Gundy Praises OSU's Unsung Heroes

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State fans would expect Mike Gundy to praise players like Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox after this past weekend's Cowboys season-opening victory over Georgia. But the OSU head coach spent much of Monday's weekly news conference talking about Wilson Youman, Justin Horton, Cooper Bassett and Donald Booker.

As a matter of fact, the three Oklahoma State tight ends were recognized with playing the best on the offensive side of the ball in the ninth-ranked Cowboys victory over No. 13 Georgia on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. Youman, Horton and Bassett were given the POSSE award presented to a group of players that performs the best in each game, OSU co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said.

Last Monday, Youman was starting tight end Jamal Mosley's backup while Horton and Bassett were helping the OSU defense prepare for Georgia. But that all changed when Mosley and Gundy agreed last Monday that it would be in everyone's best interest if the two parties parted ways following several off-the-field issues.

"Those guys played well for their first chance to be out there when it counted," Gundy said.

Youman got the start for the Cowboys at tight end, and finished with two catches for 25 yards. Horton had one catch for eight yards, and Bassett saw his first action as a Cowboy after redshirting last season.

"We had two guys (Horton and Bassett) on the scout team who were flipping back and forth come into the game," Brewer said. "Sure (they) had some first game jitters but you've got to remember these kids had never played before, and it isn't like we called somebody and said we'll meet you in Langston to play a warm-up game. This is the University of Georgia."

Gundy added, "Wilson has played some but he always played when he was a backside guy or he really wasn't at the point of attack. Then when he had to play some last year when (Brandon) Pettigrew was hurt, he had a chance to get his feet wet and get going. So essentially within the week he got thrown into the fire, and stepped up and made some plays.

"Horton made a couple of catches for us, and did OK when he was in there. He was a guy that was kind of rolling into practice (every day). Then Cooper Bassett made some plays and he didn't even practice with us. He was wearing a red jersey all week; he was demonstrating Georgia's tight end for our defense. But we had to use him in certain situations and he came in and did a good job. That's why we recognized them. They were guys who were able to step in at a crucial time and help us win a football game," Gundy continued.

Defensively, Booker got his first start at middle linebacker after Orie Lemon suffered an ACL injury last Monday. The 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior played in all 13 games last season after transferring from Navarro (Texas) College but he went from backing up Lemon to starter in the blink of an eye.

He played nearly every play when the OSU defense was on the field, and finished with five unassisted tackles, one quarterback hurry and a pass broken up.

"He did a good job for what we asked him to do," Gundy said of Booker. "Donald's had a lot of practice though. Where he improved in Saturday's game, which was encouraging, was he played better in a game than at times he has in practice. You always hear people say, he's a gamer. We've never been fond of that because most guys who perform in practice perform in a game. If a guy doesn't perform in practice, he usually doesn't perform in a game.

"He's shown signs of improving and controlling his emotions in practice. Coach (Glenn) Spencer had mentioned when Orie got injured he started coming in more and watching tape and studying. We would like that to happen before the situation we were in with Orie, but sometimes it doesn't. It's only human nature to say, they're going to put this on me now, I'd better get ready," Gundy continued.

Although Cowboy fans are used to seeing much better numbers than what he produced against the Bulldogs, Gundy said that senior quarterback Zac Robinson also played well. He threw for just 135 yards and rushed for another 39 on nine carries but it was about more than statistics, Gundy said.

"I thought Zac was a great leader for us. That's the most important thing he can do is be a great leader for our team. He showed toughness, and he showed durability. He ran the effectively, (and) threw the ball OK," the OSU head coach said.

"Zac went through a period of time during two-a-days where he didn't practice too much, and I've said this to the team that I've only been around two people (Barry Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes) in 30 years as a player and a coach who could not practice and still play well. Zac's not one of them. For the amount of time he practiced, he played pretty well. But being a leader, being tough, and being able to run the ball effectively, he was very good in those areas."

The Cowboys now focus their attention on the Houston Cougars, also 1-0 after a 55-7 victory over Northwestern State to open the season last Saturday. OSU defeated Houston 56-37 last September in Boone Pickens Stadium but lost to the Cougars 34-25 in Houston in 2006.

We're going to play a very good football team that can score a lot of points, and is very dangerous. The good side of that is I think our players understand that from watching tape of last year. Obviously, they played very well last Saturday," Gundy said. "From what we've seen on tape they've improved on defense. They can run to the football. They've done a good job of bringing players in who can step in and play immediately, in my opinion.

"Overall, (last Saturday) may have been one of the best days we've had here in a long time. There were a lot of people who had a lot of commitment to last Saturday's game. There was a lot on the line, and it worked out well for us. But we've got to move forward now."

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