan 58-44 on Thursday night in Boone Pickens Stadium. Here is everything OSU coach Mike Gundy said in his postgame news conference.

Opening statement

“So we were really good in our target punting, made a big difference tonight in this game with Tom (Hutton) and our coverage and downing the ball inside the 10 several times. We were really good in our return game. Good with penalties, for the most part, we weren’t very penalized. We were even with turnovers, right, we intercepted one and they blocked a punt. So, we were even with turnovers. 

“Obviously offensively we played really well. Spencer (Sanders) was really good. Wideouts made plays, backs did a nice job. Took care of the football and made plays. Played pretty good up front without watching the tape, looks like to me we need to improve in run blocking some. Looked like we could have run-blocked a little better. We did protect good, I thought our protection was really good.

“Defensively, we played good up until middle of the third quarter, and we had a lot of young guys get a taste of what it’s like to be out there. So, I told him in the locker room that — you know, we try to tell them that the game goes fast, plays fast. But there’s just no substitute for being in the game. So, gosh, you know, you look at [Lamont Bishop] you look at [Mason Cobb], [Cam Smith], [Korie Black], [Jabbar Muhammad], even [Xavier Benson] for us, even though he’s played a little bit, but for us — all those young guys got thrown in the fire. I mentioned to you guys that I thought [Central Michigan does] a really good job on offense. They have good schemes, good concepts, they know what they’re doing. They do a good job with 12-personnel with two tight ends and some play-action stuff and some different things. So, I give them some credit for really good scheme and concepts.

“But, good to get the win. We’ve got a lot of work to do and all areas, I told them that. We’ll practice tomorrow and then give them Saturday off and then back at it Sunday. Get ready for the next one.”

On the up-tempo offense

“We were very effective playing fast, and one thing that works against us a little bit is, once you get ahead by — I think we were ahead by four touchdowns and obviously you don’t want to play fast. So, then you slow down, and we’re probably not as good at that as were are at playing fast. But I was pleased with our ability to play fast and make plays in space.

“It was good. I thought it was good. I thought we were clean. Again, I thought we were really good in protection. You know they had played well last year from a pass rush mode, [Central Michigan] did. And so I was a little concerned about that, but I thought our guys handled it pretty well. We’ve got to do a better job coming off [linebackers] and getting up on second-level guys sometimes in the inside run game.”

On the football he received for his 150th career win

“Chad Weiberg presented that to me in the locker room. So that was nice. It’s a cool deal. Like I told the team, it takes a lot of really, really quality people with good young men for a guy to stay in one place long enough to win 150 games. I’m just lucky enough to be along for the ride.”

On how the back seven of OSU’s defense played

“I’m going to say average. It’s all I can say. I mean, I could see some of that without looking at the tape. And when I watched it, most of it was young guys. And so there’s a learning process, and I’ve said it to you guys, they gotta grow up quick. But they’ll be better in the next game than they were in this game just from being out there and making mistakes. So, our philosophy is, when you make mistakes, which we know you’re going to that’s just the way it is, make them go at full speed and then now the coaches have to identify what the issues were. Sometimes it can be the offense or defense or special teams coaches. It might not be the players. Coaches sometimes share some of that.

“So we identify what the issue was, whether it was a coaches, whether it was the call, whether we got schemed on certain things, or if it’s the player, what’s the solution to it. Correct it, put a plan in place to try to be better next week. But I’m gonna guess that we were average. And a lot of it had to do with youth.”

On Braydon Johnson

“It was good to see him out there. You know, he’s fast, experienced, no substitute for experience. I mean, he’s in what, year five, something like that. So you saw what a mature player can do. Good to have him back out there. I think he got tired from not playing in games. I think that it caught up to him a little bit, which is fine, but it was good to have him out there.”

On Spencer Sanders finding his rhythm after underthrowing a ball to Braydon Johnson

“Oh, nothing. He didn’t set his feet. He got flat-footed and got his legs spread and was on his heels. That’s what happens most of the time. Now, he’s very athletic. There’s times he gets away with that, but you know, he underthrew that ball. He had a couple drops. Two or three drops, also. Knock on wood, he’s really good. He understands our concepts. He understands — it’s second nature for him to know where to go with the ball and it’s a big advantage for us.”

On Spencer Sanders

“So, just his experience. It’s just so, so difficult to get young people to play without going out and making mistakes and playing. Spencer is a really good player. He’s good at what he does. And you saw what happens when you give him a little protection. Our guys protected good tonight, you see what happens. Sometimes people kind of nag on him a little bit, but usually he’s not protected very well. But if you go back to when he was playing his redshirt freshman and sophomore years — a bunch of you have been covering us forever — he didn’t look anything like that. He just didn’t have the experience. Now it’s become second nature for him and he gets it and he has a feel for it. So that’s a big advantage for us.”

On Caleb Etienne

“I thought he did good. I heard a couple times they weren’t real fired up about things, but that’s normal. You know, I told him, I’m not real excited about starting the game with a procedure penalty. I wasn’t too fired up about that, but he said, ‘Coach, I’m just ready to go.’ Which I was just giving him a hard time. But, you know, he hadn’t played in what, two and a half, three years, something — it’s been a long time since he’s played.

“So, he should be one of those guys that improves. But I’m very, very pleased with what he’s done with his body over the last 18 months and put himself in a position. He should learn and grow as we progress here, because he has all the physical tools. Now, just the speed of the game and everything will become a big advantage for him the more games, the more reps he gets.”

On how Derek Mason did

“I mean on the phones, good. Communication, good. Didn’t get flustered. From that standpoint, all that was good. I have to watch tape on that side of the ball to know. I can tell you a lot more about offense because that’s what I live. The other side of the ball, if I’m not watching tape, it’s hard for me to really know what’s going on at this time because I don’t want to go down during the game and start getting answers from him because I just slowed them up from coaching and making adjustments. But, I’m gonna guess that he’s not pleased with them being able to get that many yards and score that many points. Now, I haven’t talked to him, but I’m gonna guess. But I was pleased with his demeanor on the headphones during the game.”

On how OSU’s running backs played

“I thought the backs were pretty good. And I say that, I mean I’m always hard on the offensive line so you guys know that, but I know there was a few times we didn’t get up on the backers. But, I thought the backs ran pretty hard. I thought they did a good job, and it looked like to me that we had good ball security. I thought they weren’t in attack mode.”

On OSU’s goal-line formation

“Our offensive staff that, the offseason. We felt like that we needed to have a package in short-yardage, goal line, under the center, where we’re standing 5.5 yards deep. We take the snap on 3rd-and-1 or second or third-and-goal from the 2. It’s not real easy to do it. We’ve worked it all spring. We worked it all summer. We worked it in August. It has been beneficial for us tonight. There’s a lot of comments about that, but we’re not an under-the-center team. We play in the gun. The number of snaps that we’ve had under center in my career here compared to in the gun is probably less than 1% — maybe worse than that, probably less than half of 1%. So, we have to really work at that to have faith to get under the center and do that in those situations. We play down at Oklahoma, Mason Rudolph’s year. Went right down the field doing our stuff, and we went under center on the 2-yard line and fumbled because we don’t practice it all the time. So then you think is the risk-reward worth it? But we wanted to be better on short-yardage and goal line than we were last year, so that’s something that they worked on, and obviously, it worked out well for us tonight.”

On Chad Weiberg presenting him with his 150th win ball was like

“Chad is a quiet guy. He did admit that he knew that I would be embarrassed, but I really did, I did appreciate it and had nice things to say about me. But really the truth is this a big operation, about 190 people, and over a period of years, it’s what it takes. And we have a good group. We have 127 guys. They’re good guys. They’re good, quality people. They do well in school. They work hard. So, there’s no way that could take place without a whole bunch of people that’s for sure.”

On whether both defenses were committed to stopping the run

“I’m gonna be honest with you, my concern with them was them lining up and trying to pound us. They didn’t do that. They got in a lot of heavy sets and different formations and released everybody and threw the ball to the backs and tight ends quick and a lot of wheel routes and such. I’m almost certain that the first, I’m gonna throw a number out there, the first 25 throws, I don’t think any of them went past eight yards. The approach that they took was, and I’m speaking for them I could be wrong, was ‘I’m not sure we can protect against their edge pressure. Don’t hold the ball just prerelease everybody and get rid of it.’ And it worked out well for them. They didn’t try to pound as much as what I thought they would have.”

On if it was cooler getting his 150th win or getting to watch Gunnar play quarterback

“Well [the 150th win] is a big deal because this is a big deal for a long time. But I mean everybody wants to see their kids do good and go out there, and you know, three more plays and get a little bit more experience. But I was proud of him.”

On Gunnar Gundy playing quarterback

“Well, I’m proud of him, like I mentioned. Obviously, I knew he was coming out because we talked about it. We ended up giving up the last touchdown or we could have played a little bit more offense. So we had to go back into a four-minute mode and kind of protect ourselves from some crazy happening. But, we’ve a fantastic quarterback, and we got two good, young prospects that deserve to play if they get a chance.”

On who is better between him and Gunnar

“Me. Clearly me.”

On if he has an update on Jaden Bray (I think this answer was regarding Blaine Green, though)

“We check him weekly. We’re getting him wrapped up in a splint. They keep him that way. We check him weekly.”

On whether Derek Mason and OSU’s defensive players are still familiarizing themselves with each other

“I hate to step out there. I’m gonna say maybe not as much as people think. There’s just a lot of young guys out there. And when you have a number of young guys in positions like that, even the second-level guys, they’re just learning on the run. [Lamont Bishop] and [Mason Cobb] and [Nick Martin] have never played. And last year, you had Malcolm (Rodriguez), who’s played in 200 games, and (Devin) Harper who was a ninth-year senior, and they been there so much. And then you had (Jarrick) Bernard and (Tanner) McCalister, we had so many experienced guys back there that we were able to rely on and do a lot of different things. So were there mistakes made? Sure. Do we wish that they would have played better? Sure. I’ll have a better answer for you Monday. I’ll be able to give you a better answer.”