STILLWATER — The Cowboys survived a Saturday scare to start the 2023 season 1-0, but with a Power Five opponent up next, it doesn’t get any easier.
Oklahoma State beat Central Arkansas 27-13 on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium with OSU next heading to Tempe for a game against the Sun Devils at 9:30 p.m. (Central) Saturday.
Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday in the Boone Pickens press box. He talked about the quarterback situation plenty, which you can read about here, but here are five other quotes that stood out. A link to his full news conference is below.
1. Finding an Identity
After Saturday’s game, Gundy said the Cowboys need to find out who they are and head in that direction.
It’s a quote that stuck with me into Sunday, and I asked Gundy on Monday if after watching the tape he had a better idea on who the Cowboys are.
“No, but I think we know the direction we need to go to become who we are, and I hope we’re right,” Gundy said. “What I did like was this: we blocked better in the second half, and our running backs ran aggressive when they knew we were gonna run the ball and we had to have them step up and make plays. We didn’t get that last year, so that’s a plus. Did we run the ball good enough? No, we didn’t, so I don’t want to build it up like we did.
“But defensively there’s some things that we felt like could happen in this game, they did. I told you that I was worried about tackling. We have to really work hard this week on ways to improve tackling. It’s not gonna fix itself in one week. Your question should be, ‘Then why did you do it?’ I wasn’t sure; I was worried about it. I leaned toward the health of the team prior to the first game.
“Those are the two things that we need to work on and improve this week. There’s always gonna be other things, but those are the things that we need to improve on — physicality, covering guys up, being able to rush the ball even better and then tackling on defense.”
2. Latu Breaking Old Habits
Korie Black was probably OSU’s defensive player of the game Saturday, but defensive end Nathan Latu wasn’t far behind.
Latu tied for a team lead with six tackles and had 1.5 sacks. Listed at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds by way of Snow College, Latu entered the year with 15 total tackles and four sacks in two seasons as a Cowboy, but he is set to potentially be a breakout player for the Pokes in 2023.
Gundy said in the past Latu “fought himself” getting down on himself after a bad play then that compounding into more bad plays. Gundy said Latu is figuring out the mental aspect to the game this year.
“So we all resort back to who we are, and it’s hard to break old habits,” Gundy said. “So he got blocked and got pushed, the ball was going sideways and he started [walking], then he took off and ran. He realized, ‘I’m loafing. This is what they told me not to do.’ But it took two steps before he realized it. That was a plus. So, he’s coming around. He’s gonna be a really, really good player if he stays strong mentally and continues to compete. He should be a good player for us.”
3. No Quick Solution to Offensive Line Struggles
After a tough season last year, Oklahoma State’s offensive line got off to a slow start Saturday in terms of run blocking.
Through three quarters, OSU had rushed for just 52 yards on 3.1 yards per carry. Things eventually opened up for the Pokes’ tailbacks, as OSU ran for 97 yards on 6.9 yards a carry in the fourth quarter.
Gundy said Preston Wilson will travel to Tempe after missing the season opener because of a “non-football-related” issue. But, Gundy said the running fix isn’t short and sweet.
“We just gotta keep doing the same things and do them better,” Gundy said. “I know people say, ‘Well, it’s not working as good as you want it to.’ The worst thing we can do is try to do something different because then we probably won’t be good at anything. We were good at a few things. We have to get better, and we’ve got to continue to tighten down our package and hold the players accountable for these plays and then have a physical, aggressive toughness and not get out of our box and get better at what we’re trying to get better at.
“If there was a short, quick solution like that, I would’ve used it last year starting about Game 2. In my opinion, we just gotta get better at what we’re trying to accomplish.”
4. ‘I’m Not So Sure They Didn’t Coach Better Than We Did’
Gundy was complimentary of the gameplan Central Arkansas’ staff brought to Stillwater.
He said it looked like to him UCA had a different plan for each quarterback the Cowboys used. He made note of the Bears trying to pressure an inexperience Gunnar Gundy while hanging back on a more experienced Alan Bowman.
“Those guys did a good job coaching,” Gundy said. “I’m not so sure they didn’t coach better than we did in the game. I’m just being honest with you. Head coach to assistants and me as a head coach and our assistants — their concepts, plans, what they wanted to do to us, were pretty good.”
5. Gundy Still Getting Acclimated to the Expanded Big 12
Speaking of coaching, Gundy apparently got fiery in an offensive staff meeting after OSU’s Saturday performance, and it ended comically.
OSU and Arizona State will share a conference next season with the dismantlement of the Pac-12, so Gundy was asked about the dynamic of the Sun Devils being a Big 12 member next season. He is still getting used to this wave of conference realignment as he made a reference to playing TCU — a team that has been on OSU’s schedule the past 11 years but isn’t this year in an expanded conference.
“I hate to admit this, but I was in there chewing the offense’s a– out, the offensive staff,” Gundy said. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m just telling you, when we play TCU, it’s gonna be the same way if they do this,’ and they said, ‘Coach, we don’t play TCU.’ I was like, ‘Well, sh–, if we play TCU.’
“I was on a roll, you know what I’m saying? You remember in Animal House when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? And they said, ‘The Germans?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, forget it, he’s on a roll.’ Well I was in the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor and one of the young coaches goes, ‘Coach, we don’t play TCU.’ I’m like, ‘Well, if we played them.’”
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