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

October 18, 2021

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy’s Cowboys are unbeaten and in a driver’s seat to get to Arlington.

Oklahoma State’s coach met with reporters Monday in Boone Pickens Stadium ahead of his team’s clash with Iowa State this weekend. Here is what he said. The video of this conference will be at the bottom.

Opening Statement

“The guys were in a great mood last night, obviously we had a light practice and a day off today. So we’re heavy into Iowa State. This will be another big challenge for us. Statistically, arguably, whatever comment you want to make, the best defense that we have played, or could potentially play based on what people say. They’ve been pretty good for a number of years, and starting to come around in my opinion, just an outsider, obviously. I don’t have information on what goes on in their camp, but playing considerably better over the last three, four weeks, just for me, an outsider looking in. (Brock) Purdy’s playing good. Played good again Saturday. Tight ends are obviously playing good. (Breece Hall) is what we thought he was. So, we will need a great week of practice. We need to be able to stay focused. We’re expecting a fourth-quarter game. This is a good football team, and so we’ll have to do a great job of coaching and getting all that information to the guys. Get some quality work and head north to play a ballgame.”

On what has made it to where Oklahoma State can win close games each week

“There’s a lot of talk about, you know it’s good to win close games. It helps you later in the year. I don’t know if anybody’s ever been able to scientifically prove that that’s right or wrong, but I would say that being in a number of close games and understanding that you can find a way to win if somebody will make a play, and the term that’s used a lot is find a way to finish a game. From that standpoint, I think it helps our team because we’ve done it. Unfortunately, pretty much every game we’ve been in this situation. So, if we get in that situation, you would like to think that we wouldn’t panic, we could make plays down the stretch.”

On dominating opponents in 2011 season and losing at Iowa State in a close game

“We were able to save a lot of legs in ’11. Very few of our starters were playing half way through the third quarter that year. We were able to get later into the season, and we were fresh. We don’t have that luxury this year. But I would say that we have been in enough close games that the maturity that we have, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, is helping us. There is a lot of experience with those guys that are on the field in that situation.”

On if the 2021 Oklahoma State defense is deeper than 2011

“Oh yeah. We’re playing more guys now than we have in a number of years. That team, it was interesting, they were on the field a lot because the offense wasn’t on the field very much, because they four or five plays and they scored. And they were back on the field and then they got themselves off the field through turnovers. These guys, this group’s a little different because we have more depth and we’re able to rotate some guys in. And we’re not getting as many plays. We had 82 plays down here offensively, but that hadn’t been where we were at this year. So the number of plays has been reduced compared to that season.”

On Matt Campbell

“Over the years, he’s been very complimentary of me and our program when I visit with him. I see him at Big 12 meetings and such, we haven’t had those in a couple years. I don’t run into him on the recruiting trail much. We don’t cross paths recruiting-wise much, so I don’t see him a lot. You’d have to ask Matt, I think his first year or two, he was trying to gather as much information as he could. He seems to be a very smart coach. I know that he was doing the same thing with Coach (Bill) Snyder. 

“He probably sees similarities in the programs and how to build things and such. But, I mean he and I have always gotten along good. We just don’t see each other much. Of course, I don’t talk to anybody, so I don’t really keep communication with people through the phone or texting.”

On if it is eerie going to Iowa State undefeated and if he uses the 2011 season to motivate the team

“Not really. I just don’t know if that has an impact. I will go back to what I’ve always believed in, and I shared it with the team and the coaches both last night separately, and then together, that really the only thing we can hang our hat on is our preparation from last night until our last walk through Saturday morning. There’s so many moving parts in so many different areas that you can’t really pin anything down other than, ‘Guys look, we have to prepare.’ The truth of the matter is this, that as long as we focus and practice well, and we’re disciplined and we’re a tough football team, we have a chance to win fourth quarter games. We’re not physically and skill-wise overwhelming like we were or have been in past on really good teams to where we know that we’re gonna come out of this game and we’re gonna win by 20 points. That’s not the type of football team we have right now. So our players have to understand it. My job is to be upfront and honest with them and tell them the truth, coaches and players. Coaches are responsible for not putting their feet up on the handlebars and riding downhill. We have to continue to work hard during the week and then the players have to focus and practice well to give themselves the best chance.

“Because you just look at, in our league right now, it looks like with the quarterback change, Oklahoma is playing really well right now. And I’m sure they’re ranked really high. And then the other teams, everybody’s just kind of playing like each other. There’s not a lot of difference for the most part for the majority of the conference.

“So what’s the difference? Well, it’s going to be the team that practices well and focuses on their opponent, in my opinion. Turnovers, big plays and tackling — that’s really what it comes down to if you just watch the games where most of the teams in our league are very equal. And I’m gonna say that this might be an unusual year, most of the teams across the country, with the exception of three or four teams, maybe, I’m not sure, everybody’s kind of in the same boat.”

On what’s the “secret sauce” on making sure the players continue to try and prove themselves when they already have

“I think you have to tell them the truth, and what I just mentioned was that, for us to think, or me, or our staff, to think that we’re just a dominant, traditional top-10 team when they play games that they normally don’t have their starters in in the fourth quarter. But there’s not a lot of teams this year that are like that, including us. We’re not in that position. We’ve won games different ways this year. As I mentioned, our maturity and our experience has helped us to make way, particularly on defense. We’ve worked well together as a coaching staff, and some of the decisions we’ve made of how to play the game and approach the game have helped us. The only thing that I would lean on, to answer your question, is we have to tell them the truth, so they understand that, when we’re at the point in the season that we are, there’s fatigue that sets in across the country, physically and mentally for coaches and players. And if we back off any at all, then we make ourselves susceptible and we’re not playing as well on Saturday versus teams that are capable of beating us if they play better than we do. And I tell the players that because I believe that’s true.”

On if he has had teams that handled success differently

“In college, yeah. You have different personalities based on who you’re marquee players are, like, when we started the season, I don’t think any of us would have predicted at this point that Jaylen Warren would have been the marquee player. Well, we’re fortunate, Jaylen Warren, as I said, he’s humble, he’s unselfish, he’s tough, and so that’s kind of the mold that we’ve directed ourselves to offensively with his leadership. And you get the same thing on defense. You’ve got Brock Martin that plays in games he shouldn’t be playing games because of his health. You have (Malcolm) Rodriguez that brings that tough, natural wrestling mentality, and then you have all of the maturity with (Devin) Harper and (Kolby Harvell-Peel) and (Tanner) McCalister and (Jarrick Bernard-Converse) and Christian (Holmes) this year, and other guys that I’ll miss, (Brendon) Evers, that give them a little lift because they’re pretty humble guys, and they just like being a part of the team. So, we don’t really have any issues that we have to battle to get ahead of ourselves handling success.”

On what stood out the last six drives defensively against Texas

“I think our ability to roll more players in is helping us, particularly up front. The game, college game, has changed again, in my opinion. We went to fast-paced, no-huddles, then we started running RPOs here, RPOs went all over the country. And RPOs kind of weeded themselves out a little bit with more heavyset formations over the last two or three years that we’re seeing that you haven’t seen. Now, the biggest adjustment in college football is the pass-rushers have gotten better than they ever have been, like in the NFL. For years, the NFL was controlled by the two guys rushing the quarterback on the edge. College football hadn’t made that transition yet from an athleticism standpoint. Now it has. Guys can control games, like (Will McDonald) at Iowa State, he can control the game rushing the quarterback. So that would be where the game has changed, and our defensive front, we keep people fresh because we have a number of guys healthy. And they’re playing well enough at our level that when they’re fresh, they can affect the offense. And I think that’s what you’re seeing, and that’s what happened in the later part of this last game.”

On if there are similarities between Bijan Robinson and Breece Hall

“Two different backs, both being very good, both of them going to play in the NFL, very successful. (Robinson) is electric and flash, cut, make people miss, break tackles, run away from you. (Hall) is very patient, runs a lot like Thurman Thomas used to run. He’ll sit around and wait, and then hit a seam. Very patient runner, and very productive in what he tries to get accomplished.”

On if the Big 12 feels more like a running back league now

“It is a running back league. We’re going into week four now that if you’re not focused on wrapping this guy up and getting him down — Kansas State’s [Deuce Vaughn] was that way, right? Baylor’s [Trestan Ebner] was that way, [Bijan Robinson] was that way and [Breece Hall] is that way. So there’s really, really good running backs. Our running back is a good player. There’s good ones in this league.”

On why his personalities connects with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles

“So a number of years ago, and I don’t remember when because it’s been so long now, somebody asked when I’m going through a hiring process — my guess is it probably would have been when we were looking to hire an offensive coordinator — what is it that you’re looking for? You might remember that I said that, after doing this about six to eight years as a head coach, I realized that if I hired somebody that’s smart, and they’ll be loyal to the program, they’ll figure out what to do and how to be successful. So when I came across coach Knowles during the interview process, I didn’t know that he has an Ivy League grad until he got here. I just knew his history and what he had done. And then I realized he was an Ivy League grad. And then when he came in and interviewed, there was a little bit of mad scientist side to him, you know, Dexter’s Laboratory, do you ever see that? Do your kids watch that? Kind of that side to him. 

“When he got here, you would have to ask him, my perception was that he thought that his concepts and scheme based on what he’s done for 30 years of coaching would work anywhere he went and it didn’t matter. And I think he realized for the first year and a half or two that that wasn’t going to work in this league when we had all these NFL quarterbacks. So he’s transitioned into a different concept of what he feels like gives us the best chance to have success, but where he’s made the most strides is, he’s a veteran coach and still willing to change. And you don’t see that a lot in our profession. Guys that have been doing this at our level for a long time, most of them don’t want to change who they are. They want to try to change the people who they’re playing, which is not going to happen anymore. Coaches are too smart for that, so he’s highly intelligent and pretty low-key, to himself, goes in his office, closes the door, the keys are hanging in the key hole and then he’ll come out four or five hours later with a plan that he wants, that he thinks is good. Gets with the guys, they mix and match and get together, and then he calls his plays. Where he is a leg ahead or above other people on game day is as a play caller. He’s fantastic. It’s just a fact.”

On if he had to learn over time just how good Jim Knowles is at calling plays during games

“Well, I wish I would be able to say yes to that, it would make me look smarter, but I never did ask that question. He’s very calm. He’s a fast thinker. He thinks really fast. He reacts to things. And I say this every week, I don’t know how much longer that our guys can keep playing like they are and not having a let down or whatever, but we can state the facts, it is what it is, the guy’s highly intelligent. He has a demeanor in practice that’s a little bit old school, and the players like it. They don’t go against it. They buy into it. On game days, very, very calm, and he’s a fantastic play caller.

“On 4th-and-3 on Saturday, he dropped eight. I mean you guys probably saw it from up there. Who drops eight on 4th-and-3? He dropped eight and confused the quarterback. Quarterback trembled, and we tackled him. I wouldn’t have. I would have blitzed, but I’m just saying, that’s why he wins it. He’s smarter than me.”

On how difficult it is to find a coach that is smart and willing to change

“That’s what I was saying, it’s difficult to find guys my age that have been doing something for 30-something years and aren’t set in there ways. I’ll put it that way, his willingness to look in the mirror and what his philosophies are and say, ‘It’s probably not going to work.’ That’s where he’s made his biggest strides, and then he’s good at what he does. He’s good at finding ways to do things. He gets caught, I mean they all get caught at times, but overall he’s usually in the right spot.”

On Jason Taylor’s pick-six

“Again, it started with the play call, where Jim (Knowles) had a feel for what he thought was going to happen. So he called the coverage were he drops down, right? And Jason did a good job of disguise. You know, it’s a disadvantage of college football being in shotgun all the time compared to a lot of NFL teams that are under the center where the quarterbacks eyes are always on the defense. Well, in college, we’re in a shotgun, so I can see what’s going on, but then when I ask for the ball, I’m looking at the ball because I have to catch the ball. I don’t know what’s going on now, and then I have to relocate coverage. That’s the difficult part about playing quarterback at this level because of all the shotgun play.

“So sometimes what happens is that depending on the pass rush and the seven offensive linemen, visibility can be disturbed for a quarterback. And then, you’d have to ask him, obviously [Casey Thompson] didn’t see him. He dropped down and didn’t see him and then after that it was too late. It’s one of the ones you throw and you wish you had a string on it because you can see it happening, about halfway there you know it’s not good. I’ve done it. I know. It’s a bad feeling. It was a very well-executed scheme, and it was a good play call at the right time and it was the biggest play of the game, without question.”

On Spencer Sanders performance at Texas

“We didn’t protect him well enough, and we put him on the run. I go back to when you put a quarterback on the run, you put them in a situation they don’t function. Now, are there a couple throws that he could have hit? Sure, but that’s consistent across the country. We have to protect him better early in the game where he can get comfortable and set his feet.”

On if OSU was about to go for it on fourth down before the half ended and Gundy called a timeout

“Well, that was your offensive coordinator not understanding what down it was. I said your offensive coordinator, not mine. And I had to go run it down and call a timeout. That can happen, too. I have called plays a number of years and get into the game and realized I started to call a play and somebody said, ‘Coach, do you know it’s fourth down?’ And I said, ‘Yes, punt.’ We were going fast before halftime and this and that. He called a play and didn’t realize it was fourth down. So, that’s what happened.”

On Spencer Sanders not putting blame on his teammates

“He’s been great. He’s been great in that area. He’s matured. He’s gotten over that, taking things personal, and he handled himself really well in the game. He had a lot of friends that were in the stands there talking to him throughout the game that were beating up on him pretty good. He stayed focused, didn’t pay attention to trash behind him and all that. That’s not always the easiest thing to do, particularly if you’re not playing as well as you think you should or statistically based on what was going on. I’ll say it again, we didn’t protect him well, so made it difficult on him. He takes a lot of that, and he stayed focused and blocked everything out and continued on. As the game went on, he played better.”

On the team handling the atmosphere in Austin

“Our guys handled the sound well. We had a procedure, and then we had the issue right there on the one snap. That’s a good example of why, when you’re playing shotgun offense like we do, that quarterbacks, unless you have to, you can never take your eye off that ball because he might snap it early, which he did. It was, obviously, not intended, but unless there’s a reason for you looking somewhere else, you got to kind of make sure that out of your peripheral vision, you at least have an idea what’s going on, but it is hard.”

On if Jason Taylor’s pick-six was the biggest play in the game

“No question. No question.”

On Rashod Owens and Brennan Presley being able to handle the moment despite being younger

“They’re both young, still gaining valuable experience being in those types of situations. (Presley) played a little bit last year, so he’s a little further ahead. (Owens) is just getting into it, but he would get a good grade for me on how he’s expedited his maturity and experience because he seems like the environment is not affecting him. It’s difficult for a coach to instill that in them. They have to do that on their own. It’s called experience, and we all know that until you do it and had been through it, it’s really hard to say what it’s going to be like. Both of them have shown that they’re a little further ahead, from a maturity, experience standpoint, than what they are game-wise, which has been positive for us because we don’t have any other guys left. We’re down to just a few wideouts, so we don’t have a choice. Those guys got to play a lot of snaps.”

On if playing in big high school games helped Brennan Presley adjust to hyped college games

“I don’t think there’s any question it helps, but with him, he has a different personality. You could take him out of here and go put him on down here for the Dallas Cowboys, and he wouldn’t care. He’d just go play. That’s just the type of personality he has. Did it help with the success he had and the games he played in? Sure it did, but I don’t think a lot of things bother him. I think he just goes with the flow. He’s very happy go lucky. 

“We had a good play, a throwback to the quarterback, when he threw a poor pass. We might have scored on that play, so it was kind of a big deal. And he was over there on the bench and (Tim) Rattay walked by, and he was kind of in a somewhat comical frame of mind for a second. He was like, ‘Hey I need you to work with me on my throwing next week, man.’ I mean, just like he’s already over it. I wasn’t over it. He was over it. But he just has that personality about him.”

On if there was a reason Presley was the guy to throw the throwback pass

“Well he’s thrown that ball in practice and in scrimmages and spring scrimmages probably 50 times, and he’s hit all 50. That’s why. Now, one thing he did say to (Tim) Rattay and them is it’s a whole lot different throwing it in a live game than it was in all those scrimmages, which is true.”

On if he is surprised how much Jaylen Warren and Rashod Owens have contributed this year

“Well, Rashod got in by default, injury-wise, but since then, as I was saying, he’s done really well. He’s grown up. He’s matured. He’s made most of his catches. He’s blocked. The game hadn’t gotten bigger than him. He’s hung in there. And then with Jaylen, it’s a little different because he’s already played three years of college football. And when he came in here and went through our strength and conditioning development, it changed his body. He’s been, obviously, the biggest impact. He’s been huge for not only for the attitude that he brings our offense, but just his productivity. I mean the guy’s productive. It’s crazy how productive he is.”

On if they solved why Warren cramped up a few weeks back

“I mentioned that the next week that I think he got a little excited. We thought it was hydration. Obviously we treated it that way, but I think he had like almost a little bit of positive anxiety, like he was so amped up that he kind of locked himself up. I don’t know that either way. I just know that since then we haven’t had any hydration problems.”

On what Jaylen Warren looks like after games and on Sundays

“He takes care of his body. He’s mature. He’s not entitled. He’s thankful for everything that he gets. He didn’t tell me this directly, but I was told from somebody that heard him say that when we got down to Austin and we bussed over to the stadium and back to the hotel Friday, we had a police escort, and he asked, he’s like, ‘These people are escorting us around? That’s pretty nice of them.’ I mean, he was shocked that they were going to give us a police escort. That’s just his personality. He takes care of his body. Football is important to him. Sunday’s lifts are optional. He has not missed the lift yet. And I mean, if anybody needs Sunday off, it’s him. He lifts every Sunday. When we run Sunday nights, he’s out front running. So, you have a somewhat rare occurrence of a young man that’s his age, living in this world, who’s just thankful for everything they have and unselfish and just glad to be doing what they’re doing.”

On if Warren feeds off the defense or the defense feeds off Warren

“Earlier I said he’s brought a mental toughness to our offense. Defense loves that. And our offense is getting a little better every week. We’re not to where we want it to be, as we all know that, but we have a few restrictions and we’re still working through. But they’re starting to play a little bit to the defense, but the defense has carried us. It’s been all of us looking up to them for the most part. The offense is feeding off their success.”

On if Jason Taylor playing running back in high school helps with his playmaking

“It’s interesting with him, we’ve had a number of players here over the years that were defensive players and for some reason it seemed like they get to touch the ball a lot and have success with it. He’s one of them. Shaun Lewis was the guy that was always around, got the ball. (Justin) Gilbert. But with him, his athleticism, you know, like he got that one kick out here that year, I mean he just naturally can make some plays, which has benefited us in a big way.”

On how he decides if he is going to dance

“The team does it. I don’t do it. They’re cheering their chant for me, and then I do it. I’m trying to cut back on it. At some point I won’t be able to do it anymore, I guess. They start that, and then I do it.”

On getting low

“I got 12 years of wrestling, and I say at some point that’ll come to an end, maybe with a surgery.”

On who starts the chant for him to dance

“I don’t know. They’re all in there having a good time. I don’t know who does it.”

On Tanner Brown

“He doesn’t talk a lot. The situation with him and Alex (Hale), they’re always, for lack of a better term, somewhat difficult because they’re good friends, they train together, they train all summer, they train in the offseason, training preseason. And then when one guy ends up kicking and the other guy is not, it’s a tough situation. But he’s been fantastic, and Alex has been awesome. They’re both really good people, and they’re working well together. Fortunately Tanner’s done well. He’s kicked off good. He’s been good on his PATs and field goals, and we’re fortunate. He walked on here from UNLV. I need to ask him how he ended up getting there and getting here. I don’t know how he got there and here. I just know that he’s done really well and he’s worked hard. We were fortunate that we had him kicking Saturday.”

On Tom Hutton flipping the field

“It was huge. We’re planning from our own 28, and it goes out of balance on the 4-yard line. Flipping the field like that’s a big deal.”

On Logan Carter playing Saturday and when he should be full-go again

“Full-go, we won’t know because when you have an issue where you have back problems, you got to get your nerves firing again at a pace that would be normal body type. It gets better every day. When all that starts firing back to full speed and then when he moves around he’ll look like he did. He’s probably 70% now, something like that. Maybe at the end of this week he’ll be 80, but nobody knows. It’s just when all those nerves start firing again the way they’re supposed to.”

On Dezmon Jackson

“Well, (Warren was) rolling, and Dominic (Richardson) came in and got some plays. But he’s healthy. He practiced most of last week. He could have played, but he should even be better this week. I’ve said it every week, it’s a lot of carries for (Warren), but it’s just when he’s as successful as he is and he gets a little stronger as the game goes on, it’s sure hard to get him out.”

On Dominic Richardson coming in for some carries in the third quarter

“Coach Woz would be the guy to ask that. I think that it’s almost like in the NBA like at some point they take (Russell) Westbrook out and let him rest so that they can finish with him in the last six minutes of the game. I would say it’s probably comparable to that, where if we feel like he is getting fatigued and we’re exchanging blows at some point, we’re gonna have to rest him so he doesn’t get 40-plus carries. I would say that would be a pretty good illustration of why that happens.”

On Braden Cassity

“He’s doing good for where we thought he was in preseason to where he is now. He lost some battles Saturday, but he’s competing against guys that he’s outmatched physically some against those guys. But his effort, his willingness, his competitive nature and all that has been fantastic.”

On Cassity playing in Austin, where he is from

“I thought about that last night when we were at practice, and he was busy. Then I got thinking about something else, but I was going to ask him how it was with his trip and his family being there and all that. It’s pretty cool for him.”

On what word comes to mind when describing Jaylen Warren’s running style

“I’m trying to think who he runs like. I don’t know who he runs like because he’s more elusive than you think, right? When you look at his body, you think, ‘OK, he’s not really a guy that makes you miss a lot.’ But he does make guys miss, he does run through tackles, and he has accelerated, and he does dip in and go around the corner. So, I don’t really know who he runs like, but he’s a good runner. I think the best way to describe him is he’s just really productive. A lot of times it looks like he’s gotten 3 yards and really got 7. The run he had the other day where he bounced in, went around the left edge and went around, it looked like there wasn’t anything there, and then, ‘OK, he’s gonna get 3,’ and before you know it, he had 28 yards. So he’s just very productive.”

On a thicker Kendall Hunter comparison

“He’s much thicker than Kendall, but there are some … Kendall would start and stop. Kendall would throw the brakes on and take off again. Jaylen really doesn’t do that. But there are some similarities there, sure.”

On if Iowa State is a team like OSU not being a bunch of highly touted athletes, just good football players

“The best comparison that we could make, or really anybody could, I don’t know if you guys have access to this but, when the NFL scouts come in to watch our practices, just like they do everybody else in the country, they’ll have a list. And that list will be the rising seniors or rising juniors that aren’t supposed to come out. We all know they watch them. They don’t write them up, but they watch them. Then they’ll have a list of, ‘OK, you need to know this guy. He’s a sophomore.’ They got Kendal Daniels, ‘Kendal Daniels is supposed to be a great player someday, we need to at least look him over.’ Well, they’ll have that list. There could be schools, I’ll just say, like Alabama. That list might be 32 people, compared to other schools where that list would be like seven from their entire team. So, I’m guessing that when they go to evaluate Texas, that list is probably pretty high. It’s probably 25 people. From a coaching standpoint, it’s important that we and I know that based on it gives me an idea of where we’re at athletically in games that we’re playing so we kind of know what the approach is. 

“But to answer your question, these guys are in the right spot all the time, and they have been for a number of years. They live in their own box. They have a good idea of what they’re good at, and that’s what they press on. The other night they were in three tight ends and one receiver quite a bit. So, they’re good at that. They move their tight ends. They run their zone. They run their pull play. Quarterback works his play-action. And then defensively, they sit in their look. They varied it a little bit this year but not enough to really bring up. They say, ‘This is what we are. This is who we are. This is the position we’re in, and we’re not going to beat ourselves.’ That’s just kind of what I’ve seen. I could be wrong.”

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