STILLWATER, Okla. – While Oklahoma State fans are pleased to be 2-0 and ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation some of those same Cowboys fans believe some changes need to be made … and made soon if OSU is going to have the type of season the fans are expecting.
But Mike Gundy said during his Monday news conference that changes are not inevitable when No. 25 OSU (2-0) faces Texas-San Antonio (0-2) on Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium.
The offensive line, specifically right guard Paul Lewis, has been criticized by Cowboys fans following the first two weeks of the season and kicker Ben Grogan has also been the target of some fans after having two point-after-touchdown kicks blocked this past weekend in OSU’s 32-8 victory over Central Arkansas.
Lewis, a redshirt junior from Houston, has been one of the scapegoats for a Cowboys team that has had difficulty running the ball in wins over Central Michigan and Central Arkansas to open the season. Gundy came to the defense of Lewis and the rest of the offensive line on Monday.
“One, teams that have played us have defended us so we can’t run the football, and when that happens there are two ways to handle it, throw a lot of passes or you are just physically better up front and your tailback is better than the defense is at making tackles, and you say we’re just not concerning ourselves with the structure of the defense,” Gundy said.
“We’re not in a position to do that right now. We’re better up front but we have a long way to go. Our tailbacks are better and we’re going to get more big plays in my opinion, which we already have, in which plays weren’t blocked correctly. We’ve talked about this for a month now. We’ve made strides in that area but we still have a ways to go.”
Gundy addressed the situation when asked about redshirt sophomore Jesse Robinson, who broke into the starting lineup at right guard against Oklahoma and Washington (in the Cactus Bowl). He has been listed as the backup left guard to Michael Wilson since the season began, and was still listed second on the depth chart on Monday.
“Jesse (Robinson) is doing well and right now we feel that Paul (Lewis) is performing better than he is, but it is not ever a situation where we couldn’t roll somebody in and take a shot at it,” Gundy said. “There was a period during those games (last year when Robinson was playing) that we weren’t a very good run team.
“Right now we’re not even a good running team, but we are better than we were last year. I know that sounds sketchy but we need to continue to improve and we need to pump the ball to those guys. The truth of the matter is if they are all (defenders) going to be down in the box and the safeties standing there for a two-yard gain then we need to be really good at running back or throw passes.”
Gundy expects the Cowboys running game – which is averaging 158.5 yards per game (82nd in the nation) – to be better this week, even though they are facing what he considers to be the best defense they’ve faced in 2015.
“The defense we’re playing this week will be the best one we’ve seen up to this point with their ability to run sideways, the strength, the corners, and we’ll know a little more about our team. As the season progresses we’ll know more and that’s why I always mention the middle of October. That is when you really find out where you’re at,” he said.
“We’ve identified where we need to improve just like you have, but it is not going to happen overnight. We have to stay patient as coaches and not overreact. We know where we need to go and I believe we can get there.”
Grogan has begun the season 3-of-5 on field goals and 5-for-7 on PATs. The final two point-after-touchdown kicks were blocked against Central Arkansas.
“That is something that is on Ben,” Gundy said, “and it isn’t anything that had to do with the snap, the hold, or coach (Robbie) Discher. He’s been around and kicked long enough and he needs to get the ball elevated on PATs.”
Walk-on Matt Hockett, a redshirt freshman from Norman, is the backup kicker to Grogan, who has taken on the additional duties of kicking off this season with five of his 12 kickoffs being touchbacks.