STILLWATER — Mike Gundy’s Cowboys are 7-1 heading into an all-important November.
Gundy met with reporters on Monday afternoon in Boone Pickens Stadium. Here is everything he said.
“We’ll go right to West Virginia. I don’t think we need to go back too much on the Kansas game. This team’s playing really good football right now. This is the most physical team defensively that we’ve played by bar. They could be the best 4-4 team in the country. Particularly playing really, really well at home, playing good defense, very disruptive. And so we’ll have to really have to have a good week of practice and have good plans on both sides of the ball and get ready to go out there and play on Saturday afternoon.”
On what West Virginia has improved on this season
“They’ve played well. They’ve adjusted and made some changes offensively. They’re wanting to throw the ball more, in my opinion, and that’s where they’ve made improvements from an outsider looking in on some of the things they’ve done offensively. But they’re very similar defensively. They’ve been pretty good defensively all year, and they’re very disruptive. They’re very fast and very physical, and they tackle well.”
On West Virginia’s defense
“Yeah, Iowa State’s a little different to defend than most other teams in this league, so they did make a few adjustments. But, you know, they’re in a stack. Ultimately, they start with a three-down (linemen), they’re going to end up in a four-down, though. Somebody is going to come from the edge and from the middle, and they end up in a four-down defense with a variety of brackets and quarters and three coverages in the back end, a lot of different things back end, some trap corner. It’s the same guys I mean, [Dante Stills], [Akeem Mesidor], [Josh Chandler-Semedo], [Taijh Alston], [Sean Mahone] is in the middle, [Scottie Young] is in the middle, so very similar to what it was. Right now they’re playing well. It’s a good football team.”
On the West Virginia offense
“Offensively [Leddie Brown] is a good back. He’s running hard. He ran really hard last week. They tell him at times, it looks like to me, that, ‘We’re going to give it to you. We need you to find a way to get four yards.’ Drops his pads, runs through people. [Tony Mathis Jr.] comes in, backs him up some. He’s got a little side-to-side movement in him. I think this is the best offensive line, at this point, in the league. They’re really playing well up front. They don’t even have a senior on the offensive line. They’re playing with a couple sophomores and freshmen and a couple juniors.”
On if this is the most consistent defense he has had at Oklahoma State
“Well, they’re playing good there. They’ve been consistent. I think our plans are good. I think the maturity, the experience and number of reps that we have guys playing has worked at our advantage. I think the depth we have up front works to our advantage. All those things put together, maybe. As an organization we have a good feel for who we are defensively has helped us play really, really good also, I’ll say that. And I said it each week, there’s probably not a lot of teams in the country that can say they play pretty good defensively every week. We’ve played pretty good defensively every week.
“The team we’re playing Saturday is a different approach. It’s the best group up front we’ve played. They have a back that’s physical, their quarterback is considerably better in my opinion than he was last year, and they got a couple wideouts that can make plays. And they got a big tight end, 85 or 89, I can’t remember his number, he’s made plays for them. And they’re jelling. They’re playing much better now than they were a month ago in my opinion.”
On what Oklahoma State’s defense does well on third down:
“You know, Jim (Knowles) mixes it up. There’s the variety, I mean, I think he’s a good play caller, which is part of it on third downs, do things that people think you wouldn’t do. And I think the experience and some of the things we do with the veterans at the safety position and the linebackers help with that.”
On if November is a month when previous fourth-quarter games pay off
“This will be, I mean, I said it last week, and obviously I didn’t think what happened would happen, but nobody in here was willing to debate me on a four-quarter game. This will be a four-quarter game. We need to get to the fourth quarter with these guys. They are playing really good right now. And hopefully we can get in that position to where the experience that we’ve had in what five, six games this year should help us. I would think because we’ve been there, but we need to put ourselves in a position where we’re in a competitive game in the fourth quarter.”
On if maturity and experience leads to success in close games
“There’s probably other factors, but maturity and experience late in games like that where players can focus on what’s going on and not get caught up in the moment does make, I would say, that’s the majority of it just in my experience.”
On if he gets a personal sense Oklahoma State needs to capitalize on this season
“Well, what I told the team last night was, is the way that they’ve handled themselves and their commitment to each other and taking care of their bodies and their focus and discipline and their toughness and the way they practiced, have put them in a really good position in November. That’s a fact. So the one area you have to be careful about now is, human nature, is to ease back a little because everybody’s tired, players are tired, coaches are tired. We’re into the fourth month now, and that’s where you could get into some issues. So, you have to push forward. If you’ve had a good season up to this point, and you’ve had success, it’s a little bit easier to get players to continue to work hard and have fun in practice, do the things that’s necessary, focus and play well on Saturdays.
“And I told them you’re now in a good position, there’s a lot of teams in the country that would like to be where you are. It does two things, one, it doesn’t guarantee you anything moving forward, but two, it allows you to understand the importance of continuing on to give yourself the best chance to play on Saturday at a high level. And so that’s kind of what I told the team last night.”
On how second and third-string players responded to playing against Kansas
“Well, they’re the guys that we practiced through COVID. That’s what COVID taught us, and then we continued in the spring and continued in the fall. And so, the third wave of guys that got to play in that game have had more reps than any third-wave group of players in the history, well, I shouldn’t say history, it hasn’t been that long, in my 17 years here. When we put them in there we could function a little bit. I thought that the second wave of guys that went in on both sides of the ball functioned really well. And the reason is because they’ve had just as many reps as the first. The thirds are cut back to about 50%, which normally the thirds would be about 5%.
“So, if you watched the sidelines during the game, I don’t know if we talked about this or not, but if you watched the sidelines during the game, the players were excited for the other guys, all the way down to the last second of the game, which tells you that we have a good chemistry amongst the group, that we have a good culture with our team. They care about the other guys making plays, and you would see it all the way from Spencer (Sanders) and Malcolm Rodriguez all the way down to freshmen like Gunnar (Gundy) that he was excited that his buddies got to play in the game and got to do things that were positive. I kind of watched everybody. That’s a good thing.”
On schedule change this week with mandatory off day Tuesday
“I don’t know that I ever feel better about our routine. So we practice tonight. We’ll end up about two hours 20 minutes short of preparation for what would be a normal Tuesday, based on the adjustments we made yesterday and then backing things up today. But we still can’t gather those six hours back. We’re still a couple short, but we’ve worked hard, and we’re all pushing to try to get accomplished what we would get accomplished prior to tonight’s practice, which would normally be a Tuesday. So it’s a big push. That’s why I was a few minutes late, I’m was in there watching tape and I realized it was 12:01 when I looked at my clock. Danielle is not here to remind me, so I was stuck on my own. But the point being is that we’re going to be about two hours and 20 minutes short for preparation for tonight. But the players have been around the facility spending time here today. So I asked them yesterday to try to make up for it. Try to get a good, quality 40 minutes of video watched without your phone and try to focus, absorb some information so your meetings can be very productive today for tonight’s practice. So we get Tuesday off, but we don’t get Tuesday’s practice back. That’s tonight. So that’s important for the preparation.”
On players hyped up on the sidelines against Kansas
“You know, I noticed all of them. So, Tyler Lacy and Spencer (Sanders) and Malcolm (Rodriguez) and (Devin) Harper and and (Kolby Harvell-)Peel, that generation. And then you can go down to Jaylen (Warren), who just showed up here, and then some of the sophomores, you know, a couple years behind. And then, some of the freshmen as I mentioned, you know, Gunnar (Gundy) and his group. So, all levels were excited for everybody that was getting in there playing and that’s kind of what I noticed when I just kind of watched everybody because they all kind of pod up together based on their years that they’ve been here.”
On if he has a good read on Oklahoma State’s offense
“I mentioned after the game Saturday night that I felt better last week, and I know that, I’m not trying to — you know Kansas obviously is not playing as good as they want to, but we still played better than the opponent that we played. You see what I’m saying? Because we’ve had some consistency in personnel for now about two weeks, three weeks. That’s helped with our preparation. So, we’re not there. We’ve got a ways to go. And we’re going to need to find a way to score more points than we’ve been scoring, take away the Kansas game, in order to win out here on the road because they’re going to score some from what I see. Their offensive line concerns me, their back concerns me, the quarterback’s playing better, their wideouts concern me more so than what it has been in the past. He’s doing a good job out there. So offensively, we’re going to have to continue to improve and find a way to generate enough points to fight them off at home and put ourselves in position to, when the clock expires, we find a way to have one more point than they do.”
On quarterback Spencer Sanders elevating his game in recent weeks
“I think the consistency in our personnel has helped him. We’re healthy now for about three weeks in a row. We’ve improved a little bit up front. We played pretty good. If you just take the last three games or four games, overall, the offensive line played pretty good in all areas. There’s been times we maybe weren’t as physical running as we wanted to, the second half of the Iowa State. There’s times that maybe we didn’t protect as good as we should have. But overall they’ve improved, and then we’ve had consistency on the health of our skill players. And that’s going to allow him to play better and be in a comfort zone.”
On how players improve when it comes to watching film
“So their coaches are responsible for giving them the information at the first week of what they want them to see and watch, and then where that’s located. Everything’s technology now. Don’t ask me how it works because I don’t know. That’s why I use one of those instead of one of those, is because I can’t figure that out. But these guys know how to do all that they can whip through the computer, they find, they get in their hotbox or hot lock or whatever y’all call those things. They look for whatever their coaches have left for them. And they study tape and they understand to turn their phone off and really focus on what they’ve been told to focus on Sunday night, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And that should give them the information that our coaches feel like is important for them for preparation.
“Technology does allow you to lay everything out there for them, if they’re willing to do that. Most of us now are at Week 9, because we’re 7-1, I think, so that’s, we’re in Week 9, pretty much everybody’s who they are now. So, nobody’s going to really make a drastic change in any of the three phases at this point, because we don’t have enough practice time for that. So, if you’re willing to study tape, then you’re going to know what’s going on. And so it’s basically up to you as an individual. The smart guys that get it, that are experienced like [Tanner McCalister], he’s been here long enough now he knows the importance of it. And that’s why they do it and that’s what he’s referring to when he talks about, he now knows how to study and watch tape, not just like watching a picture. He’s watching specific things that can help him get tipped off during a game.”
On if watching film is an underappreciated part to experienced teams
“It’s a big part. You see a lot on TV in the NFL with quarterbacks, but there’s a lot of defensive guys who do it. They see route splits. Is the Z wide? Is he tight? How’s he lined up? When he comes off the ball, where his eyes are, what his footwork is, what his stance is. There’s a lot of keys and tips in football because all of us are creatures of habit. We do the same thing all the time. We try to change it up, but we end up doing the same stuff all the time. So there’s a lot of things that are important for guys that are willing to put the time in and study tape. It makes a big difference. People that are in the general public wouldn’t understand that because it’s too complicated. It’s like somebody’s trying to teach me how to build a bridge. I got no chance. These guys that study type, it’s an advantage for them.”
On if OSU’s defensive success takes pressure off Spencer Sanders
“One hundred percent, the defense has kept him floating and kept us floating offensively. No question. Most of you guys in here, other than the young people, have watched our team for 15 years. The game feels differently now when we’re playing, right? Normally it was you hold your breath all the time and try to score as much as you can as fast as you can. So, it has to help him from a pressure standpoint. Quarterbacks are always going to be under pressure, but there is some of it that’s removed based on ‘Hey, the defense is playing pretty good.’ If it doesn’t work out and we punt, it’s not that bad an option.”
On if schools are less patient with head coaches after Gary Patterson and TCU parted ways Sunday
“I don’t know the inside of what’s going on. I have not talked to Matt (Wells) and obviously haven’t talked to Gary (Patterson). At some point I will. We never know what goes on in the walls of some people’s houses, other people’s home. But I was surprised. The team I’m watching on tape (West Virginia) is a really good football team, and they (Texas Tech) beat them. Maybe they weren’t playing as good or maybe they played at home or whatever. They still beat them. I don’t know what’s going on with (Texas Tech AD) Kirby (Hocutt), but I was surprised, yes. I think it’s fair to say that, and when they texted me last night, I was kind of shocked. That was a shocker to me. So, I don’t know what all is going on.
“I know that forever coaches pretty much lived on a hot seat. And then in the last four to six years it’s kind of changed. People were kind of hanging with people longer. And then obviously there was some quick turnaround this year with some of the things that have gone on across the country. I’m a coach, so I see the other side of it. It’s like what’s gone on with (Kentucky coach) Mark Stoops. Mark was, after year four or five, and he was like 12-39 or something. They said, ‘Well, we’re gonna stick with him,’ and it’s worked really well for them. You never know what’s going on in other people’s worlds, but I was surprised, myself.”
On the financial difficulties of schools firing coaches with the pandemic and conference realignment
“Somebody probably wrote a check. What you’re saying is correct. And again, I don’t want to speak out of turn. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m gonna guess in most cases that check’s not going to come out of the budget because you can’t answer for it. Their budgets are going to be very similar to ours. You could bring Chad (Weiberg) over here and ask him, I doubt he can drop however much it costs, millions-wise, because we’re still trying to make up for COVID. We still have people that haven’t been paid for COVID. It’s a tough situation. Tech’s a public school, so you’ll eventually find out the information. TCU, you might not ever find out because it’s private, but I doubt that came from their budget.”
On playing in Morgantown
“The maturity we have lessens that with the experience that we have players-wise. I don’t think it affects our guys. Maybe they go out there, play poorly defensively, but I really don’t think that the venue affects them much. They’ve got a really good atmosphere out there. What you’re saying is correct. I don’t think Spencer (Sanders) cares where he plays. I don’t think Jaylen Warren cares. I don’t think it affects them as much with the maturity of our team. What concerns me more is the way their team is playing right now, and then can that generate excitement in that stadium? That concerns me more.”
On how OSU has started to play better on the road over the past 10 years
“I would say maturity. I would say I’ve been here a long time. If you have consistency in your organization with your coaches, your concepts, your thought process, it allows you to play better, particularly even on the road where it’s more difficult. But we’ve also had better players now. It’s still a game that’s dominated by players not coaches. And as we’ve brought in players that continue to get improved and better, I don’t know. In ’09 we had really good players. We might have had better overall NFL prospects and 2009 and 2010 than we do now. So, I don’t know. Maybe I’m speaking out of turn there. I would say consistency in our organization, maybe. Just helps with playing on the road.
“And then I think, we won in Missouri. We’ve talked about this before, when they were 2 or 3 or 4 in the country. When (Matt) Fodge tried to fake a 4th-and-21. You know, I had to tell him the math. I said, ‘Fodge, you know, you’re 14 (yards) behind the line, so when you catch it, you have to get 35 yards. And you run a five flat.’ He got like what, like 19. He almost got it. Anyway, so I think when we won that one, and then everybody’s like, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ And then we won another one. Then we won in A&M down there. We were down by 20 at the half, and then I think everybody just kind of thinks you could win and maybe it just happens.”
On Matt Campbell now being the second-most tenured coach in the league and if it’s strange being in a new era of Big 12 coaches
“It is. I was visiting last night after we worked out, I went home and dressed up and handed out candy. I was visiting with a couple people. The news is coming out about Coach Patterson at whatever time, 8:30 or 9 o’clock at night. Y’all probably heard about it before then, but I didn’t get it until then. And that question got brought up because now Kirk (Ferentz), I think, is the longest at Iowa, and then I think I’m second now, right? [Kyle Whittingham has him by about two weeks at Utah]. Oh, he does? Well that doesn’t count. I forgot about Kyle. He’s done really well for a long time. So anyway, it is kind of unusual. It’s no different than now recruiting when I’m recruiting kids of players I’ve coached. It’s unusual. You’ll feel that way some day in about 30 years.”
On what he dressed up as for Halloween
“Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz.”
On Halloween at the Gundy house
“Well, I live on a ranch, so nobody’s going to trick or treat. It’s a quarter-mile to the house. By the time they did that, they’d be out of candy to get back. So, we go to a neighborhood over there. It was pretty cool. I saw, didn’t mean for this to happen, but Sione [Asi] came and Brock Martin came with their babies. They have little babies and wives and all that, and they showed up. Babies were all dressed up. They didn’t know who I was because, I mean, I was full dressed like Scarecrow. They didn’t even know who it was, so it was even better. They had their babies, and I was thinking here you have Sione from all the way on the other side of the world and you have Brock Martin from Oologah, America, and they’re hanging out with their families and their little babies and trick or treating. I was like that’s kind of what it’s all about. It’s pretty cool. But it’s funny when finally they started to walk off, and they realized who I was. They got a big kick out of that.”
On his favorite Halloween candy
“Well after seeing the Twitter from (Mike) Leach on his Halloween candy, I don’t know that I can top that. One thing I agree with Mike on is I am not a big fan of candy corn. But anything else that’s got chocolate in it, I’ll eat it, or caramel or whatever. And he mentioned the sprees from the box. I like sprees from the box. I just haven’t been able to find them because he said he goes and gets them at the Dollar General store, and we don’t have that around here.”
On the state mandates that requires vaccinations for state employees, like football coaches
“I believe everybody has a right to whatever they want to do, but I also know that I work for a state university. So there’s people that can tell me what to do and people above me that can make decisions and whatever those decisions are, I have to follow if I want to be employed at a state university, whether I agree with it or not. But I’m not afraid to say that I believe people should have a choice to do what they want to do. But the president, she’s put in a tough situation. When somebody calls you and says we’re gonna cut your federal money off or you need to be vaccinated, I mean, I don’t do the budget over there, but I know $90 million is a lot of money for this university. Whether you like it or not, you pretty much have to put something into place, and that’s why that email came out last Friday. There’s no right or wrong, right? I mean, it’s just it is what it is. I’m a state employee, so there’s people that can tell me what to do.”
“So targeting has been a very positive thing for college football because their goal originally was the safety of the players. It has considerably changed violent hits, particularly in the secondary where wide receivers are reaching for a ball and guys hit them and can hurt people. It has worked for what they were trying to get accomplished. It is one of those rules that I’m not a big fan of because human nature and human error can really be a factor in the decision that’s made. And that is a big decision. One, you have 15 yards, and two, you could have a good player, or any player, out of the game or potentially out for the next game. So, that’s back to almost your vaccination comment. There is no right or wrong. It’s just a part of it. There’s just so many moving parts, and it’s really hard. They are reviewing it, but there’s been times that the reviews don’t make any sense to me either. And I don’t know the rule the way I should know it because there’s too many moving parts. But they tried to make the game safer, and they’ve accomplished that. Let’s put it that way.
“Sometimes can it be a difficult situation for a defensive player? Sure, because you’re fighting for your life. You’re just trying to get there. You’re trying to tackle a fast guy in space. You’re going down to tackle him. He lowers his head. You lower your head. We have a collision. You’re out of the game, and really you’re just trying to play football. So there’s a difference between that and then what the rule is intended for as a defenseless player. That’s where you have an issue, but overall, they’ve accomplished what they wanted. And I agree that it was good because the safety of the players is very important.”
On Collin Clay’s younger brother, Warren, on the video board
“That’s pretty awesome. In fact, I think somebody’s wanting to do a podcast with the both of them, which will be pretty cool. And they had a nice little, I saw a little bit of a race down here in the end zone. That was pretty good, too. Pretty good entertainment, it’s almost like a minor league game, minor league baseball.”
On former Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush starting for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night
“I didn’t get to see a lot of it. I was handing out candy, but I saw when it was a tie game and Minnesota kicked a field goal and then after that I saw it. But you could tell by watching tape on him he’s a good player, and he’s accurate and has a quick release and not scared to throw into tight coverage, which is what they look for in the NFL. He’s been in the league now, what, five, six years or so? And doing good. He’s a good player.”
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