Insight Bowl: OSU Press Conference

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, sophomore quarterback Zac Robinson and senior linebacker Jeremy Nethon met with members of the media Sunday for the final press conference before Monday's Insight Bowl. Here is the transcript of the press conference.

COACH GUNDY: We're pleased to be here and said this many times before, but again, I want to thank Insight Enterprises and everybody that's been involved, all the volunteers and people wearing the yellow jackets and the black shirts today and the resort and the practice facilities. It has been tremendous. Our players, our coaches, the families, to travel from Oklahoma State has been great. It is a tremendous Bowl. We have enjoyed being out here and look forward to the remainder of the week, I should say, and playing in the game tomorrow. You know I will move fast if you don't ask questions.

Q. Zac, can you talk about how this game figures to be a high-scoring game and what you need to do if you have to score a bunch of points to maybe even get into the 40sto win this game?
ZAC ROBINSON: Really, all year we've -- we're not worrying about what's going on on the other side of the football. We're just worried about the offense and we know that every time that we take the field, we want to score, and whether that'sscoring 20 points or 45 points, it doesn't matter.So we're just going to do whatever it takes to win the football game.

Q. Mike, James Hardy, who does he remind you of and who played him in the scout team this week? Would Bowman over there be a scout receiver?
COACH GUNDY: We rotated some of our young wide receivers that are red-shirting this year. We really don't have anybody that can line up like he can, obviously being as tall as he is. We have a lot of respect for him. They do a nice job of using him, and at times, whenever you put too many players in there to stop the run, they're very well-coached on both sides of the ball, and their quarterback does a nice job of making people miss, which at times forces you defensively to single him up whether in zone or man. And they have a good feel for that and they throw it out there to him whenever you do single him up.

Q. Jeremy, can you talk about Kellen Lewis, your impressions of him and if he reminds you of anyone that guys have played against this year.
JEREMY NETHON: He is a great athlete. Talent-wise, he can play with the best of us in the Big 12. His playing style is just different. He is real fast. He is just a good athlete. Watching film on him, we've been trying to prepare as well as we can for him. So I can't really compare him to anyone because he's a good talent. He plays his style, so ...

Q. Zac, how's it been now with 15 practices without Coach Fedora getting the game plan in for you personally since he has been your guide through the Bowl season?
ZAC ROBINSON: Really it hasn't changed a whole lot. It's kind of just been by committee with the coaches, Coach Gundy and all offensive staff has just put together a plan and nothing's changed at all. Everything has been in store, and once you put in the system, the players, you know, get a good grasp for it. So really it just kind of takes care of itself and just minor tweaks from week to week.

Q. Coach, which side of the ball is most beneficial to the long layover? Which side is that most advantageous to?
COACH GUNDY: You are talking about offense and defense? The layover as an advantage? Well, I think most people would say that offensively you're concerned when you don't play for four, five weeks, staying sharp in the throwing game and timing. Again, that works on both -- for both teams. Both teams have to prepare and work enough to where they feel like we're full speed in the game, but not too much, but you also want to have that timing. I would say offensively it's a little more difficult to keep that timing. But as Jeremy was saying, our defense is facing an offense that is explosive, and a quarterback who does a really nice job of making plays and can ad lib and is what we would call just a good football player. And because of that, we had to be really sharp defensively and be in the right spot and do the best we can to get him down and not let him get big plays.

Q. Jeremy, you have been through this Bowl thing before. I'm curious about how this week being here at the Bowl site has felt for you and the team as a whole as compared to last year?
JEREMY NETHON: I mean, each Bowl is different. Insight has provided a great environment for us. I mean, they have been great hosts for us, just being able to go out and have a good time but, yet, at the same time have great facilities to practice in. So, you know, each Bowl is different each year. I think I felt pretty good at home at this Bowl. They have been real welcoming for the entire team, the family and everything. So I have enjoyed myself.

Q. Jeremy, defensively, when people talk about Oklahoma State, they say that the offense is going to score points and can the defense stop anybody? Here is another offense that averages 30 points a game plus. Can you guys stop this team, Indiana? JEREMY NETHON: Each week, you know, we prepared well for them. There's been times where we haven't done everything right, and, you know, we've had times where we practice for this offense. It is a very good offense. I feel that we prepared very well for them. We just got to do everything right when we're out there, you know, play sound ball, and I think if we do that, we can accomplish a win out there.

Q. Coach Gundy, can you talk about the benefits of a Bowl game in terms of the extra practices or as many as you got last year heading into a new season?
COACH GUNDY: Obviously, whenever you're -- you have a chance to play in a Bowl, you're going to get anywhere from 12 to 15 additional practices. And what we do in the first six or seven of them is we spend time working the younger players that somewhat get pushed to the side during a season in a hectic week, in a 12-game schedule where you have two workdays. Some of the younger guys that are red-shirting or aren't in the two-deep don't get as much work in the fundamentals. It gives us an opportunity to work them and let some of the older guys watch. Most of the players that are in the situation of Jeremy and Koenig and players that have been here a while, they have been through a lot and their bodies need that rest. It gives us an opportunity to work some of the younger players basically an additional spring football.

Q. Zac, Coach Gundy talked about that you have put in a lot of preparation in the long layover. Can you talk about the focus of this team, the game is tomorrow, and how hard it might have been to keep that type of a focus when you have a long layover.
ZAC ROBINSON: Yeah, I mean, we're completely focused now. We got a couple weeks off after the season was over. And then we got back into it and once we kind of got back into the routine, you know, nothing changed. When we got down here, just a regular practice week, just felt like a game week. And so I think everybody has put the fun aside and we're ready to play.
Q. Coach, can you talk about -- you guys have been here five of six years. Indiana is kind of new to this. Can you talk about the advantage of, one, having some of that experience on your side and also getting your guys to match the hunger of acting like it is the first time?
COACH GUNDY: That's a good question. We've discussed that as a team. We started probably two weeks ago. I had a concern about how excited Indiana was because I know as a coach, I went for a long time early in my career not being in a Bowl and how excited I was to be in a Bowl. They have been 13, 14 years without being in a Bowl. So there's that excitement just for post-season play, not only for the players but the fans and everybody that's in that environment in the area. The flip side for us, you know, we've done it several times. These guys have been here, so we would hope that that would help with our preparation and the way we handle the atmosphere and being in a place like Tempe where there is a lot to do and everybody is having a lot of fun. We hope that that part helps us. But I'll say this again: In watching tape for a month and spending time with Indiana coaches and just being around and seeing what they're doing, they're going to be well-prepared to play in this game. They have a mature staff that, I'm sure, understands what it takes to get ready. So, you know, that's always a question when you are playing a Bowl game, is who's going to be the team that's more excited to be here. Our team is thrilled to death to be here. It is not a situation where we feel like we should have been somewhere else because if you should be somewhere else, you should have won more games and come back here and played in the Fiesta Bowl. So our team understands that. The Insight has been tremendous and our players are very excited. The last thing I would say, I think in the experience I've had with it is when the players enjoy being around each other, the fellowship, the time that they get to spend out in a great location like this and be around each other for another week in practice, if they really like each other, they'll generally practice well and play well, and I feel like our team feels that way about each other.

Q. Zac, you had a chance to see Middleton on tape. What makes him good in your mind and how do you account for it?
ZAC ROBINSON: Yeah, I mean, he is definitely a great player. Any time you are leading the country in sacks, he is a special player. I think really he has got a pretty quick first step. He has got good moves, you know, rep and swimming. He does it all. And so we're definitely going to have our hands full with him up front.

Q. This question is for Mike and Zac. Zac, you started the season as a backup and you ended the season setting the single-season record for total offense. How have you evolved as a quarterback this year?
ZAC ROBINSON: I mean, really just being prepared each week, coming in the season, didn't really know what to expect, maybe playing 10 plays a game, not really knowing what to expect. Quarterbacks always get better from game to game, and it is a comfort deal. It is a lot of things. I think I've just felt more and more comfortable every week with what we're doing in the offense, and I know what's going on and everybody else around me has helped me out a whole lot. That's had a lot to do with it.
COACH GUNDY: Zac is, like most players, has gained valuable knowledge and experience through reps. Four, five games ago I think he kind of took the team on his shoulders and it became his football team as a quarterback of the offense. It was a difficult transition early in the season. You don't make a change at that position, much less make a change at that position when you have a returning starter who's thrown for 2,500 yards or however many yards that Bobby had thrown for last year and had a lot of preseason hype. When we had to make the change, it was difficult for a few weeks just because you have 107 guys on your team, and in most cases, your quarterback, whether he likes it or not, is looked at as a leader. So when you make a change, you have one guy who is trying to develop himself as being the leader of the offense and then also trying to improve as a player. Zac's made strides. Zac is very disciplined and a hard-working football player that carries himself in the right way and has led our offensive football team the last few weeks and we played pretty well. He has made the transition just through reps and experience.

Q. With both schools being known as offensive powerhouses, do you feel the outcome of this game will lie with what defense plays best?
JEREMY NETHON: I mean, definitely, when you look at both teams, you know the teams are going to be putting up points. And when you say that, that means the defense is at call. So I think that the defense has a vital part to the game, you know, what defense will be able to stop which offense, and both offenses are able to move the ball efficient and they have proved themselves throughout the year. I think it is very -- it is very big of us on both sides of the ball, you know, to play full go. And I think that our defense has prepared very well. We've had great practices. And we have a good family feel amongst each other, and I think we're going to go out there and play our best.

Q. For Jeremy and Zac, last year coming into the Bowl game you were 6-6, and this year 6-6 coming into this Bowl game. How much different does this team feel than last year's 6-6 squad, and if uou feel like you are that much better, why do you feel that way?
JEREMY NETHON: Well, I just feel like we've done a lot of team-building things. I just feel like this year it's more of a family. I'm out there playing for my brother out there, you know. And this year, we've had games that were close and we've had losses, but I think we bounced back well, and that's one thing that our team has -- with Coach Gundy just preaching to us we got to come back from and I think we have been able to do that. And just being able to come back to a good Bowl game is something good for us, for the seniors who go out and play last time with Zac. It's a good feel.
ZAC ROBINSON: Definitely, feels a little bit different from last year, you know, as far as a team and just knowing that we were competitive in every game and we didn't go into a week knowing that we had a legitimate chance of winning, and we felt good about it as a team. I think it is different from that standpoint.

Q. Mike, your short career as head coach, do you feel like your program is better than when you took over and getting better all the time?
COACH GUNDY: I think we're farther ahead than we were this time last year. The question comes up a lot you're 6-6 and you were 6-6 last year. I want to make it very clear as a coaching staff and a representative of our players that we feel like we're working toward a goal to have an opportunity to win every game we play in the future. We prepared that way this year. There were three games that we weren't as competitive as we would have wanted to have been in the second half. The other games that we played, we either won or were competitive. Our goal is to win every game we played. As I have said from the start, when I was lucky enough to be named the head coach at Oklahoma State is that we're in the business of developing young men and trying to prepare them for life. Whatever Jeremy is doing ten years from now is important to our coaching staff. And the wins and losses will come through a period of time. It is really difficult for me to determine where we're at now compared to three years ago when Coach Miles was leaving. But I do know that we're further along as a football team in our football program, in our depth and the direction we're going now than we were at this time of year ago. We have to stay the course. We have to be patient. We have to continue to work extremely hard, not only as a coaching staff, our players, the young players like Zac have to take over where players like Jeremy have been leaders for us. There's more parody in college football now than there ever has been. There are more games that are competitive and games that are closer than there has been in the past in college football, in my opinion, which I think is good. But because of that, the ability of the players to keep the team together will be more important because there will be some ups and downs.

Q. Mike and Zac, Bowl games are kind of like icing on the cake as rewards for players. As a play caller, do you have the intensity to look at the play in the back of the playbook that maybe you haven't used in a setting like this? Zac, would you want to do something like that in a game that's not for a conference title? It is kind of a reward game?
COACH GUNDY: The Bowl games are important because there's a lot of hard work and obviously there is a month of preparation that goes into it. And I think that one thing -- I'll speak offensively -- that we like to do. We like to do a lot of different things and we like to open it up. And in doing that, the players have fun. They enjoy it. They know that we're going to run the football and we're going to play pass and we're going to throw it down the field and try to throw it to Bowman and Pettigrew and Zac and Savage and Spud Kendall, let those guys make plays. To answer your question, we certainly don't want to walk off the field in the fourth quarter and have a lot of bullets left in our upper pocket. We want to fire them all.
ZAC ROBINSON: With the long layover, you definitely get some time to open it up a little bit. You got to work on plays that maybe you didn't during the season, so you get to spice it up a little bit, I guess you'd say, on offense and throw in some wrinkles, as well, on defense. I'm sure they will have some stuff as well as we got some stuff.

Q. Mike, second straight year you're 6-6 going into a Bowl game. Win, you got a winning record; lose, you got a losing record. It is different than if you are 7-5, 8-4 going into a Bowl. How important is it to just have a winning record?
COACH GUNDY: I was asked that question earlier in the week out on the practice field. They were talking about the momentum and a win. We're certainly prepared and will do everything we can to win this game. Any time you compete, no matter whether it is in football or anything else in life, you are going to do everything you can to prepare to put yourself in position to win. The comparison I used was did Kansas win in a Bowl game? They made a great run. I think most important is the preparation we've had prior to this game and the players go out and compete hard and we have fun. We would love to win the football game. And then where the seniors and the older players go with our team in the off-season workouts and in spring football is as important as anything in continuing to develop and get the program to where we want it to be, which is competing for conference championships.

Q. Jeremy, can you draw anything off of your Bowl performance last year for tomorrow's game from your personal standpoint?
JEREMY NETHON: It is my last game, you know. I'm not guaranteed another one. And I just got to go out there and give it my all. I have been out a couple of weeks, and it has kind of been building up. So, you know, it is always good to go out as an MVP but I just want to win. I just want to do whatever it takes for this team to win, you know, to go out and tell my children years from now, hey, my last game I went out there and I played with everything I had and we won. So, you know, it is not about my personal thing. It is just about going out there and trying to get a victory. That's what I'm feeling.

Q. Mike, this offense is ranked No. 2 all-time in school history based on total yards. You have been involved in all top six or seven whether it was the No. 1 with offense Barry, Thurman, Josh Fields, Rashaun, these last two. Where does this offense rank since you were the offensive coordinator, head coach or quarterback?
COACH GUNDY: That was nice of you to say that, Mike. I was unaware that you knew that (smiling). This is a good offense. Offensive numbers and statistics are going to be different now than they ever have been before. We talked about this before. There are more passes which stops the clock. More teams now are running 80 to 85 plays a game a time compared to back when I played in the covered-wagon days when they were only running 60, 65 plays a game. You are going to see more points. There's more athletes that get the ball on the perimeter that run the statistics up. This offense has had success because we have skilled players that can make a play in space. We talked about them earlier. We have Bowman, Dez, Zac, Savage, Kendall, Pettigrew, guys that can make a play. Our offensive line play has been very average but they've gotten the hats on the right guy. And when you do that, you have a chance to make some plays, so this is a good offensive team. It is hard to compare this offense to, for example, in early 2002 or so when we were running the ball more and doing some things with Rashaun and Josh and/or going all the way back to comparing to Barry and Thurman in those days. It is a good offense team and a completely different system.

Q. Zac, with all this talk about offense, does it put any more pressure on you because everybody is saying it will be a shootout? Do you feel like the first quarter we got to get in the end zone a couple of times? Do you approach this game any differently?
ZAC ROBINSON: No, you can't go in and approach it any differently. We know that they have a great offense. We have a ton of confidence in our defense as we do week to week. And so we can't approach it any differently. We just have to go out and try to move the football, and it will be a challenge for us because we know they have a good defense.

Q. Mike and Zac, about Adarius, do you think he is ready to bust loose in the last game after being out the last two games of the season?
COACH GUNDY: I think Bowman is excited about playing. When you are in a situation he is, when you are a senior and you have an incident where potentially you could have a serious injury, I think he's like most players, human nature, there is a little fear there. And then when he found out it was a 2- to 4-week injury and everything was going to be okay, I saw relief on his face. He worked hard in rehab. But to answer your question, he'll play extremely hard in this game because it is his nature, because he is very competitive and he likes to play football. It is one thing that I've -- you guys have heard me refer to throughout the years is that some guys really like to play the game, some guys play just because they either want to be there because they're on scholarship or people think they're supposed to. The really good ones, in most cases, like to play and are very, very competitive and he falls in that category. On game day, he wants to be out there. He wants to be in the middle of it. There is times on the sideline we have to calm him down because he wants the ball. He wants to be a factor in the game. So I think he will play hard.
ZAC ROBINSON: I'm seen over the past few weeks, A.D. has been as hungry as ever. He has practiced well. He looks to be back to full speed. I think he is excited to get back out there and play with this team for the last time.

Q. Mike, back to the transition when you made the switch from Bobby to Zac, that's exactly what you went through. Not that you just played the position, you were thrown in half-time at the Houston game as a freshman. Did that make it easier for you to talk to Zac about what he was going to get ready to go through?
COACH GUNDY: The comparisons aren't really fair, because when I went through it there was an article in the paper on it the next day, and now when you make a transition like that. Everybody talks about it for -- we're going on three months now. And they talk about it on the Internet and everybody has a comment, and most people don't know what's really going on. So it is much different now because of all the exposure in the media and the people outside that are so involved. I really wasn't able to contribute much in that situation. And one thing I'll say about Zac, Zac is very mature and handles himself very well, and so I didn't feel like that there was a need for that. He had worked extremely hard the last couple years. For those of you that had followed us very close, you were aware that he was ready to play. A couple times Bobby was injured and he went in and played very well. Each of these players are different in how they handle themselves mentally. Some are more mature. Zac has always been able to handle himself, so that wasn't an area of concern. The most difficult part, Junior, was the transition of the team looking to him as the leader instead of Bobby. And nowadays, for example, you know, because of all the success that Bobby had last year late in the year, everywhere he went, people saw him as the starting quarterback in preseason, Unitas candidate and all those categories he fell into, and then all of a sudden it's changed. I think that's more of a difficult transition than developing himself mentally and being able to handle it. Once you get on the field, you go play and don't worry about anything else.

Q. Jeremy, you talked earlier about the emotion that goes into being in your last game. How do you balance that emotion with also trying not to do too much?
JEREMY NETHON: That's everything, I think. When you prepare for a game, you try to strike a balance, you know, adrenalin. You factor all that in. With me going into my last game, I think I played every game like it was my last game, you know, at times. And I think this game is no different from any other game, you know, because football is a game of inches and injuries and things like that, so you don't know what's around the corner. So for playing too much or going out too hard, I mean, I don't think there's a difference for me. When I go out there, and I think it is the same for me and I think it is the same for Zac and even with Coach, you know, you go out there with all you have.
COACH GUNDY: I would just like to add -- and I said some things about Zac, but Jeremy is a guy that's had a lot of ups and downs in his career and he's matured considerably in the last couple years and kind of add to that question. It has helped him on the playing field, because when he made a mistake a couple years ago, he didn't handle it real well on the sideline. Now he understands, okay, a mistake has been made and you can't go back and change it. What you can do is find the solution to the problem and make sure it doesn't happen again and make up for it by playing hard in the next series. And that's where he's really come a long way as not only a player but as a human being. He's developed a lot in that area which has helped our defense in some of our younger players.

Q. Zac, last year you played Alabama, one of the magic names in football. This year you are playing Indiana which is known for basketball. Is it tougher to get up for an Indiana than an Alabama even though Indiana may have a better team than Alabama did?
ZAC ROBINSON: No, not at all. It was fun last year playing such a historic program like Alabama. But we've seen Indiana throughout the year and what they have been able to do and with their coach. I mean, it is a good story and so we're not approaching it any different. We know they're a good football team and they are playing for a lot. So we got to be ready.
COACH GUNDY: You're right, Barry. They are a better team right now than Alabama was at this time last year.

Q. Jeremy, Coach Gundy said you had a lot of ups and downs your five years at OSU. What's your favorite memory as your time as a Cowboy?
JEREMY NETHON: Walking back out on the field after sitting out a year. You don't really know how much you have until it's gone. And not being able to run out on the field on a Saturday and just having to watch the away games, just watching on T.V., it is a whole lot different. I think my best moment was preparing hard that spring, that summer, and then coming back the next year and being able to run out. It was a dream for me, because for most athletes around the country they want to play at this level. And I had the opportunity to do it and then I got it stripped away. For Coach Gundy to give me a second chance and me taking advantage of it is something that will stick with me forever.
COACH GUNDY: You stripped it away yourself, and then you gave yourself a second chance. Coach Gundy was just the guy that had to make the bad decision, right?
JEREMY NETHON: You're right (smiling). He's right. I did it.

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