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

November 8, 2021

STILLWATER — The Cowboys are nine games into their 2021 season, but there is still a lot for Mike Gundy to discuss.

Oklahoma State’s coach went for about 40 minutes on Monday at his weekly luncheon, hitting on his dominant defense, TCU, playoff expansion and Barry Sanders being immortalized at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Opening Statement

“We had a good workout last night, guys are obviously enthusiastic and working hard. Back at it. New week as always, college football, that’s the way it is. So, looking forward to a good week of practice with our players. Visited with them about staying with what has gotten them to this point, which is being humble, unselfish, focused, discipline and toughness. Very simple. And I feel we’ve got enough maturity and leadership for our guys to stay focused and practice hard and continue the things that have got us to this point. So, it’s really been that simple for us up to this point, and obviously watching a lot of tape on TCU and moving forward.” 

On the connection between Spencer Sanders and Tay Martin

“It’s gotten better just from a health standpoint. We talked about this, he’s had his group of wide receivers now this will be going in the third week where he’s been able to practice with them consistently through the week, and then not be out. And Tay (Martin’s) been with us maybe four weeks now that he’s been full-speed. And so obviously it helps when they can practice full speed.”

“… Well, Spencer (Sanders has) thrown that ball well and our history — I guess maybe my history I should say — with wide receivers is some of them have the ability to make that catch, the catches you’re talking about. We’ve also had really, really good wide receivers that didn’t have the natural gift to be able to catch that fade ball as we term it. He has a good feel for that. Where his body is, and how he leans and jumps and takes it at the highest point. We’ve had guys that were good at it like him and then we’ve had some other players that aren’t as good at it. But those two seem to time up pretty well with that play.”

On comparing the 1984 and 2021 Oklahoma State defenses

“So, the first one that you’re referring to was when I was in high school. I would come to games. You know, back then if you didn’t come to a games you didn’t see it because there wasn’t games on TV. So, I had been to a few games as a high school prospect up here and watched those teams play. It’s a different style of defense and a different game now than it was in ’83 and ’84, considerably different with — everybody knows, I don’t need to get into all that stuff.  So, it was a different brand of football. This defense doesn’t surprise me. I was surprised after the West Virginia game that we can play that well defensively against them there. So, I will admit that. But they practice well, they like playing hard and competing and they’re a good defense. I say this every week, I just hope they know they can continue on. But, they’re a defense.”

On if he is not worried about the Oklahoma State defense not beating themselves

“I have confidence in them. I will say that. But, I also know that, you know, in this game we’re dealing with, still, young men. They’re 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 [years old]. Most of the guys we have playing on defense are 22 or 23, so that helps. They just need to stay the course and continue to work the way they have to get to this point. That gives them the best chance to continue.”

On not having a history of bad losses

“Well, I think that if you go back, if we go to what my original plan was when I was fortunate enough to get a head coaching job here, my goal was to put a team on the field that when our fans came to the game, home or away, or watched us on TV, that they knew that if we played well, we could win. And I think anything other than that is an unrealistic expectation for any athletic event, much less college football that has a tremendous amount of parody at this time. College football has turned into the NFL parody, if you just look across the country. And so, all we can ask our players to do is the things that I mentioned earlier in this press conference. And then if we take care of the football, don’t give up big plays and compete, we have a chance to win no matter who we play. And I think that the culture and going on 18 years here now, that’s one thing that we have in place that I don’t concern myself with anymore. That’s in place. Those things don’t concern me.”

On TCU being a tough win

“Well, TCU has always been an athletic team and they’ve been very stingy on defense for a number of years, we all know that. They’ve had a little different style of offense over the years, but when you look back at those games, we didn’t satisfy a couple of areas that are important, which could be turnovers, we turned the ball over. And then last year, we struggled so bad to just function and move the football. We won the turnover margin, and we still couldn’t win. We still couldn’t do anything with it based on where we were at offensively. So, these are always interesting games. In watching the tape now, they obviously found a quarterback [Chander Morris], that I’m guessing is their starter now that they’re going to use that played really, really well. And, they played very inspired football in the last game, very inspired. So, that should help our players in preparation for them when they watch on tape and how well they played last Saturday.”

On what stood out about TCU quarterback Chandler Morris

“Well, he made a bunch of plays. He made athletic plays, he’d run the ball, scramble around, find guys open, throw it down the field. I mean, I thought he played very athletic for his position and he had a bunch of success.”

On TCU being able to upset Baylor after parting ways with Gary Patterson

“One thing that I’ve mentioned to you guys over the last few years, young people today, it’s hard to predict what you’re going to get week to week for a variety of reasons. And so, if you go back and look, I’ve looked at the Oklahoma game, looked at Kansas State game, West Virginia game and then as you progress through and get to Baylor, you’ll see where six or eight plays put them on the wrong side of the win-loss column. Wasn’t the majority of the 70 plays of the game on one side of the ball or the other. It was these six to eight plays allowed them to not win, in my opinion, versus the other 70, it’s pretty even. That’s what I saw.”

On what he remembers about Jerry Kill coaching him at Midwest City

“Well, he was my high school biology teacher, junior biology. And so, he and I had been able to stay in touch over the years, and, you know, he’s done a lot in his career, been a lot of places. But, he’s an old-school tough guy that I’ve always had a lot of respect for and what he’s been able to accomplish. And so, it’s been fun to watch him bounce around in the things that he’s done, partly because of some health conditions that he’s had to change careers for a little bit. But, he’s been around a lot. Very well-respected in our profession and certainly by me, and I’m glad that good things are still happening to him.”

On what kind of teacher Jerry Kill was

“I don’t know. I wasn’t as good a student as I should have been. So, I was just waiting to get to 2:30 to get to football or baseball.”

On what Jerry Kill brought to the Midwest City football team

“Yes, motivator, no excuses, you know, I don’t want to hear about that, just figure out a way to get it done. You know, very traditional, old-school mentality.”

” …  I think he was just getting into the profession. And, I think he left there and I think he went to a small school in Kansas. Maybe junior college or something, or a smaller school in Kansas, and then before I knew it he was a head coach, I think at Pittsburg State.”

On team health after West Virginia game

“I think we’re in good shape, yeah. (Braden) Cassity will be a guy that we’ll evaluate in the middle of the week. He could be the one guy that we might not have, but everybody else is in pretty good shape.”

On possibility of going to a 12-team College Football Playoff

“Well, since they’ve had these conversations, we’ve had other areas that are drastically changing college football with NIL, (transfer) portal and all the different things. So, there’s a considerable amount of information to consider, and I think that this could be a very pivotal time, in my opinion, for college football. We have a good product right now, a really good product that’s driving the television market. People love college football. So, I’m a little concerned about whether we need to really fix something that’s not broke, in my opinion. Now, the 8-team that I mentioned, what, five, six years ago, I still think it’s the best concept, in my opinion, for everybody in college football, which is important. 

“So, the decisions that are made for college football are like decisions that are made for lawmakers. They should be able to try to satisfy and keep the majority happy. That’s what we do. That’s why we vote. I think the 8-team playoff allows all conference champions to be in and then your conference is important. We don’t have the discussion over which conferences are stronger than the others. If you win you’re in. And then it also allows at least one team from the lower level to get in so they know they have a shot, because as it is right now they do not have a shot. It’s extremely difficult. Cincinnati may now have the best shot, right? But it’s still difficult.

“So, when you go to the 12, or even further, you’re now treading water in academic calendars, dead week, finals week, bowl games, how many regular season games can you have, and potentially a number of games that could push right up there with an NFL schedule. And we still are working with amateur athletes. So, I’m not sure that’s the answer right now based on what else is going on, because my academic schedule may not be the same as Stanford’s. So, is somebody going to play — are we going to play each other in a playoff and we’re in finals week and they’re out of school? There’s issues there. So, I’m not saying I have the answers, I’m just saying that I think that we need to be careful, because we have a big-time game right now that people in this country love to watch. I’d be careful about changing too much.”

On if an eight- or 12-team playoff would benefit Oklahoma State

“Again, we have to try to make decisions for what would be the majority. So, we could go back to the year that we went to the Fiesta Bowl, okay. If they were deciding which two teams went and played for the National Championship without a computer, if it was a committee, we would have been in. But, before the season, we signed up for the system that was in place and so people said, ‘How upset are you?’ Well, I’d love to play in the game, but I signed up for that, and that’s how it works. The computer spit me out as third. I don’t know what to tell you. 

“So, in a sense, we have to be careful about changing things, even though what you’re saying is true, but there’s other side effects or repercussions for the system you’re wanting, or not saying you’re wanting, or that you’re talking about. And that could affect bowls. So, let’s just say that you’re 23rd in the country, you win eight games and you’re going to go to a bowl game. Is that bowl game still there if you’re to an 8- or 12-team playoff, or is that bowl game history, based on television, based on what people want to watch because of the playoffs? So, there’s, you know, maybe this year for Oklahoma State it could be beneficial, but maybe it couldn’t be for whoever’s 23rd in the country and going to the Liberty Bowl, whatever that might be. So, there’s a lot of things to weigh. I will say this, I think the decisions that need to be made, need to be made by people that understand the profession. Not people that aren’t in our profession. That’s my opinion.”

On if he is worried that wrong people are making decisions

“Well, I don’t know because I don’t know who’s making decisions. I really don’t. I don’t know who’s making a decision on any of this stuff. I mean, does anybody know? Who’s making decisions? I don’t know that we know that. I would just like those decisions to be made by people that are in the middle of it and could make the best decision for everybody involved. That’s just my opinion.”

On how much Jerry Kill pulled from Dick Evans and Ron Smith

“I would guess, you know, with coach Evans and his staff, they had been there forever. And, I quit counting, at one time they were 46 years in a row in the playoffs. I don’t know what they are, I’m sure that’s been stopped at some point. So, anybody that had coached there under those guys had to have taken things with them. You know, there’s been a number of head coaches come out of that group. But coach Kill’s discipline and structure and toughness and things like that, he had that, I think, because when I remember him coaching, he had that, but that’s what he would have gotten out of that organization with coach Evans and that group.”

On how much of TCU’s offense against Baylor was Jerry Kill or Doug Meacham’s

“I would say that 90% of that is going to be Meacham. You know, Coach Kill’s been a defensive guy, and I would guess that that’s Meacham and his staff are the ones that put that together.”

On Barry Sanders starting to show a different side of himself

“So, he has always been to himself and always been so humble that eventually it drove him out of the game, because he didn’t like people telling him how good he was, or asking for his autograph. And, when you get him in a good setting, he’s very entertaining and sociable when he’s comfortable and fun to be around. He’s just, my history with him here, he’s just not that way much with people. He’s kind of to himself. But, if you get him, and I’m sure he’s obviously grown and developed a lot, because he’s done so many things publicly over the last 30 years, that he’s learned to do that, but he’s always kind of had that side to him where he’s always laughing and very entertaining. It was just in a controlled setting.”

On what Barry Sanders is like interacting with the current players

“Well, you know, I was talking about the time that he walked in the locker room a few weeks ago and our guys were amazed. So, he won the Heisman Trophy [33] years ago, and so the guys that he went in to talk to are 15 years from being born or 12 years from being born, and they knew who he was, and it’s a big deal to them. So, I think his presence of not even arguably being the greatest running back to ever play college football, maybe the NFL, I don’t even think it’s up for debate, still had an affect on those guys, because they have the access to everything [a smart phone] and so they watch all of his old highlights and they’re just amazed by his ability and what he was able to accomplish.”

On Barry Sanders meeting Jaylen Warren and the running backs

“Well, it’s the reason, you know at that time, I said, ‘You’re gonna have to come in here at least meet these running backs.’ And he was really [hesitant], and I said, ‘No, you got to come in.’ And then when he got in there he was awesome. He’s right in his world, you know, he’s awesome with them. And so it’s pretty cool for them to be able to have enough respect for a guy like that, you know, even though [Jaylen Warren’s] from another part of the country, Dominic [Richardson] is from down here in Oklahoma City, but, you know, they weren’t born when — 15 years away from that. So it’s still pretty amazing.”

On Barry Sanders finally being recognized with a statue

“Again, he’s the greatest running back to ever play college football. And if he would have played eight more years in the NFL, he’d hold that rushing record, too. He just checked it in. It’s nice that we have his statue up, and it’s nice we have Thurman’s name up. And now Barry’s is going up and we have a statue, and that’s really what it should be. If you just think back to the effect that he’s had on this athletic department and this university, he deserves what’s going to take place on Saturday.”

On if Barry Sanders’ rushing record feels untouchable

“It’ll be difficult. … He didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Only played in the fourth quarter two games or he would’ve had 3,700 yards rushing. That’s a fact. I don’t know if people can get to that mark anymore. Players don’t carry the ball the number of times that it takes to get that many yards, and they don’t play as many plays because they rotate in all the time. Back then you didn’t rotate, so I don’t know if anybody can catch his numbers.”

On what Barry Sanders would be like in the modern game

“What’s interesting is with the style of offense they have now where coaches know how to spread the field and use the 52 yards wide and get matchups, he’d rush for 4,000 yards a season. He did that playing between hashmarks, 11-on-11 scrums. If we were spread out nowadays, he’d probably have rushed for 4,000 yards.”

On if there is one run of Barry Sanders’ college career that stands out

“Well, the run he had up in Nebraska when he came. I can see the run in my eyes because I watched from behind in probably what, late third quarter, something like that. He made about nine guys miss on their team. Nine’s an exaggeration, but it’s a good fish story. We’ll go with nine. They were a good defense, right? They were really good. They could tackle and fundamentally-sound and Coach [Tom] Osborne. I just went blank on the coordinator. I can see him wearing the glasses. He was there 100 years with him, defensive coordinator [Charlie McBride]. … But either way, I can see the run. That run up there was pretty impressive. … Made about six or seven people miss.”

On if he sees similarities between Tay Martin and previous OSU receivers

“Guys we’ve had, Tay would be kinda like James Washington in a certain way. James played when defenses were different at this level, so he could get the ball down the field more than what we see. But their style of play is pretty close, I would say. 

“Tay is a good route runner, Rashaun (Woods) was a great route runner.”

On Tay Martin’s development

“Two things: first thing is he was never in shape last year. Came in with COVID. We didn’t have offseason, and he was never in shape until the bowl game. And then this year, he’s in shape, and we’re obviously a more complex system than what Coach (Mike) Leach runs so he had to learn some more. That year has given him a chance to understand our concepts.”

On how you capture Barry Sanders’ style of play in a statue

“He could stop and start, and unfortunately the best highlights for it is when he played with the Lions because they couldn’t, I mean, I’m not trying to get anybody mad at me, but they didn’t block very well for him. So, he would take the ball in the backfield, and there’s a lot of plays where he’s making a cut two to three yards behind the line. And just literally, people melted to the ground, and then he’d get two yards and then he’d make another guy miss. He’d get 10 yards and most people would have been negative four. He did that consistently. He could do that differently than anybody that’s ever played the game.”

On his view of Barry Sanders leap across the goal line against Colorado

“I was gonna bring that up a second ago when you asked me the greatest best run. I didn’t want to go for two, but the picture in Sports Illustrated, he’s probably in this high flat and went over on the goal line, pretty cool. But, you know, he could windmill dunk, too, a basketball over here in the Colvin Center. He used to go in there and windmill dunk.”

On Barry Sanders playing pickup basketball in Oklahoma City while he was on the Lions

“He used to do it here all the time. Made me nervous. … We could get into long stories about him, but he would’ve prefered to play basketball over football. He loved basketball. He was over here at the Colvin Center all the time. All the time. He loves basketball.”

On Barry Sanders coming back to Stillwater more frequently

“I think he likes coming back here. He still has family around and stuff. Barry’s just hard to get to pin down to do anything. I know that he likes being here because once he gets here and gets around the people, he enjoys that. It’s very important for us to continue to pursue him to do that. He’s an iconic figure, and he always will be. I don’t know this to be true one way or the other, I would say that people have pursued him for 20 years to come back. It’s just kind of hard to pin him down to get him on an airplane to get him back. But once he gets here, he does great.”

On an uptick in outreach with former players

“I have been a strong advocate of returning players here. Oklahoma State has not been effective and not done a good job with football lettermen. We just haven’t done a good job. Chad Weiberg is very interested in, and we are very interested in, rejuvenating that and we’ve somewhat started that process. Chad’s been at all the functions we’ve had, telling former players, ‘Look, this is what we’re going to do for you.’ There’s just a lot to get accomplished, but it’s moving that direction. Once these things start being put in place, then players like [Sanders], whose buddies are here, and they can come back and see guys that he played with, which he likes to do that, then you have a chance to get those guys to come back more. We’re in the process of that right now. We are going to work hard, and I fully expect within a year, probably more reasonably in two years, to have a plan in place that really gets former players back considerably and particularly on gameday.”

On his reaction to the NCAA decision against the OSU basketball team

“I thought it was unfair. I don’t know the details of it. It’s hard for me to comment on anything, but I just thought it was unfair.”

On why the defense is better this year than it was last year

“Experience. A number of players who played in games and been in close situations and understand how to practice during the week and preparation and maturity, that’s what’s helped this group.”

On the defense

“When somebody asked me a question in Morgantown after the game and if I would have said, ‘No, I wasn’t surprised that we could sack them eight times or them have 17 rushing yards.’ I was surprised. I knew that we could play good, but I didn’t think we could play that good. I mean, I’d be honest with you. It’s nothing against the players. That’s a pretty good game, especially to a team that’s been rolling pretty good offensively the last couple weeks.”

On the defense still playing well late into the season

“We’ve been fortunate that we’re playing so many guys on defense that their reps have been cut by 40%. So most of our guys that are playing in the front seven are 40% less than what they had been over the last six or eight years.”

On what areas need to improve for this team to peak

“We have to rush the football every week and give ourselves a chance to throw the ball. If you don’t rush the football, you can’t throw it, for us. That’s what we have to be able to accomplish. It’s no secret there. We have to continue to work hard at rushing the football and then be effective in the shots and stuff that we take throwing the football. We have to be effective in those areas. We’re not a methodical 10-to-12-play drive score team. That’s really not who we are on offense, so we have to rush the ball well enough to pop guys through. And then we have to be effective on getting some plays to get some chunk yards to give us a chance to have some five-to-seven-play drives. That’s really who we are offensively at this time.”

On if penalties have been a concern

“I always look at that. We had, I think, 55 yards in Morgantown, and one of them (Trey) Rucker hit a guy late at the end of the game. He would tell you it wasn’t smart, so if you take that away, you’re at 40. I think it would have been four or five penalties at 40 [yards]. But at Iowa State they hurt us. That’s what I said in here maybe after the game or the next Monday or whatever, but we hurt ourselves at Iowa State because we started too many drives in long yardage or ended up in long yardage based on penalties. We talked about it, and we’ve worked hard. We’re getting a little better at it. But what you’re saying is right, we need to minimize those and not give away free yards and penalties and be more disciplined in that area.”

On if there is something OSU does to help transfer players be successful

“We’ve been very fortunate with transfers and graduate transfers is how this all started, and then portal transfers. I would have to say that we have an advantage because I’ve been here going on 18 years now, so are our culture and our system and everything’s in place. So we can fit a young man in, transfer or a high school player. Like Collin Oliver, most guys that are in his position shouldn’t be able to have as much success as he’s had as a true freshman, but I think the system that we have in place because it’s been going on now for going on 18 years, allows a young man to come in and kind of get right in line and he’s not lost. Most everything we do over here is pretty detailed to the second of the day. We’re a year in advance on our calendars over in our building. Everything we do every day is to the detail, and so a young man doesn’t get lost. He knows: this is what I’m supposed to do, now I’m here, now I’m here, this is what I’m supposed to do, I’m an academics, this is what I do. So I think that allows him to get into the flow really easy.”

On bringing in mature players

“Just recently Coach (Todd) Bradford and his staff have done a great job with that. It’s interesting you bring that up because we talked about that just recently as a staff. Our opinion, you have to evaluate a talent level and can that talent level help you based on the position because it’s different depending on what the position is. Then, why is he transferring? You have to know that so you know what you’re dealing with when you get them. Just like when they choose to come to us, they need to know who we are. This is the culture we have. This is who we are. So if you’re looking to go somewhere and play athletically, are you good enough? OK, you’re good enough, but are you going to fit into our culture and do what we do? If you’re not, you shouldn’t come here. It’s not good for you or us. So there’s two ways to look at that. You need to fit into our culture, and then we need you to be in a position that you’re going to come in and buy into the system. Then you’ll have everything you need to be successful. That’s what we’ve used. That’s the philosophy we’ve had.”

On if teams can be inspired playing for an interim head coach like TCU and Texas Tech

“I mean with young people nowadays, I don’t know. Obviously it helped them last week. You can watch the tape or go DVR the game or whatever and watch them play, and they played very inspired football. They’re still athletic. They still run. They’re fast on defense. They have running backs, wideouts can make plays. There’s been games they’ve lost and you look at it and there’s like six or eight plays that made a huge difference in their games. Otherwise, the meat of what they’ve done, pretty competitive.”

On Dez Jackson

“He’s up and running. We’re pretty pleased with him now. He practiced last week, full speed. The week before he was probably about 90%, but I feel good about where he’s at now. We have him there, and we feel like that if he carries the ball, he’s going to do just fine.”

On if he reached out to Mike Boynton after the NCAA news

“I felt so bad that I didn’t talk to anybody about it. I don’t know what you say. That’s hard for your players, in my opinion. I’m not a basketball guy, but I still coach young people. I’ve just stayed out of the whole deal. I didn’t like the way it was handled, but that’s none of my business.”

On the importance of good environments

“If you go back and do a little research on NASCAR and where NASCAR was 10 years ago, eight years ago, six years ago and then where NASCAR is now, and the environment that we have here with tailgating, like when I leave here on a Thursday night after practice and everything and go through campus to go home, there’s already tents set up. There’s 30,000 people on campus now. When I drive to pregame meal, it’s packed, and the crowd. That is what’s driving college football, and as long as we can continue that we’re in good shape. 

“We have to be careful that we don’t get off track and make decisions that affect the actual hands-on approach of the game. What you’re talking about is still very important, that the festive atmosphere that you have in college football is what people want. That’s what people want to do. It’s just like when you drive to Morgantown last week. We come in and get off the highway. You drive on a little two-lane road. It’s hilly. You go up, and you go through the campus. West Virginia, the cars are going to be parked on the side of the road. That’s where they park. Then there’s people walking up and down the streets. You know what you’re going to get. They have a history and a tradition there, and it makes it a part of college football. We have to keep that intact if we want to keep the game the way it is. Those things are very important. 

“Fortunately here we’ve had that. I’m all for the striped stadium. I’m for the T-shirts, whatever color we want to wear. The most traditional best one for me ever is the pom-poms. I love the pom-poms, 60,000 people doing this during the game. I think that’s awesome. Those things we need to be careful that we don’t lose. That part of college football is what fans want.”

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