Sunday Rewind: Gundy Pleased With Improvement

Mike Gundy has coached some monumental and very rewarding wins in nine seasons as head coach at Oklahoma State. There have been milestone wins on the way to becoming the winningest head coach in school history. The 52-34 victory at Texas Tech may not rank up there with some of the other landmark wins but it was important. So why is the win a big deal and is this team close to becoming a big deal?

"I'm not sure," Gundy said while answering more how good his team was becoming and how improved they are. "I think that our team is improved considerably over the last month.

"I think that our defense is pretty good. Our kicking game has been really good in the last month, with the exception of PAT and field goals. Our return and coverage units have been very good and our offense has gotten a little better each week. That's really all there is to make of it."

Gundy seems very relaxed now after some more anxious moments after hard fought early conference wins at home with Kansas State and TCU following the conference opening loss at West Virginia. Has he had to deal with any impatience in trying to cure this team into what they are now?

"Not really. We're inside. We know what's going on with our team and what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are," Gundy answered of a question asked by Tulsa World beat writer Jimmie Tramel.

"We feel responsible for them to improve each week in blocking and throwing and catching and running the ball and covering receivers and pass rush and all the different areas that are important. It's a long season with a number of teams across the country that are all just about the same for the most part.

"You can pick six or eight of them and they may be better than everybody else. The rest of them may be all about the same, the next 20 or 30. And so you just try to get better each week. There is just so much more put into it... at our profession. We see the inside of it."

Now, as we wrote earlier today, the extra effort that the Oklahoma State staff puts into looking for and evaluating walk-on candidates is paying dividends. In Saturday's game, McKinney, Texas native and junior Derek Branson blocked and recovered a Tech punt to set up a score. Also, former Cashion, Okla., quarterback Jeremy Seaton, now on scholarship, caught a key fourth-and-goal touchdown pass, his second scoring reception of the season and third of his career.

"It's really neat for us, just like it is for you guys," said Gundy answering a question on Branson from Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman. "Everybody went to scrambling for the media guide and the press release to find out who he was.

"And he started working on some special teams for us because we had a few injuries and for that reason we asked him to commit to being a really good special teams player for us, to study tape on his own, to look at the blocking schemes of the punt team we are playing that week.

"He has worked hard in practice. He was a smart football player. He understands what the other team is trying to accomplish from a blocking standpoint and a coverage standpoint. He was a smart football player in what he did last night and he caught them off guard."

The walk-on program is obviously very strong at Oklahoma State and it makes the difference between winning games or losing them on Saturday. That difference, Gundy explains, shows up every day of the week.

"It's very important for our football team. We get 85 guys on scholarship and keep around 130 on our team," he said. "The demonstration squad, the scout squad, whatever you want to call them, the guys that line up and act like they are the other team the week that we are playing them, if we don't have quality players on that team than we can't get quality practice. That's one reason.

"The other reason is we miss in recruiting all the time. And it gives a young man like Seaton and Branson and (Brandon) Weeden for the most part, and Dan Bailey and Zach Allen and so on and so forth. There are just a number of young men that come into our program and get a chance to play college football even though somebody may have thought they weren't good enough at some time.

"And we have a long list of them here -- Nick Rockwell, the fullback Bryant Ward, we have got a number of guys here. It's just a neat opportunity for young men that want to play the game for the right reasons because they love to play college football and they want to be a part of the team."

Gundy said he will keep Clint Chelf off limits from the media. There is still frustration on the head coach's part over the attention some reporters are giving the quarterback position.

"Ever since we have started the year there has been nothing but media opinion on who should play quarterback," Gundy explained. "And there is not really anything they can say about themselves or each other that is productive for the overall chemistry of the team. And me neither. There is not really anything I can say about it. So it's better off just to let them go until the season is over and then let them have an opportunity to communicate with everybody."

This week Oklahoma State must stay focused and not slip against Kansas in a home game the Cowboys will be heavily favored in. The biggest distraction will be for the head coach with former teammate Barry Sanders, former Cowboys head coach Pat Jones, and many of his 1988 teammates in town for the celebration and reunion of the 1988 OSU Cowboys.

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