Sunday Rewind: Lots To Fix, No Time To Waste

"I've got about five minutes, so I'll give you guys a brief rundown, and then let you ask a few questions before I get back to work." That was the way Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy opened up his weekly Sunday teleconference with the media that covers the Cowboys.

Saturday was a day off for the players but the coaches came in that afternoon, following a 4:30 a.m. arrival Saturday morning on the charter back from Alabama. The staff worked well into Saturday night and was back at it Sunday morning with the first practice to correct the Troy game mistakes, and begin the preparation for 3-0 Texas Tech later on at 6:45 on Sunday evening.

There is plenty to fix, according to Gundy.

"First, I already told you that Zac (Robinson) will start the game this week (at quarterback)," said Gundy in his brief rundown. "I don't have an injury report other than (center) David Washington broke his leg, and I think most of you know that. After watching the tape the game was exactly what I thought. We couldn't stop the run with the two defensive tackles and we couldn't rush the passer. We turned the ball over and we couldn't throw the ball."

That was the basics, so to speak. There is much more on the plate of the coaching staff as they get ready to host a stout Texas Tech team in an early conference opener. The good news is the game is at home. The bad news is just that there is a lot to fix.

On offense, the Cowboys have failed to be as explosive as last season and failed to consistently drive the ball. They are last in the Big 12 in third-down conversions, primarily because most of their conversion attempts have been third and long. Correcting those problems will be made more difficult by an existing injury and now the new one from Friday night costing them their veteran center.

"That (Washington) is a tremendous loss for us," said Gundy. "He has quarterbacked the offensive line for three years and our center makes all the calls. It is an extremely difficult loss. We are not for sure what we are going to do."

Gundy called the move Friday night against Troy of guard Andrew Lewis from left guard to center with David Koenig moving to left guard and Steven Denning to right guard a move on the fly to get through the game. He hinted that they could stick with that, look at other options at the guard position, or possibly introduce true freshman Grant Garner into the lineup. Garner had been impressive in fall camp and has traveled to each game but has yet to play.

"I don't know," said Gundy. "Our center does so many things. (Koenig) can't take over the calls (from the guard position). It may be Grant Garner at center."

The other loss is the player we identified going into the season as the most valuable player on the team, running back Dantrell Savage. Gundy agrees.

"Obviously, not having him has slowed us down," Gundy said of Savage. "He was our most important returning starter because it is easier to get the ball to him 20 times a game as opposed to maybe six or seven times to a wide receiver (Adarius Bowman). The other team can more easily keep you from getting the ball to a wide receiver if they want to."

Calling himself not a percentage guy, Gundy said Savage was only 70 percent when he started the game at Georgia. He also said Savage has a chance to play this week.

"He has a chance," said the head coach. "He is a game-time decision and he was a game-time decision last week. We just don't know when he'll be ready to go."

Nobody has said for certain what the injury is but the most common and consistent talk is that it is some type of abdominal muscle injury, and a painful one at that.

Keith Toston has exhibited severe fumble problems, and the best answer available with Julius Crosslin apparently still a part-time player coming off an injury (knee) is true freshman Kendall Hunter. Hunter, who appears to be a "mini-me" version of the older, more mature Savage, had 125 yards on 16 carries against Troy, and it was not garbage time yardage on Friday. Through three quarters he had 63 yards on nine carries for a seven-yard a clip average. If Savage could get healthy, a mix of Savage with Hunter and Crosslin could make the Oklahoma State offense a lot better in a hurry.

At quarterback, Gundy repeatedly echoed the directive that he is going to stay the course with Robinson.

"Zac played average to good," was Gundy's opinion in reviewing the Troy game tape.

Defensively, Gundy shot down the idea that Troy and Texas Tech are similar, using Troy's quarterback power as an example. He said that Troy uses more crossing routes in the short passing game, while Tech is more over and under in their routes.

"These teams are different, a lot different," said Gundy, perhaps hoping it will mean for different results.

Tech will be harder to rush the passer because they do unload the ball quickly, but Gundy emphasized you still need to get push from the interior of the defense. He is demanding that play get better inside, and it is obvious that the play needs to improve in the secondary against a bevy of developing Texas Tech recievers including budding superstar Michael Crabtree. The 6-3, 222-pound former quarterback at Dallas Carter had 11 receptions for 244 yards and three touchdowns in the 59-24 blowout of Rice on Saturday.

"We offered him in the spring of his junior year, the quarterback at Dallas Carter, right?" said Gundy when asked about Crabtree. "We really liked him. It hasn't surprised me that he has put up big numbers. He's a big, talented athlete."

The most encouraging aspect of all this is that Gundy hopes to push upon his staff and, most importantly, his team that in college football fortunes, like these for his Cowboys, can turn around even week to week. There are numerous examples, such as Florida Atlantic beating Minnesota at home on Saturday. Home is a big part of it. The Cowboys have shown they are much more potent and apt to turn things around in the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium.

"Anybody can beat anybody in college football right now," said Gundy. "With the exception of about eight teams that are more talented than anybody else, anybody can beat anybody. It's the same deal (this week). We are going to get these guys corrected, work on Texas Tech, practice hard and get ready to play Tech on Saturday."

There are problems to fix. Gundy, his staff and players have found solutions before, and it's critical this week for that process to repeat itself in order to get this team in position to achieve some of its goals coming into what just a little over three weeks ago was considered a season of no limitations.

OFF THE TOPIC
In an area that has nothing to do with fixing the Cowboys problems, Gundy delicately came off his preseason stance that he wasn't concerned about who was officiating the Cowboys road games. The question came up before the Georgia game when it was revealed that the contract called for Southeastern Conference officials at Georgia, and Big 12 refs in Stillwater in 2009 when the Bulldogs return the trip. The same provision was in the contract with Troy, leaving Sun Belt officials working the game last Friday.

"I'd say now I'd rather use our guys in those situations," said Gundy, noting he is limited on what he can say about officials. "We had a coaches interference penalty (on Friday) I would question. I think the official got too wide. I'd like to think everybody would call the game the way they see it."

Oklahoma State will have all Big 12 officiating crews the remainder of the nine games left on the 2007 schedule.

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