Sunday Rewind: Cowboys A Blue-Collar Group

I really consider the Sunday Rewind as a factual story much like you would read in the newspaper on Monday morning but there will be two opinion-based segments to this story following the 36-31 win on Saturday in Oklahoma State's Big 12 opener at Texas A&M.

Starting right here, the coach has said it frequently.

"There is a lot of parity out there in college football right now," said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy again in his Sunday teleconference with the beat reporters. "You can't take anything for granted and we asked our team to go down Saturday and compete and I was proud of them because that is what they did. They went down there and competed."

Sometimes Gundy's comments about parity have been looked at cross-eyed by the media and seemingly ignored by fans. Following the win over the Aggies that the Cowboys have come out 15th (AP) and 14th (USA Today) in the polls. I honestly thought they might slip more on the heels of the Dez Bryant situation but it is good they did not.

That said, this is far from the same Oklahoma State team that came out of preseason camp, or even the same team that defeated Georgia in week one. It is watered down, is less experienced, and, at least, with the absence of Bryant, less talented in one area.

The Cowboys are not alone as many other teams have suffered key injuries and setbacks off the field. The results say it and Oklahoma State fans need to be ready for it. EACH GAME IS NOW GOING TO BE A GRINDER!

Just like at Texas A&M, there is not as much difference between the upper-tier, middle-tier, and lower-tier teams. You have to fight each game, each play for what you get. This can still be, and very likely will be, a memorable and successful season, but it is no longer a given or a birthright. The Sports Illustrated cover team is gone and replaced by a blue collar group that knows it will have to fight and scratch the rest of the way.

In my opinion there are now four teams at the top of college football that could be considered blue bloods and that can get away with playing less than their best and winning against an above average foe. You have Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Virginia Tech. Those four are just an injury or problem away from joining the majority of the college football ranks.

The Cowboys are in that next tier, but there are about 30 to 40 teams in that group ranging from unbeatans like Iowa, Boise State, Kansas, Cincinnati, South Florida, and TCU to long time blue bloods like Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU, Penn State, USC, Nebraska, Miami, and Michigan to more trendy up and comers like Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas Tech, Mississippi, Oregon, Houston, and Stanford.

Overall and after watching the videotape, Gundy was mostly pleased with what he saw out of the Cowboys in the A&M win.

"Defensively, it was kind of a roller coaster, but I thought we had good effort," said the head coach. "We had players step up in key situations to make plays and stop A&M, like the fourth-down stop and (Andre) Sexton's play and Donald Booker got the sack on their quarterback.

"We have got to do a better job of playing the ball in the air. There were times the ball was in the air and we got caught playing the receiver. We have to feel like if the ball is in the air then we have just as much right to it. They put us in some of those situations and we put them in some as well. It comes back to planning and coaching as we try and improve that.

"Special teams played well and Perrish Cox performance in the return game was crucial," added Gundy. "Coming off the injury we were uncertain how much he was going to be able to help us on special teams. He got a lot of help with the blocking on our returns.

"Offensively, I thought we were a physical football team and we were able to run the football. It is so important when you go on the road to be able to run the football and control the game and the clock. I thought our young receivers in (Dameron) Fooks, (Justin) Blackmon, and Hubert (Anyiam) stepped up and were making plays. Fooks caught that one on third-and-long, and Blackmon caught a third-and-long, and Anyiam had a third-down catch.

"I thought Zac Robinson was effective and handled himself well. He made some mistakes on some throws and the one interception, but he competed hard and gave us the chance to win. I thought the offensive line was effective, coming off the ball and effectively moving them off the line. The running backs, (Keith) Toston an (Beau) Johnson, ran hard. Toston played really well and Johnson came in and played well."

Gundy said the penalties were a concern, but said different penalties are handled differently like the Sexton hit out of bounds versus an aggressive penalty in the field of play. The good thing was their weren't any lack of focus penalties such as illegal procedure.

There was extra compliments for the offensive line as Gundy was happy they have invested in really improving in the running game and have all bought in. Russell Okung had a huge assignment in this game as he had Aggies sack leader Von Miller, who came in with nine sacks, most of the time.

"Russell played really well," said Gundy. "He (Miller) is really athletic and Russell kept him under control."

The Cowboys outsacked the nation's sack leaders four to none in the ballgame as not only Miller but the Aggies as a whole were shut out.

Now, for the other opinionated area of today's story. This reporter and the head coach had a unique and humbling experience before the game. I had the opportunity to interview my first President as I was honored to speak with former President George H.W. Bush before the game.

After my interview President Bush asked myself and assistant director of football operations Dale Patterson, who was standing nearby, if he could speak to Oklahoma State's head coach. We both went off and found Gundy.

"I sure did," said Gundy of having the opportunity to speak to the former president. "It was a special time for me to speak to the President. I was just coming on the field when they told me that the President wanted to speak with me. It's not something you are thinking about before a game but I was honored, I didn't even know that he knew who I was. I guess he is a sports fan and he may have watched You Tube.

"I have a great deal of respect for anybody that has that office as President of the United States whether they are Republican or Democrat. That is a tough job where many of the everyday people are for you or many of the everyday people are against you all the time. You have to make tough decisions that effect all of us every day."

Gundy spoke the the President for several minutes, but President Bush started the exchange by putting his arm around Coach Gundy and saying, "so you're the mad man," as he chuckled.

Maybe the President does check out YouTube.

Not only was it a great honor for Gundy, but it also was a great honor that the President would take time to answer a couple of my questions. I doubt I will ever get to interview another President.

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