Gold, Thompson Are Examples For Cowboys

STILLWATER - Mike Gundy has said repeatedly that the attitude on his football team is still good and that his team is still working hard and giving great effort. This week is certainly not one for a let down. The Texas Longhorns just edged Southern Cal for the top spot in the latest BCS poll based on the strength of the Horns 52-17 win over then seventh-ranked Texas Tech.

Gundy has been ahead on the curve on the change in the poll as he said on Sunday that he has been voting Texas in the top spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the last four weeks.

"They're very talented. They've got it all," said the Oklahoma State head coach of his opponent this week for the nationally televised game on TBS at 6 p.m. Saturday. "They can run, they're big, and they've got guys that can make you miss. They play aggressive on defense, and I think they are more physical on defense than they've been in the last four or five years there. They are a very good football team."

Not the ideal opponent for the Cowboys, who after losing again (this time to Iowa State, 37-10) because of five turnovers could use a game of soft toss. Texas is anything but that. The Longhorns are averaging 487.3 yards of offense per game and give up an average of 272.6 yards a game. The Cowboys average 308.9 yards of total offense and average yielding 396.4 yards on defense. Gundy again comes back with the fact that throughout the four-game losing streak in Big 12 play his players have been resilient. It could be that the team has been hardened from an offseason of adversity ranging from the death of popular teammate Vernon Grant, to the departure of a number of players that Gundy dismissed for various reasons, to just adapting to a new coaching staff and new systems on both sides of the ball.

"Our players have been through some adversity," Gundy said. "I think we all know as people, players and football coaches that adversity really pushes you to the limit and finds out what we are made of. These young men will face adversity throughout the rest of their lives. One thing we have done as a staff, as a football team, and our administration here is we take good care of our players. We work hard and we ask them to do what is right.

"I get this question a lot. They have been through a lot but the attitude of our football team is very good right now," Gundy continued. "Our players are buying in and working hard. We continue to push forward and even this week playing what I consider the best football team in the country right now, we put together a game plan that we feel like if it's executed gives us a chance to win. We go out and we play hard and stay focused, and hopefully these are lessons that will help our players throughout their lives."

How strong is the positive attitude? We probed a couple of veteran players to see. Junior tailback Greg Gold is a perfect type of player to find some attitude problems. Gold has sat through a redshirt freshman season and two more seasons with little playing time to show for it. A highly regarded recruit that rushed for more than 3,300 yards in his last two seasons of high school football at Irving High School in Texas, Gold has watched Tatum Bell, Vernand Morency and even the departed Seymore Shaw play ahead of him. In the spring he impressed the new head coach with his effort and attitude and Gundy promised he would play. However, in the fall he was moved to wide receiver and saw occasional playing time. The last two weeks he has been back at running back and after 49 yards on five carries in garbage time late in the loss to Texas A&M, Gold came back against Iowa State to lead the Cowboys in rushing with 47 yards on eight carries, including a 21-yard run, longest by any back on either side. He also had a 26-yard carry called back on an illegal formation penalty. Gold could be thumping his chest and telling everybody, "I told you so." He's not. He's talking about helping his team win a game, even one in which they are 36-point underdogs.

"The thing is I never look past a win. I never see myself losing in that aspect," said the 5-9, 195-pound back. "I never take on a week and a game and say let's see if we can hang with them. I go out there and I want all the chips, all the money. I want to win. Would it be great if it's an upset? Yes, it would be great, but the way I see it is it's a must need win for us and I think we are capable of doing it."

Strong safety Jamie Thompson is widely recognized as a team leader. Thompson believes there are a lot of Cowboy players on both sides of the ball that will believe and follow in step. If you lose a leader like Thompson it would be hard for the coaching staff. He is a senior and the clock is ticking on his college career. From the way he talks that clock isn't anywhere close to midnight with Texas coming to town.

"I think there is always a chance, always a way where we're going to come around and win," said Thompson, who still calls last season's 35-7 blown lead to the Longhorns one of the strangest games he's ever been involved in. "It's all according to the team and how we come to focus. If we come with our ‘A' game then we are going to hang in there with those guys. If they come to us with less than their ‘B' game and we come with our ‘A' game then we have a good chance of winning this game. I feel it doesn't matter what the record is or what goes on, it's just how we come to the game on Saturday. A team can be beat on any Saturday."

OK, so there are two players that back up Gundy's statement. How about the others? Gold and Thompson say if there are any doubters among them they know how to get them back to being believers.

"The thing is it's all about body language and practices," said Gold. "If guys are seeing other guys hustle around, guys are seeing when we do our live drills and we're all enthusiastic about it. If anybody would ever say here we go again, I would sit them down and say we can win this, and that any team can be beaten on any given Saturday and that's the way I will approach it this week."

"I just go out there and give it my all each and every day and practice," said Thompson. "I have fun and talk to them when they need to be talked to because we do have young guys, but still yet we need to stay strong as a team. We can't hang our heads because we are giving all we got. We just have to correct the mistakes that we've been making because those mistakes have been putting us in a hole this year. I go out there and try to be a leader vocally but more by showing what I've got on the field and on the practice field."

Judging from those two players the attitude is good, and there is no doubt it will not only have to be good it will have to be extra special for the Cowboys to climb the mountain in front of them on Saturday night.

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