Gundy in his tenth year with the Cowboys, has seen the changes within the college game across conferences, and especially in a Big 12 that has been as varied as any in terms of number of different champions and arguably the most tumultuous over the last decade in individual team highs and lows.
“I think there is a lot of parity in today’s game,” Gundy said. “When you research teams, they win nine games, the next year they win four, the next year they win 10, the next year they win five. I think it’s based on maturity of players you have and the consistency is much more difficult to keep than it used to be in the past. There is so much parity in the league. We stress the importance of preparation each week and then you have to try and get started in the game quick and then fight your way to the end.”
Which newcomers TCU and West Virginia weren’t able to do last season. Now, the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers combine for a 10-3 overall record, including a 5-2 mark in league play that has both ranked in the Top 25. Gundy, whose team played TCU last week and now hosts WVU, attributes the changes to a more experience, veteran roster and the accumulated mental and physical reps, plus live snaps, that both teams rosters have amassed.
“Their quarterbacks are a little more mature and I think the (Trevon) Boykin kid in his third year and (Clint) Trickett into his second year is the key,” Gundy said. “I think they are very similar in the fact that scheme-wise it’s a carry over, but the quarterback is mature now. He’s into his second year and he’s older and he’s playing with a lot of confidence and that is benefitting their team.”
Oklahoma State lost 42-9 in Fort Worth last week, giving up its most points all season. OSU’s other loss came in the season-opener against then-No. 1 Florida State, 37-31. The Cowboys, ranked 11th at the time, dropped a surprise 30-21 decision to West Virginia last season when they finished 10-3 overall. Gundy was asked about the WVU defense, which limited then-No. 4 Baylor to 318 total yards, and allowed just three of 16 third down conversions, and zero of two on fourth down.
“It’s a different coach and a different scheme, but they are playing well right now and obviously they got going there a little bit and took away some of the things Baylor does and that gave them a chance to slow it down,” Gundy said. “They are playing with confidence. Every coach has his scheme. TCU plays a four down and has done well with it. West Virginia has been playing well with a three down. There aren’t a lot of schemes teams haven’t been confronted with.”
Gundy’s offense, a bit stagnant at times this season, is averaging 33.1 points per game, with 246 passing yards and 150 on the ground. OSU has racked up the scoring against lesser foes, but has struggled with solid defenses as it adjusts and it tries to find better consistency in the run game with finer execution in pass blocking. How good, exactly, the Cowboys are remains to be seen, as the nonconference slate outside FSU included Missouri State and a decent UT-San Antonio team. Oklahoma State, 3-1 in the Big 12, has defeated Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State. The coach isn’t as worried about defensive numbers, which he says have been far too affected by new offensive styles to be reliable in the old measureables.
“The biggest stat that needs to be measured is defensive statistics based on a team where an offense runs a lot of plays really fast,” Gundy said. “We used to be measured on yards per game, points per game. Those are irrelevant in football today.”
Gundy was also asked about defending WVU’s Kevin White, who went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season against Baylor. White has 1,020 yards on 69 catches, an average of 14.8 yards per reception. The senior leads the team with seven scores.
“White is very similar to those guys,” Gundy said of former Oklahoma State standouts Justin Blackmon and Dez Bryant. “He’s a really good player. He’s going to play this game for a long time. I don’t know the young man personally, but I really like what I see on tape. I like the energy and enthusiasm he plays with.”
Gundy then asked about White’s remaining eligibility. “Good. That makes my day,” he said.