The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said Ahead of OSU’s Bout With Baylor

September 27, 2021

STILLWATER — For the sixth time in his coaching career, Mike Gundy’s Cowboys are 4-0.

Gundy met with reporters Monday in Boone Pickens Stadium ahead of his team’s clash with fellow unbeaten Baylor. Here is everything he said.

Opening statement

“OK, back at it. The guys played good last week like I mentioned after the game. Defense played well, special teams played well with the exception of giving up the one return. Offensively, made some improvement, got a few guys back that helped us a little bit on the perimeter, and obviously helps us a little bit balance the offense. Just moving forward. The team we’re playing is the best team we’ve played up to this point. They’re moving the ball very effectively, balanced on offense, fast and very aggressive, blitzing-style defense and having a lot of success. We’ll have to have a great week of practice. And I would expect another fourth-quarter game.”

On doing some different things offensively against Kansas State

“Yeah, we had some different schemes and concepts of alignments and such based on the front we were seeing. Kansas State was a three-down, and doing a few things scheme-wise. Hopefully we’re learning more as we have gone through years three and four of what has become the new trend defensively, this three-down, so I thought our schemes were good in my opinion.”

On Spencer Sanders’ demeanor during the K-State game

“He’s matured considerably. He was better last year, and he’s even better this year and that comes with experience. He’s at a position that takes and deals with a lot from different angles, but what I was referring to with him is you have a very competitive, humble, unselfish person that loves to play football. I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anybody on our team. I’ve never heard him complain about not having healthy linemen last year. I didn’t hear him complain this year about not having wide receivers. He just goes and plays. He’s first class, he’s got character, he’s humbled, he’s unselfish. Generally good things happen to people like that, and that’s what’s happened with him so far.

“He’s just a good kid. He never complains. He’s happy with where he’s at. He loves being here. He loves to play football. He doesn’t point the finger at anybody, and if he makes a mistake, he’s willing to say he made a mistake and if not, they talk about it and they move on and that’s a sign of maturity.”

On if Sanders has played differently this season

“He is who he is. He’s the Tasmanian Devil, right? He runs all over the place. He’s able to do a cartwheel, get up, throw a completion. He almost fell down and put the ball on the ground on naked the other day for no reason, that’s just who he is. He plays competitively. He plays full speed. You have to be willing to accept certain things in a game with him because you’re going to get the other. He’s the same guy. That’s who he is, except he just understands a little more.”

On the offensive line’s performance against K-State

“They played good. We’re not to the level that we need to play, but we’re getting a little better each week. The talent level that we faced in this last game was better, and then this group that we’re going to play this week is going to be a really good barometer. They’re very active. They’re strong. They’ve got a nose guard [Siaki Ika], I don’t know what he weighs. He might weigh 360, I don’t know, but he’s tough to deal with. He plays low. He flat backs. He drives you back. They’ve got some speed. This will be a really good feel for them. [Jalen Pitre] is back again, doing all his blitzing and such that he’s good at, which obviously factors in with the offensive line, so we’ll see where we’re at after this game.”

On keeping Jaylen Warren fresh

“Well, I did research on that Sunday, and found that he had taken all the hydration precautions. He just got excited. And it was a little too much for him. His demeanor is a lot like Spencer’s. He’s very humble. He’s very unselfish. He’s got really good character, plays really really hard, right? He competes. He never goes down with one guy. He tries to punish the defenders. He plays hard. He burns a lot of energy, and he gets really excited because he wants to win. He just kind of got too excited, and couldn’t get him calmed down, so we hydrated him some. I’m not sure that really was the answer. It may have been just excitement with the others that got him and calmed him down for 10 minutes or so and then he was fine.”

On having leaders like Sanders and Warren

“Well, it affects everybody. Your team is going to rally around your quarterback. Spencer has had times in his career where he didn’t play as good as he would have wanted to, and there’s times that he has been fantastic. There’s give and take. That’s who he is, but there is no doubt that the team loves him because of who he is. They want to play hard for him because the type of person he is, and Jaylen falls in the same category. So that makes my job a lot easier.”

On Collin Oliver

“I like what I’m seeing from him. I see a young player that’s learning on the run. He gets fatigued quick in games at times because he hasn’t become calloused to play at this level yet because he’s so new, but he’s a hard worker. He seems to be physically tough and mentally tough enough to continue to compete. We’ll see where he is a month from now because sometimes those guys hit a wall. He’s another young man that fits with our culture. I don’t ever hear him say anything. He doesn’t miss anything. He’s always at class. He runs hard. He trains hard and loves to play. He just competes.”

On Brock Martin and Trace Ford mentoring Oliver

“Well Brock has been good with that forever. Trace is good in his own way, but Trace just doesn’t talk much. Trace is very quiet and to himself. Brock will be more of a resource during the week and on game days than Trace will be just because of their personality.”

On how much better Jaylen Warren is than Gundy thought he would be

“Quite a bit. It’s hard to tell at times when we evaluate high school players, transfer players, we miss right? The NFL spends millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars, and they miss. So, obviously we liked him from what we saw on tape or we wouldn’t have brought him in here. It wouldn’t have been fair to bring him in for one year if we didn’t think he could get a considerable number of snaps. So we were correct in that. When he showed up and started training with Rob Glass, he made more strides in physical strength and speed development in three to four months than any player that I’ve seen. And it was because of the training that he’s had with Rob Glass. Nothing against where he came from, nothing against their training, I just saw where he started and where he is now, and he made huge strides with his speed and his strength, in being here with Coach Glass.”

On having a good running back and strong defense to close out games

“My buddies texted me after the game and one of them said, ‘I’ve never seen a defense like this in Stillwater since I’ve been coming to the games.’ I mean I don’t think back that far, I don’t know. I just know that to a certain extent, the game is kind of revolving back to where it used to be where you have to be able to rush the ball and play defense. And I think it’s more evident now in our game than it has been in 15 years when we look at all these video game scores and the way games are being played. So, my challenge to the defense last night was, you guys have to continue to play well. Sometimes they start listening to people tell them how good they are, they don’t stay focused, they don’t practice as well. You hear coaches say that all the time, and that’s a fact. So the challenge to them is we need them to exert themselves this week physically and mentally. We need them to play better this week than they did last week because this team is better. And then they get a break and then we can try to regroup physically, mentally and come back. But, just my opinion, you asked me, if you can’t rush the ball and play some sort of defense, the way the game’s being played now, you might have a difficult time winning very many games.”

On getting better defensively

“Five years ago, we took four scholarships from offense and put them on defense, and we did that for this reason. I didn’t know the trend was going to change like this. I just know that we felt like at some point we got to start slowing people down. You can’t just score 45 to 50 points in all these games because you’re relying on tremendous quarterback play. It’s hard to score a lot of points in a college game if you don’t get fantastic quarterback play. So how many years are you always going to get guys that can just score 45 points a game quarterback play? I can’t guarantee that. So, what’s the solution? The short-term solution is to move more scholarships, play the numbers game, play percentages, try to beef up your defense to give you a better chance to slow people down and play good special teams, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. I’m all for scoring 45 points a game. The game’s not being played that way right now. Kansas State had 57 plays in the game. And you guys are used to watching us play, it looks like, ‘Gosh, when’s the next play? I got a chance to go to the bathroom, and come back. When I used to do that there were two teams that scored.’ It’s not that way right now, so we just kind of got to do the best we can.”

On how he handles hurt players with a bye week upcoming

“There’s two ways to handle that, and this has changed in the last few years, like some other things. Any player that’s mentally not ready to play is not going to play. So, when I was in school, they just told us we were ready to play, and we went back out. We probably weren’t ready, but that’s just what we did. Now, there’s more resources for the right reasons, and we have more technology that allows players to get a better feel for where they’re at with an injury. And so, the medical world may tell them you’re good, you’re ready to go, get back in and start practicing and playing, whatever the injury is you have is up and running. But if they don’t want to play mentally, they’re not ready. They’re not going to play. So it solves itself. What I had told the staff on multiple occasions over the last two years is, when you have a player coming off of an injury, he has to go out and practice hard during the week and prove to you that he’s ready to play. You can’t make him practice hard and you prove to him that he’s ready to play, that’s not going to happen. So that’s the route we’ve gone. We don’t push one way or the other with an open week. We let them tell us they’re ready to play.

“Tay Martin had concerns about playing before Boise, so we didn’t take him. He came back last week and was ready to practice and went out, was running around and felt good. We play him. Same thing with [Jaden Bray]. So that’s where you’re at with these guys.”

On Brock Martin’s injury

“Brock’s injury, which is unbelievably painful, is not an injury that ends his season. And we don’t think that he had any internal damage in that area. So, it’s a pain management situation now, just like I had mentioned. As he progresses and starts to manage pain, and then can get flexibility, then he can start working back in and play in games. They’re all different. Brock is going to be back as fast as Brock can be back because Brock has a very high tolerance of pain, and he’s tough. So, when he’s ready, you’ll know he’s ready.”

On Martin’s wrestling background helping him with pain tolerance

“There’s truth to that. The wrestling coach here wrestled in the Olympics with torn ACL. They just do it. So, we’re all different, right? Everybody has a pain tolerance and everybody has a mental makeup. Brock is, ‘Forget the pain, you tell me I’m OK, I’m gonna go play.’ That’s who he is.”

On LD Brown’s status

“He got hurt in Boise, that’s correct. And we had him scoped. So we’ll see. We’ll check on him in two or three weeks, just kind of see where he’s at.”

On Braydon Johnson’s status

“Yeah, I mentioned a week or two ago he’s out for the year.”

On special teams emphasis against Baylor returner Trestan Ebner

“We put a lot of emphasis on it. I think for a number of weeks that I’ve said that we’ve been winning with defense and special teams. Our offense has, to be fair, limped along based on the injury situation. Got a few guys back last week, looked a little better. So, in most cases your special teams yards and your penalty yards versus the team you play, in a game where the teams are relatively pretty even, I mean I think we’re pretty even with them. The point being is that, like what happened Saturday on the kickoff return, that can be the difference in the game. We got it back because we kicked off and we tackled him on the 4- or 5-yard line, then they snapped low, and we got the cheap touchdown, so it became a wash. We got lucky. In most cases, that would be the difference in the game. That kick return would be hard overcome. So Baylor, that guy down there that’s returning those, he’s rolling. He’s pretty good now. We’ll have to work hard. We know what the issue was Saturday with our return. So we have to identify it, we did, put a plan in place to fix it and hope it gets better on Saturday.”

On how much hope he has for continual improvement on offense:

“We all know that by getting (Tay Martin) and (Jaden Bray) back that helps us because now they have to defend more pass instead of just flushing the run. We need to keep them healthy. I’m fairly certain we got out of that game offensively with not having any issues, so we should have all those guys up and running. Then we moved Silas (Barr) to our Cowboy back to help give us a little depth there with Cassity. Cassity was getting a little bit extended from a number standpoint, plays-wise, until Austin Jarrard can pick the pace up a little bit. We should get better every week. We should put together good game plans and continue to get reps at stuff that we’re good. Then it becomes a cat-and-mouse game, right? It becomes them calling plays against us and us calling plays against them. And then after that it comes to turnovers. You turn the ball over, you’re gonna have a hard time winning. That’s kind of where we’re at, but to answer your question, we should get better the week from this point moving forward.”

On when they decided to move Silas Barr to Cowboy back and why him of the offensive linemen:

“Last Sunday I went in and said I need him to move to tight end. … He’s the most agile at that position, 290 pounds. Most of your offensive linemen really can’t do that, but he’s pretty athletic on his feet, moves around pretty good. He came in at 265 and boomed at 290 real quick, so he wasn’t a guy that came in as a 300-pounder. He moves around on his feet pretty good.”

On if Barr was excited about the move:

“I wasn’t the one that told him, but he is excited about catching the pass. That’s a big deal to those guys. We threw him a couple in practice the other day, and he caught them. He’s working on the jugs machine. Offensive linemen getting a chance to catch a pass is a big deal.”

On Rashaun Woods doing the Orange Power chant Saturday, and that being a nice way to keep former players connected with the program:

“It is. We have not done a good job here keeping our former football players involved because it’s not been anybody’s job. Anything that we do in life, if it’s not somebody’s responsibility, it generally gets pushed under the rug, and it doesn’t get taken care of. Oklahoma State needs to do a better job with former football players, one because it is the driving sport in every athletic department, two, because you have mass numbers of graduates that are out there. The more that we can cultivate them and bring them back only helps your program, particularly now with NIL, right? Pretty big deal. So we’re working with the new administration on finding ways to bring former players back and make them feel comfortable and at home to help with the long-term success of this football program.”

On his relationship with Baylor coach Dave Aranda

“He was in the SEC a lot. Then he was up north, I think at Wisconsin or somewhere. So I don’t really know him. I have visited with him two or three times on occasion. I like him. I think he’s a first-class person. I like his values, that’s just my opinion, things he believes in. Conversations he and I have had, we have a lot of the same beliefs in developing young people and talking about their lives beyond football. That’s what he had mentioned to me. Just in the short time I’ve spent with him, I like him. I think he’s a first-class person.”

On Charlie Dickey Jr. celebrating with the team after the K-State game:

“He likes to be around the team. He likes to be around his dad all the time. So they bring him in the locker room, and I didn’t know that he was in the locker room because he’d been in the back, and I can’t see all the way back there. But somebody had mentioned he had been in there. So, that wasn’t something that was planned. I saw him when I came in the locker room, and he kind of got to a point where I saw him, and I said we’ll just let Jr. come up here, and we’ll let him celebrate because I had seen him get excited about things in the past. He knows everything going on, but he’s just not going to let people know about it. So, when we brought him up there, he was ready to roll. Obviously, he had seen me dance because I didn’t tell him to dance. He went with the cartwheel first, which was a good move, got everybody’s attention. It’s funny, he knew what was going on, and he knew what was supposed to happen. Nobody told him that. It was pretty cool.”

On if they’ve actively been more aggressive in the return game this season:

“We’ve put a little more time into it. You know M.K. (Taylor) does all the book work behind the scenes, and Coach Woz (John Wozniak) has taken that over and been fantastic with it, I’ll be honest with you. Coach Woz has a long history with special teams, all the way back when he was working with (Nick) Saban, Coach Saban. So, he’s done a great job, I just call it like it is.”

On if there are any former players in particular he is looking forward to bringing back:

“Oh gosh, there’s so many of them. I don’t know. One thing about Oklahoma State football over the last 50 years is, there’s a lot of big-name players that have come through here. A lot of people across the country don’t know because we didn’t have technology then. There’s quite a few first-round picks. We’ve got NFL Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers and different guys, too many for me to name, but there’s a bunch of them out there. We certainly got enough of them that we can recognize.”

On recognizing the 2011 team this week:

“That’s pretty cool. I know they’re excited about it. There’s been a number of guys that have contacted me and said they’re looking forward to coming back and so on and so forth, and ‘We’ll see you,’ which I’m not going to see them. I don’t have time to see them, but they think I have time to see them but I’m busy. I don’t have time to, but I’m excited about them coming back and being able to spend time with themselves, that’d be awesome.”

On if there are ways the 2011 season lives on for him:

“Things move pretty fast for me. I can barely get over one year and get to another one. There are special years and seasons with guys. For them to be able to accomplish what they did, that year they could have been the best team in the country. We’ll never know, but they very well could have been. So, those things are always special and important, no question, but with me, we kind of go to the next one and get rolling.”

On recruiting Rashod Owens:

“Well, there wasn’t really a recruiting process. Nobody else recruited him. We ended up finding him, locating him, liking him, did our research and offered him a scholarship, and he took it. He was a triple jumper, made plays on tape. I can’t give you a reason why nobody recruited him. I’d like to make the story better, but I don’t know why nobody recruited him. But there wasn’t any recruiting at all. We offered him, he took it and he showed up.”

On recruiting guys who are overlooked:

“He falls in that category. He’s a redshirt freshman, so he’s playing pretty good. He’s developing his body. He’s probably 210 now or something like that, probably runs in mid 4.5s. He’s athletic. He’s a triple jumper. He works hard, is a good kid, fits our culture, doing good, so he could fall in that category.”

On how they found Owens:

“Kasey (Dunn) will know. I wish I could tell you. They just brought the tape into me, I looked at it, I looked at the measurables, look at his numbers, look at his triple jump, they said he was a good kid, wants to do things right and all that. I said, we need to take him, but I don’t know how they got to that point.”

On prospects from San Antonio often getting looked over:

“Yeah, surprisingly. You’re sitting right there between Baylor and A&M and Texas. I don’t know why.”

On Jarrick Bernard-Converse’s development:

“He was our player of the game. They targeted him eight times. They went after him pretty good in the first quarter. They only had two catches for 15 yards. He was a big factor in this game. You would have to ask them, but after a while they quit targeting him, quit going after him. But they went after him several times in first 10 minutes of the game. He’s been around forever, had a lot of reps. He gets it. He’s seen a lot, doesn’t panic, makes a play at the last second. Corners that are new, they see that they could potentially maybe give up a catch, and they panic at the last second. He doesn’t do that, he just has too much experience.”

On if Bernard-Converse is “quite a bit better” than he was last year:

“He’s playing better, I don’t know about quite a bit. He’s been a pretty good player for a long time. He’s just a year more into experience and still playing good.”

On if he can tell who is good in the Big 12:

“In the conference? I’ll give you one better than that, I’m a voter for … what do I vote for?I’m a typical politician, ‘What did I just vote for? I know these lobbyists told me to do it, so that’s just what I voted for. I didn’t read the bill, but …’ So anyway, the Coaches Poll? OK, so I vote for the Coaches Poll. So, first thing I do on Sunday mornings is try to be as diligent and do a good job. If you’re going to do something, don’t just throw something together, so I try to look at scores and see where everybody’s at, who played who, which we know those comparisons are out the window, more so now than ever in football. … You see scores, and you don’t understand how to rank people in this conference, or even national. You get from one through a certain number, which is not as far as you would think, and then you get to maybe six or seven all the way through 25, and you don’t really know where to put anybody. I mean I have a hard time. You try to do it as fair as possible, but I don’t know where to put anybody. So, I had no idea where to put anybody, in this conference or anywhere in the country. I don’t mind saying it, I think Georgia is pretty good. I put them wherever they were, but once you get to a certain point, you don’t know who to put where. I don’t.”

On if it’s harder or easier to rank his team:

“It’s really the same. I’ve said this, I don’t think there should be any rankings come out until Oct. 1 if they gave them any credit. Now, we all like newspapers, magazines, talk radio, people that talk on TV. We do it because of that. It’s fun, but I always say this, about the middle of October I kind of know who we are, where we’re at. I would say that’s probably true this year. And I’m very hesitant to put my team in a spot anywhere near or higher where it should be. I normally put my team, if it’s deserving, two or three or four spots lower because I just give other people a little more credit.”

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