The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said at His Weekly Media Luncheon

October 11, 2021

STILLWATER — After some extended time off, Mike Gundy and the Cowboys are back at it.

Gundy held his weekly media luncheon Monday in Boone Pickens Stadium. Here is what he had to say.

Opening Statement

“We brought the guys back last night, and we practiced a little bit. They were gone Thursday, Friday, Saturday and had a good workout. Then a day off today and in obviously into Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday. Travel down a little bit earlier since we have an early kickoff and go from there. It’ll be a real challenge for us. I mention that each week, and it seems like we’ve gone against teams that have played a little better and more athletic teams. This will be the most athletic team that we’ve competed against so far. It’ll be important for us to minimize big plays and try to keep the quarterback corralled, keep him pinned up. He runs around pretty good. Running back is a good player, obviously, and they have skill with the wideout spot. Defensively, they’re gonna be big and physical up front. They have the ability to pressure quarterbacks. Athletic in the back end. So, I mean you’re talking about Texas. I don’t need to stand here and convince people that they have good players. We have to have a good plan in all three phases and have good week of practice and go down and compete.”

On getting the team back after an extended break

“We get them a half of practice, just based on they’re gone and let them kind of work the kinks out. This is a mature team, for the most part. They’ve handled themselves really well. I didn’t really have a concern with letting them have the time off for that reason. When they got back, they started as practice got going and they got back into the flow. They were fine. We had a productive workout last night.”

On how different Bijan Robinson is from the running backs OSU has faced thus far

“He’s a good player. You’ve seen him throughout the year. Has the ability to make guys miss. He runs through tackles. In my opinion, if you run in and don’t wrap up, you know, just kind of cut block, for lack of a better term, you’re not going to get him down. You’re going to have to wrap and roll to get him down. I think we saw some of that over the last few weeks where he will bounce off tackles, and he has the ability to make you miss. He’s a really good player. We’re aware of that. We feel like we have to stop him, but then you also have to defend against their misdirection play-action pass where they chunk the ball downfield.”

On if this is a clash of styles with how Texas has played in shootouts and OSU has played in more low-scoring games

“Yeah, I’d prefer to not get in a shootout with them. They’ve done some of that with big plays. They accomplished some of that Saturday with big plays. We all know that in this league defensively, one of the most important things that we can get accomplished is minimizing the big plays, and I would prefer to not get in a shootout with them.”

On what he remembers about recruiting Texas quarterback Casey Thompson

“Well, we offered him, I think he was a junior, early his junior year, maybe. I can’t remember. That’s been a long time ago. We offered him. We liked him from Day 1. He came to camp. (Charles Thompson, Casey’s father) and his wife came up in my office, and we visited and had good conversation. (Mike) Yurcich and myself told him we felt like that he’d be a really good player in the Big 12 conference and wanted him to come to Oklahoma State. Charles, I asked him if he was OK with that. He said, ‘Sure, if he wants to come to Oklahoma State, I’m good with it.’ And then we offered and kind of hung around, but in the end we weren’t in the picture for whatever reason.”

On recruiting Thompson and Spencer Sanders at the same time

“Well, you tell one, one thing; you tell one the other. Or I could just say we told them both the same things, but that wasn’t true. So, you tell him he’s the best player, and you tell him he’s the best player. ‘You’re the guy we want,’ and ‘You’re the guy we want.’ We liked both of them. We felt like they were both quarterbacks that could really develop throwing the ball and then be able to rush the ball effectively. We liked both of them. We went after both them. Obviously, we weren’t going to take both, so it was kind of first come, first serve.”

On how different Texas looks under Steve Sarkisian

“He’s doing the same thing he’s done offensively for a while. I haven’t gone back and looked at what he did on the West Coast and studied it, but I’m gonna go with what he has done at Alabama. Wants to rush the football and play-action and throw it over your head, screens and motions and movements and try to get you out of position.”

On how long he has known Charles Thompson, Casey’s father

“We didn’t do all that travel sports like they do now. When we played football and baseball as little kids, we didn’t get out of the Oklahoma City area much unless we were doing something different. So I didn’t really cross paths with him until like ninth and 10th grade. Then we knew each other, and we played on the same All-State team together. Quinn Grovey and myself and Charles were on the same team, on the West Team.”

On how that All-State team split QB reps

“Well, I had an advantage. My head coach was the head coach, Coach Evans. I think I started the game, and we rotated in, I can’t remember. It’s been so long ago, but I think I had a little help with who the coach was.

“So, OU wanted all three quarterbacks. They wanted me late. They didn’t decide they wanted me in January, which I didn’t know what recruiting was, so I thought that was what was supposed to be, but they had gone off to Quinn and CT way earlier, which makes sense. And then I think Arkansas wanted the two of them. Arkansas never recruited me, I don’t think. And then OSU, obviously, went after all three of them. So, it was pretty interesting year.”

On Casey Thompson waiting his turn at Texas

“I was thinking about him the other day. I think he’s been in the portal three times, maybe. He’s went back and forth, I can’t remember all the details, which it doesn’t matter what I was thinking. He’s been through a lot, but (Sam) Ehlinger was there forever. And then you had a number of other guys … There’s a whole group of them there, and he just kind of went in the portal and hung around and whatever, and then this year he didn’t start for a couple games. Then he’s got in and done real well. I was watching the game Saturday and visiting with the boys and people there at the house, I was happy for him because he’s been around. … He has another year. I was happy for him. He’s hung around and getting to play, and he’s obviously playing very well.”

On Boise State and Baylor both winning Saturday

“I watched a little bit of the Boise game, and they played well. BYU turned the ball over. Then I did not see any the Baylor game. I just saw the score at the end.

“Obviously, if you play somebody and win and then they continue to have some success, you feel better than if they would have gotten thumped about yourself. But the matchups in today’s game are so different. Some people can make a comparison and think that this should happen, when if the matchups aren’t good, it’s difficult for that to happen. Each week is a little different. The challenge we have in this game that I mentioned five minutes ago, trying to stop them, is different than the challenge that we would have had like with Boise. So each week it’s a different challenge on both sides of the ball.”

On planning a first drive

“What most coordinators across the country do, and then what we do in our system here, I think Kasey (Dunn) is 18, I always had 22 plays that you have that you wanted to run those plays before halftime, to make sure you were able to run the plays you thought gave you the best chance to score points. And then maybe identify deficiencies or see how they lined up to tell you what to do later in the game. About 75% of the time that I was calling plays that happened, sometimes you don’t get through it. That means things aren’t going very good, and you really have to regroup at halftime. I think it’s 18 plays for Kasey and our offensive staff now is what he lays out that he wants to get run in the first half. Those are 1st-and-10 and 2nd-and-normal, not your third-down calls or your goal-line calls.”

On if it’s important for OSU to start quickly with how they’ve played defensively this season

“You want to score early. You want to try to get to where you’re in a position that you’re not becoming one-dimensional offensively. If you’re one-dimensional offensively then, in today’s game in my opinion, you could be deficient in areas because defensive linemen, particularly outside pass rushers, are getting much better each year. They’re almost like the NFL, to where if they know it’s a pass, it’s extremely difficult to protect. I’m an offensive lineman, you’re more athletic than me, and we’re both running back here, and I’m trying to keep you from getting to him and he knows where he’s going, and I don’t know where you’re going. It’s a tough issue. It’s affecting this level almost like it is in the NFL, and if you become one-dimensional if you don’t keep yourself in the game, then you’re at a disadvantage because now your offensive line really has to protect when the other team knows you’re going to be throwing passes.”

On if the way Texas lost to OU helps OSU

“I was thinking the same thing you did. I don’t know anymore. I’m guessing that they were upset. Not visibly, but just dejected, maybe. They pay Sarkisian a lot of money to fix them and get it right this week. He’s got a lot of experience, so I’m sure he’ll handle it the right way emotionally.”

On how he would handle that situation with his team

“Well, again, I can’t speak for him. For me, you tell them the truth. That’s the way you deal with young people today, in my opinion, is you tell them the truth. This is what happened. This is why it happened. These were the good things that we want to build on. This is the thing that didn’t work out for us. Here’s the plan of how to fix it, and then here’s how we’re going to put this plan in place to make it better next week. Just tell them the truth. Sometimes they don’t always want to hear that, player or coach, but for me that’s what I’ve learned in being a head coach for a long time. I do the same thing with the staff. I go in there, sometimes, I say, ‘Here’s what I see. This was not good. This was not good. This was not good. I want to know what y’all think.’ Or, ‘Great game plan. Good schemes. Good schemes.’ Because I’m going to take notes for next year. I do that with the players and the coaches. Just tell them the truth.”

On it being up to the players

“It’s the same thing I tell the players, ‘We (coaches) don’t play in the games. You play in the games. You’re the players. We’re gonna give you a plan, and we’re not always perfect. We could be wrong, but most of the time around here for 17 years we’ve been pretty accurate in what we think we need to do to have success and win a game, but you have to go play. You’re the one out there. We’re all old and done.’ So, it’s all about the team. They have to rally amongst themselves and bring things together and be willing to go play. We’ll take about 80 players to this game. It’s 52.5 wide and 120 long, and they get 11 and we get 11. That about wraps it up. So these guys have to be willing to compete and play hard and buy into the plan. Coach Sark is trying to get his guys to do the same thing.”

On the importance of special teams and Zach Middleton being used on kickoff return

“He’s always practiced really hard and done well. He’s a little bit of a jack of all trades in a lot of areas in special teams and can help us doing different things. With this football team, we rely on the defense to play well, and to be sound in special teams and try to create an advantage. We feel like that that’s how we’ve won games up to this point. Now, that doesn’t mean the defense is going to continue to do this every week. At some point, I hope not, but maybe they don’t play as good. Then offensively, we have to play a little better and then we certainly better be sound in special teams. We’re getting better offensively. We’ve been poor in the second half. I don’t know why. Normally we’ve been very productive in the second half. We’ve seen what we’re getting, made adjustments. Our offense allows us flexibility to make easy adjustments. We haven’t gotten that this year, and we’re certainly aware of it and trying to fix it. But I don’t understand why yet.”

On if he can take anything OU did against Bijan Robinson and if there is anyone Robinson reminds him of

“He’s a good player now. He’s gonna be a pro player. I think he’s young. He’s a sophomore or something. If I was him, I’d just stay one more year and leave. I wouldn’t stay around. But he’s a really good player, and here’s why I think he’s a good player because he has good balance and he bounces off tackles. Like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t wrap and bring him down, if you just go in and try to knock him down, I have not seen much success there. And he has elusiveness and is willing to break away. So he’s got the entire package, in my opinion. That’s why it’ll be a real challenge for us. But, Oklahoma had some answers, defensively, in the second half, and in my opinion, it started with putting pressure on the quarterback. Then it allowed them to help themselves with the run.”

On what Israel Antwine does well

“He’s a big, 305-pound guy that can get in a gap. He’s really strong, and he’s improving on disengaging off of blocks. When he got here, he was a long ways away from being able to disengage and go make a play. Offenses have somebody to block everybody on the field, except one person. That’s the way offensive plays are designed. Just to be in a gap and be a big, heavyset guy in a gap is not helping us. We needed him to disengage and get off and make a play. He’s learning to do that over the last six weeks. He’s improved in that area. He has the physical characteristics because he’s got the size and the strength. Now we need him to improve technique, fundamental-wise and then disengage and go make plays in space.”

On Israel Antwine’s personality

“He’s like some other players that I’ve talked about in the past. Without engaging in a direct conversation with him, I’ve never heard him say a word. Now, if you engage in a direct conversation with him, he’s very delightful. He’ll talk to you forever, but he’s just a little bit to himself. Very, very talented, very intelligent, and he’s kind of those guys that you get something out of him and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ And he’s that way just like he imitates the former president.”

On Israel Antwine pushing in the weight room

“He loves to be in the weight room. People that are naturally really strong, and then like to get stronger, like to be in the weight room, just like fast people like to run track. Guys like me don’t like to run track because I’m not fast. But he loves to be in the weight room and puts a lot of time in it. He was doing that in high school, and he is naturally very strong, and he likes to drive other guys through those actions not so verbally, doesn’t say a lot, but he likes to do that through his actions.”

On what allowed Oklahoma State to reach Texas’ level

“Well, we started bringing in good players. You know if you don’t have players somewhat on an equal level you can win games and the other team be more talented, but as we know, Vegas will tell you if the other team’s more talented, then they’re going to win most of the games most of the time. So, you can win if your talent level on paper is not the same, but you have to have enough good players to keep yourself in a game, somehow, which we’ve done in the last 10 years or however many years, I’m not sure. And then once we were able to win some of those games we developed a confidence that everything’s gonna be OK, let’s just go play. And so some of that is a natural progression through confidence and success, and then the other part of it is having enough players that can go toe-to-toe with them long enough to stay in the game to find a way to win.”

On if he used Texas as a benchmark

“I don’t think that I’ve ever used — I had this discussion last night walking off the practice field — them in a position like that because the two schools in this league that have national recognition has been Texas and OU. I’ve not really ever used them as a game where, ‘Guys, if we can just do this, this is kind of who we are.’ And the reason why is because I have to play a game next week. So, we need to prepare and play the very best we can and compete in this game, and then kind of like what we just discussed, like if you have a tough loss, I can’t have you going in the tank and then not play well next week, unfortunately. It’s on week-to-week as you guys know in our profession. So I haven’t really done that.

“Years ago, I think I did ask them if there was anybody in our room on a team meeting that had it on a scholarship offer from Texas, and I needed you to raise hands, and I think we had one guy that raised his hand out of the 130 players. I don’t remember who that guy was. And so I said, ‘Then you guys owe it to yourself to play a good game.’ I don’t remember what I said, but something like that.”

On if recently he has had more players with Texas offers

“I don’t know if we have anybody that’s been offered by Texas. … I could be wrong, so don’t hold me on that one. I don’t think we have. … Let’s put it this way, it’s a low percentage. … I don’t bring it up much. I think they have respect for Texas, like we do as coaches. I think they go play. I don’t think they concern themselves with all that, I just think they go play.”

On difficulty of finding stability in a college football program

“Stability is difficult in today’s game. It was really difficult, like 2010 through about 2017, there was a lot of volatility with people with coaches and ADs and, ‘Let’s go get another guy,’ and certain things like that. And then, because of that, what happened is it drove the market up with coaches with guaranteed salaries because coaches that were winning saw what was happening when there was — it almost became the NFL, where one or two years and you’re out, which is crazy. You see it in the NFL a little bit. So it was really volatile during that time, and it’s settled down a little bit in the last two or three years, where I think most presidents and athletic directors realize kind of the way college sports are, and it’s kind of settled a little bit. So, if you would have asked me in 2010 to say that [Texas] would have had four coaches over a 10-year period, I would have said no way. I would agree with that.”

On if that allows him to appreciate his situation more

“I appreciate my situation here every day because it’s hard. It’s difficult to be at a place for an extended period of time and have success. It’s just hard. And, I mean, there’s nobody that’s gone through more trials and tribulations in one place than me. Well, I don’t know, I mean, I wouldn’t think. Nobody ever knows what goes on behind closed doors. But, you have the guy at Iowa, Coach (Kirk) Ferentz has been there forever at Iowa, and then Gary (Patterson’s) been here and he was in a different league, and then got in our league. Then I think me, right? So, it’s not an easy situation. But, most of the people around here want me here, and I’ve always wanted to be here. I’ve had chances to go a lot of places, but in the end this is kind of who I am. This is my home, so I don’t really care for much of the other stuff. But I do not take for granted, and I am very fortunate to be in this situation because it’s not easy. I’m going to be able to get my children through one school. My youngest one’s a junior, so chances are he’s going to get to graduate from here. So all three of my boys have gone through one school system, pretty rare in my profession. And that was something that was important to me from Day 1. I just didn’t want to move all over the country, some people don’t care, I wasn’t fired up about that.”

On the leadership of the defense

“Collin Clay, we were expecting him to be 40-play a game guy that’s not here. We’ll get [Clay and Trace Ford] back next year, but (Kolby) Harvell-Peel has been excellent for us a leader. He’s practiced extremely hard, he’s played hard and he’s enjoying the year. In my opinion, he’s doing what we try to get our children to do, is embrace where you’re at in life and live for this day, and don’t worry about whatever. Just have fun. Well, he’s doing that this year, and if you noticed how much better he’s playing this year. I thought last year he played good but not great. I think this year he’s playing great, up to this point. Now, I mean he’s made a mistake and whatever, but still, he has really helped our team from a leadership standpoint. When you talk about him, you talk about [Tanner McCalister], you talk about [Jarrick Bernard-Converse], talk about [Christian Holmes], you talk about [Brock Martin], [Devin Harper], all those guys have been really, really good leaders, and I haven’t had to push them. They’ve pushed themselves. If I have to push them, then we’re not going to be as good because I can’t do it, they gotta want to do it themselves. So far they’ve done that, and they’ve contributed to that.”

On the collective talent on the defensive line

“We’ve been able to play these guys, and they really haven’t gotten more than 40 snaps from the other guys that have been able to help out. [Ben Kopenski] has been down there, [Jayden Jernigan] has been down there. I don’t know what (Tryen) Irby’s number is, but he played some. And, you know, in an earlier year, Aden Kelley had to play. So we’ve had a few guys that have helped us out and gave us some some reps.”

On how Jason Taylor

“He’s doing fine and gaining valuable experience. This week will be a real challenge for him because these guys do a good job of violating the eyes of the safeties with misdirection passing and trying to throw the ball, across the field, down the field, you watched it Saturday. And so this will be a real challenge for those guys to make sure they don’t get their eyes violated.”

On Jarrick Bernard-Converse

“He’s been really good for us. And there’s been teams go after him, and he’s been very successful. [Texas will] go after him too. They know how to get into certain personnel groupings and formations to set themselves up and go after those guys. I mean, they know that. So we’ll have some of that at times based on the diversification of our coverages, so they’ll try to get him in a situation to do the same thing, but he’s been awesome.”

On Brock Martin’s, Dezmon Jackson’s and Tyren Irby’s statuses

“I thought we would have [Jackson] last week, and he didn’t even practice. So it’s hard for me to predict. But none of those guys are out for the year. And we’re trying to get them back into practice this week. How much they can handle from the contact from Tuesday and Wednesday will determine where we’re at with them. But any of those guys you mentioned are still practicing with us.”

On how the bye week helped players like Jaylen Warren get rest

“I thought last night they looked fresh, and once we got into practice they were fine. We gave them quite a bit of time off, [Sunday] night’s practice was not much at all. Then another day off [Monday]. I’m expecting crisp practices Tuesday and Wednesday.”

On Spencer Sanders’ footwork

“I was telling you, he didn’t set his feet, and it’s not all his fault. We didn’t protect him very well. And so, I hate to do it, but he’s swinging a golf club like this. He’s not square, he’s not balanced, he’s not athletic and he’s not moving forward in a position to be an effective thrower. Three or four of those times it wasn’t his fault because there’s a bad guy in his face. Couple times was his fault because he didn’t set his feet, maybe anticipating that, I’m not sure, but that’s just the way it is. But he understands that and Coach (Tim) Rattay understands that, and we’re working on it. And it’s fixable.”

On what things Malcolm Rodriguez does right

“He takes good angles, and he runs. He’s very savvy, and so he can see things. He’s been here for a long time. He sees plays developing, he can see and he takes good angles and able to get guys down. And then because of wrestling, he’s a really good tackler.”

On if he cheers for long-term coaches like Gary Patterson, Kirk Ferentz and Kyle Whittingham

“I do. Kyle, he and I don’t cross paths because they live in the West Coast recruiting, and we don’t really go out there a whole lot. But he’s been there, what 17, 16 years, something? And I’m gonna guess it’s not been a cakewalk. He’s had a real challenge there and doing it, done really well, and had a lot of success. So, I kind of watch those guys. About a month ago, I had about a 45-minute long conversation with Coach Ferentz, about an hour, 45-minute conversation on some things. I wanted to make some comparisons on, and it’s easy to talk to him because he’s already been through all the things I’ve been through. So, I kind of get it, he gets it.”

On Rashod Owens playing multiple receiver spots

“We have enough players healthy wide receiver-wise to where he can stay where he’s supposed to be now. And this week we’re only planning on practicing him at that spot because we have the other guys back. You got the Green twin that’s back, and [Brennan Presley’s] back, [John Paul Richardson] is healthy again. So we have guys that we can rotate to where we don’t have to move him around. I don’t know if he was ever comfortable doing that because he just was only freshman.”

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