Gundy: Spread Offense Best For The Future

No one is more frustrated than Mike Gundy, who has spent the last 20 years of his life as a quarterback and offensive coach trying to figure out how to score touchdowns. Maybe it's best to say no one's more frustrated than Gundy with the possible exception of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora. Fedora's spread offense was supposed to allow the Cowboys to run and gun with the best scoring teams in the nation.

But the Cowboys have scored just 58 points in three games and are averaging only 126.7 yards passing per game (both last in the Big 12). It's not where Gundy, Fedora or anyone else associated with the program expected to be as the undefeated Cowboys (3-0) prepare to open Big 12 play against Colorado (2-1) on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Gundy said during Monday's news conference that it would have been easy for the Cowboys to have stayed with the run -oriented offense used last season to average 237 rushing yards per game and more than 380 yards of total offense. As a matter of fact, that would have been the first-year head coach's preference.

"I'd have done the same thing I did last year. Just run the same system we had," Gundy said. "We wouldn't be going through a learning curve (right now)."

Gundy pointed out that the new no-huddle, spread offense is a high-risk, high-reward style of play.

"There are two things that you guys don't bring up that really affect a team that has some youth on it," he said. "One is that with this style of play that we have on offense there's going to be more mistakes, even in a successful game. And there will be more penalties, even in a successful game in most cases. The general public, and people out there, don't want to hear that.

"But (if you run the scheme we have in past years) when you use two tight ends, and one tight end and a fullback and you pack it in, and you run two or three or four different blocking schemes and you power the thing straight ahead and the quarterback is under center and your snap count doesn't change, and then 90 percent of your passing game is some sort of play action (and) chunk it deep, that offense limited your opportunity for mistakes. And that's why we did it," Gundy said.

"When you're in a system when you're a little more spread out and the quarterback's in the (shot)gun some, (and) you use a more sophisticated, down the field passing game, which we don't have now but we're trying to have it, you leave yourself room for more errors. It's just the way it is. Now are we accepting that? No. Are we working hard to overcome those mistakes? Yes. But that's just the truth. The way it is. When you run two backs up in there and play fake, and turn the line back and gap or two you don't get many penalties.

"When you're compacted in there it's a security blanket for them. When you're a little bit more spread out, and you're in man-to-man, there's more opportunity for error. That's just the way it is."

But after three games (and with the offense scoring just six touchdowns) is it possible that the Cowboy coaching staff jumped the gun? Could they have continued to run last year's offense while incorporating some of the no-huddle, spread offense that Fedora used as offensive coordinator at Florida last season to rank first in six different categories in the Southeastern Conference?

"(The two offenses) are so opposite that you couldn't," Gundy said. "It's so completely opposite. The way we practice, what our schemes are, even as detailed as the (offensive) tackle with his hand on the ground and the tackle in an up stance. Even the things that are that small, it's so different we couldn't do it. I just had to say let's go."

Gundy refuses to say that he's sacrificing the present for the future, but he does believe the offense will benefit the Cowboys down the road.

"I don't see it that way. I think we're going to get better on offense, and we'll show signs of improvement in every game," he said. "Now the biggest difference with this offense and the offense from last year is the guy who's playing for the Houston Texans (former tailback Vernand Morency who rushed for 1,474 yards and 12 touchdowns). That's the difference. Michael Hamilton is getting better each week, but he's not a third-round pick (in the NFL draft like Morency). He's a freshman. Julius Crosslin is doing a good job for us in short yardage, but he's not a third-round pick. That's the biggest difference in this offense.

"I think (this offense) is better for this school and our recruiting and where we want to go in the next six, eight, ten years. I think for us it's the best thing for the future," he continued. "I think there are more skill players (in high school and junior college) out there that can give us an advantage with what we ultimately want to do on offense than there are tight ends and fullbacks that we can get our hands on in order to be successful in the future here.

"One of the problems we have here now is we're limited with what we can do at wideout. Can you understand why? If you watched us the last three years would you have come here or would you have gone to Florida or wherever if you were a wide receiver?"

Gundy said, "The system we've had here the last four years is a very good system, and we were successful with it and it worked for us." But he also believes it's time to move on, and build for the future.

That's one reason Gundy and Fedora made the decision to go with redshirt freshman Bobby Reid at quarterback. Reid, who made his first start in OSU's 20-10 victory over Arkansas State on Sept. 17, is the perfect athlete for the Cowboy offense. All he's lacking is playing time.

"(He has) no experience. He hasn't played. He's probably had 120 snaps in his career. You'd like to say he's had a thousand snaps by now," Gundy said. "When you're a quarterback things are much different out there (pointing to Boone Pickens Stadium), and he's still feeling his way through them."

Gundy said he expects Reid to get better each and every time he takes a snap – whether it be in one of the Cowboys' upcoming regular season games or on the practice field.

"I think the one thing that he maybe improved on (during last week's open week) was we worked our skeleton 7-on-7 passing game. I see him improving in that area. Instead of he and Donovan (Woods) splitting and getting 10 reps each, he gets 18 and the other guy gets (two). He has to learn how to handle everything else involved, and that will be out there (on the field during games)."

For now, despite their frustration, Gundy and Fedora are trying to figure out how to win Saturday's Big 12 opener.

"(We're) just trying to figure out what we can do to win the next game. We look at the problems from the last game and try to get them fixed. But, more importantly, none of that really matters any more. What can we do to score enough points to beat Colorado? That's all that matters.

"(Fedora) works diligently at that. He has a good idea what they want to do but we're lessened, we're under 50 percent of what we want to do right now. So what can we do with who we are in order to be successful enough to beat Colorado? That's the only thing that matters. That's what his mindset is. How can we score 24 points? What do we have to do to score 24 points?"

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