Gundy Has A Huge Chore On His Hands

AMES, Iowa - Oklahoma State is "oh" for the Big 12 - as in 0-4 - with four games left to play and two of them against Top 25 teams in No. 2 Texas and just trounced Texas Tech. This Cowboy team surely has attitude problems, and probably some of the players have shut it down with the record slipping below .500 at 3-4 with the 37-13 loss at Iowa State. It's a team that has led just once in a game since Big 12 play started, yet confidence, attitude and effort don't seem to be a problem.

One player on the bus ride to the airport theorized that cutting out all the interceptions in the second half and the Cowboys win the game. There's a line that just about anybody would call ridiculous. However, OSU threw the first two interceptions in the Iowa State end zone and then at the Iowa State 23. If OSU had scored touchdowns on each of those drives instead of throwing interceptions then the Cowboys would have scored 24 points. The second two interceptions handed the ball to Iowa State at the Cowboy 28- and 48-yard lines. Both resulted in Cyclone touchdowns. Take those 14 points away and Iowa State has 23 points, that makes it 24-23 Oklahoma State. It's not that simple, but it's a theory.

Mike Gundy has called himself the coach of attitude and effort, and if that is the case he has done a very good job. The Cowboys remain strong in both areas.

"I was just glad to have the opportunity," said running back Greg Gold, who in his first major playing stint had 47 yards on eight carries and could have had 26 more if not for an illegal formation penalty on an offensive tackle. "I don't see it as me going out there and gaining yards, but I see it as an opportunity to go out and get a Big 12 win which we haven't had one yet. It's frustrating for me as an offensive player, and for the defensive players. If I get a chance to go out there and get yards, points, anything to help us get a win then I'm excited about that opportunity. I'm more than happy to help."

"There's no quit in me and I know there isn't any quit in any of the other linebackers," said senior linebacker Paul Duren, who had six tackles including one for a two-yard loss. "We have the number two team in the nation coming in here next week and that's an opportunity to make a splash nationally."

Yes, that's right, believe it or not these guys are looking forward to playing Texas. The same Texas that smashed Texas Tech 45-17 on Saturday, the same Texas that came back from a 35-7 deficit against OSU last season to win 56-35. These Cowboys that sometimes self destruct want to take on the Big 12's most destructive team. The head coach says he can't wait to get to the office Sunday morning.

"It hurts you inside," Gundy said of the losing. "The one thing I haven't had any problem doing is getting excited about starting again. We're on a new week now, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the office tomorrow morning and seeing what was good and bad and fixing it. We had a couple of players injured today and see which guys we're going to get back and how we're going to overcome the ones we don't have and keep working. I'm excited about it.

"I love the way the players are giving great effort and if they will continue to I know eventually the tide will turn. You can really tell what a man is made of in times of adversity, and we have some adversity and we have to deal with it."

"It really is an opportunity for us to get recognition," said defensive end Victor DeGrate, who may have been the defensive player of the game for O-State against the Cyclones with eight tackles including a six-yard sack of Iowa State's Bret Meyer and recovering a fumble. "We're not a bad team, we're a good team. We just have a lot of mistakes that we have to get corrected, so it's all about us forgetting and moving on from this game."

Gundy has talked about the good attitude that still permeates the team and that the effort is still strong. The media has scoffed, but the effort is there. Unfortunately so are a bushel of mistakes. This Oklahoma State team shoots itself in the toe so much that there may not be any toes left. In addition to the five turnovers, the special teams cover units, which had been strong most of the year, gave up a 59-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown and a 31-yard punt return that set up the Cyclones other first half touchdown.

"It's really a very simple solution and it's easy to see what happened today," Gundy explained. "You'll see where we played poorly today on special teams in the second quarter, and played the entire quarter backed up and allowed their offense to fire away because they had the wind and we were backed up.

"The second half we turn the ball over and don't give ourselves a chance. I thought our players played hard, extremely hard and I thought we had good plans on both sides of the ball. When you turn the ball over four times in the second half then you don't have a chance and that's what we did. We kept putting our defense on the field, and I thought they were playing pretty good. But when you put them out there over and over then eventually the other team is going to make a play."

So is it reasonable to think if the Cowboys played a clean game they would look like the bowl team they've been in recent years? Yes and no. The yes is they have enough talent to be competitive with three-fourths of the Big 12, everybody except Texas, Texas Tech and Colorado. Unfortunately, that list includes two teams that OSU is about to play, and the other, Colorado, already has a 34-0 win over the Cowboys in Stillwater. This team has plenty of nightmarish memories already from this season, but as Halloween nears they are not acting frightened of the Longhorns.

"I love this game and I love this team," said Gold. "Anytime I get the opportunity to get on the field I'm going to make the best of it. I will do that as long as I play this game."

"This game is over and there is nothing we can do about it," added DeGrate. "We're going to play Texas and it's our homecoming and we have to learn from this, focus on our plays and buckle down and get ready for Texas."

"Our team is playing hard. Without watching the tape it's hard for me to comment on a lot of other areas, but we have a great attitude and we practiced hard last week," expounded Gundy. "We ask our players to go out there and be successful in practice and when they play on game day, and that means they give us everything they have with the scheme and play within themselves.

"If they can look in the mirror and feel like they gave it everything they had then we congratulate them. We are in the business of winning games, but we also have to look at who is playing and if there is a freshman out there and he makes a mistake, then he makes a mistake and we support him and work with him and try to get him better for next time. There are quite a few young guys out there playing that are making mistakes. We have some leadership in guys that are out there playing and pushing them hard. There is not anybody in this organization out there that has quit."

There is some quitting that needs to occur on the field, and that's where Gundy and his staff have their hands full. They need to quit turning the ball over. They need to knock off silly penalties that nullify big plays like 26-yard gains and long punt returns.

"Our players have to look at tape and what we do as a staff is we evaluate effort and we evaluate the schemes we had against the other team and whether we put our players in position to have success and then they ultimately have to make a play," said Gundy. "I felt like our schemes on both sides of the ball were good. I don't think they ever slowed us down. I don't know how many times we punted, maybe three. We moved the ball and caused a turnover and defensively we stopped them a bunch of times. Like I said, it's really simple you put me out there so many times then eventually the other team is going to make a play."

The Cowboys need to quit putting the defense in repeated tough spots. The offense needs to hang onto the ball, make something happen and the defense needs to force more turnovers and attempt to get that turnover margin close again.

Despite the optimism, they have to try and do it against Texas. They will try, and that means the attitude and effort coach is pretty good.

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