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The Rundown: Everything Mike Gundy Said in his Pre-Arizona State News Conference

Gundy talks Arizona State, playoff expansion and more.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — Mike Gundy and the Cowboys are headed into a Power Five matchup this week.

Oklahoma State defeated Central Michigan 58-44 on Thursday and will host Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium after the Sun Devils topped Northern Arizona 40-3. Gundy held his weekly media luncheon on Monday. Here is everything he said.

Opening statement

“Week 2, I was pretty accurate in most of my comments after the first game with the way we played. So did a good job of watching from the sideline, but as we move forward, obviously moving into a different type of athlete. Obviously playing another Power Five school. Arizona State man-handled Northern Arizona last week. So, we’ll have to really practice well and have good plans and try to improve in all areas, clean up some things that we had issues with, stay focused. 

“We need a good crowd, you know, I watched a few games, I shouldn’t even say a few games, I watched a few quarters I didn’t get to watch very much football but, you know, it’s recognizable that the safety we got I think was credited to the students and the paddle people on that side of the stadium, where it was really loud and disruptive and helped us. So, we really need a good home-field advantage. I’m excited about the weather, (it) looks good for the crowd. Not so concerned about it for football, but it’ll be good for the fans and give everybody a chance to fill this place up and be really loud Saturday night, so I’m excited about that. Being a part of it, sharing it with the fans, and watching our guys continue to grow and improve and see if we can correct and come up with a good plan for some of the issues we had Thursday night and move forward.”

On the positives of being surprised by Central Michigan’s offensive schemes

“Well, the first thing is, there is no substitute for experience and reps. And so on Friday, obviously I go and look at the tape and then I have to sit down and give my opinion on what I think we did that was good, average, or not so good as coaches, first. Then tie that into what we feel like we got from the players and what we had actually prepared them for thoroughly, or what we didn’t. And so, some of the mistakes that we made, I’m gonna say that the ones that the general fan would see from watching it on TV or from the game, were made with youth — it’s first time it’s ever happened to him. So, you know, they have to see it. We have to coach it. We have to correct it, and then try to make it better. It will not be the last time some of that happens with young players, period. That’s just a fact. 

“We were very, very mature a year ago at the two linebacker spots and the five safety spots — corner, safeties, whatever you wanna call them, very mature. I mean, we all know that, so. Two of those guys are playing in the pros. One’s playing for Ohio State, one’s playing for LSU, one’s playing for the Washington [Commanders], and the other one’s playing for us. The other one that’s not here was an All American. So, we’re replacing those guys with some guys that don’t have as much experience and that’s really what you run into. So, it’s a simple solution that takes a little bit of time to evolve to it. As coaches, what we need to do is try to find how much we can correct in one week to get ready for the next game on Saturday.”

On whether there was anything he was not accurate about after watching the film

“No, I thought I had a pretty good idea. Most of what — I mean offensively we were pretty good. We didn’t run block as well as we needed to, so I was pretty accurate with all that. We were not as good in special teams as I wanted to be. In the return game we were fine. And then obviously in target punting we were fine, but protection-wise and a couple other things, I didn’t think we were very good, and I was correct. Those are things that we need to get cleaned up. We should be able to correct those a little quicker than some of the schemes on offense and defense. And then defensively, some guys that were out there for the first time in their life saw some things that they had never seen. And so it was new to them, and unfortunately most of the time that’s what you get.”

On whether the defensive mistakes were in the right place and just didn’t make the right play, or weren’t in the right place

“Both. You have communication that takes place from corners to safeties, safeties to linebackers, goes on throughout the game. So, veteran players can keep their eyes on something and move around and see something and relocate, still hear and get communicated and pass the communication on. Young players see things happen, they’re trying to figure out what to do and where to go and they don’t even hear anything. So the communication needs to improve and both things you mentioned took place in that game.”

On Derek Mason’s performance in first game as a defensive coordinator

“Well, as a group, we weren’t as clear on the headsets as we were last year, because they’re all new. And there’s a lot that goes on game day. So, there’s communication with the defensive coaches in different areas, strategic communication on blocking schemes, route concepts. They take it all in, then they’ve got to get it communicated then get into the players getting back on the field. There’s a lot that goes on and I don’t have any way to make it happen smooth without experience. They need experience working together just like the players do. So, the good news is 90-something percent of it is correctable and it’s just based on communication and experience and everybody learning to work together.”

On Deondre Jackon’s transcript issues

“That is a day-to-day gig. I can’t answer that. That’s out of my hands. They could call us up and say, ‘He’s good,’ or they might call us for a week, I’m not sure.”

“Well, again, it’s difficult to communicate when you’re working with the NCAA. You might get some information from them, then you might not hear from them for two weeks. So, we knew that he had some things to get taken care of, but we didn’t really know for sure, nor how long it would take. He’s done all of his part, let’s put it that way. Now, we’re just waiting on the clarification. It shouldn’t be much further away, I wouldn’t think.”

On whether he learned anything about the running backs

“I mean, I was pretty close. They gave me about what I thought they were gonna give me.

“I mean, Ollie (Gordon) didn’t get a lot of time, made a play now and then. I thought Jaden (Nixon) gave us about what we thought he would give us in his career. And then, you know, [Dominic Richardson] runs hard. We didn’t run block very well.”

On whether Jaden Nixon has a chance to be an ideal compliment to Dominic Richardson

“You know, he’s more shifty and explosive and gets in the open field, can run away from you. So there are two different kinds of backs. And [Richardson] at some point in his career should become more elusive. We’re having, you know, we talked to him about trying to make a guy miss more so than just running through him. And I think he understands that and he’s trying to do some of that. But, before it’s all said and done, we’ll end up needing three or four backs, just from the beatings those guys take during the season.”

On Langston Anderson

“Yeah, I mean, he played and did some things, did a few things good and then played like he hasn’t played in three years, which he hasn’t played in three years. Quite honestly, I was just excited that he made it to the game. Truthfully, he’s been very unfortunate with things that have happened to him, that if it wasn’t one thing it was another and to just get him to the kickoff and get him out there and let him make some mistakes and get a feel for it. He’s no more than a true freshman, if you look at him for the most part. Now his body’s different because he’s been working out with us for years, but his knowledge, his game-day experience and comfort zone is like a freshman.”

On Ollie Gordon

“Well, he didn’t play enough to really evaluate. He made a nice play on that. You know, we’ve seen him make some plays in practice, and he’ll learn and gather more information and concepts and schemes. So far I feel good about their ability to protect, which is important for that position. Gives me a little more comfort. The running side of it (is) just based on how many carries they get they’ll just learn on the run.”

On the use of four-wide receiver sets

“When we’re in those sets, it allows Spencer to freelance a lot and make decisions on his own, do what he wants to do in our style of offense. He has a really good feel for our offense and he has a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to get accomplished. So that allows him to make plays and use his ability, would be the main reason we’re in those type of sets. And then some of that’s dictated on personnel and the team we’re playing — what we think gives us the best chance based on the style of defenses we see if they base it on our personnel.”

On whether receiver depth makes it easier to run four-wide

“Yeah, it helps. We didn’t have that luxury last year. We were just trying to get two guys on the field last year. We’re pretty comfortable with five, six, seven guys now. At some point, we’ll get (Jaden) Bray back. I’m not sure when that’ll be. But we’ve got some depth this year compared to what we’ve had.”

On Arizona State

“Well, they played good the other night. Their defense, I think they were No. 1 in the Pac-12 last year defensively. I’m not sure, but I know they were ranked up there pretty high. They only gave up about 380 yards a game, didn’t give up many points. And they only gave up three the other night, six or three, something like that. So they were pretty good on defense. And they really helped themselves with the quarterback they brought in, I think he’s from Florida. He’s athletic. He can run, makes plays with his legs, throws the deep ball well. It’ll be a good challenge for us. We’ll get a really good feel for where we’re at as a football team after this game, because we’re gonna play athletic guys. They’re big and physical. They’ve got big, physical linemen. Their offensive line’s good. We’ll be challenged in those areas, so we’ll get a good feel for where we’re at.”

On Arizona State’s NFL coaches

“They’ve got quite a few NFL guys on that staff in different roles. You can see some NFL stuff in what their schemes are on offense and defense. Obviously he’s (Herm Edwards) got a long history in the NFL, and certainly those other two guys (Brian Billick and Marvin Lewis). They made coordinator changes. There’s some similarities at times in what they did offensively. Defensively, a little different. Last year, a lot of pressure, a lot of cover-1 and stuff. Not so much the other night. Maybe they just said we’re playing Northern Arizona, we’re gonna play base the whole game and not show anything for the next game. That could be their thought process also. Special teams-wise, completely different last year than they were Thursday night. So maybe real vanilla against Northern Arizona to not show anything, and then be considerably different or similar to what they were last year against Oklahoma State. Because they have the same guy doing it. (R.C.) Slocum’s boy’s doing it. His son (Shawn), he’s running their special teams. They might have some changes based on what’s happened, and then maybe they’re not really. We won’t know that, so we kind of have to prepare for both.”

On game-planning for Arizona State

“We have to control their quarterback first. He’s a good player. He throws the deep ball really well and makes plays with his legs. If you don’t contain him, he’s gonna take off and run. He can really hurt you. Most of my meetings with the coordinators getting into that type of information would be tomorrow morning, but just from what I see, I’m gonna guess the first thing we need to do is control their quarterback.”

On the NFL influence at Arizona State

“It’s not necessarily schemes. Some of it is just alignment. When you look at what they did defensively last year, the new thing in college football is mixing in three-down. You see a lot of three-down in certain situations. They didn’t play any three-down. They just played four-down, which is a traditional defensive front. Now you’re seeing some of that in the NFL, but those guys, they’re from a little ways back, so you get a little bit of vision of more of that style of play. And there was almost 30% the other night of under-center play for Arizona State. You don’t see that. When Billick coached, it was under center. And so that was more of what you would get from that generation of NFL coach.”

On what he remembers most about the 2002 team

“Man, you’re asking me to go 20 years back. When you get my age, you’ll understand that it’s difficult to do. Is that the Houston Bowl team?

“So, that was our first bowl when Coach (Les) Miles and I were here and I think we had to beat Baylor to become bowl eligible, and that was a big deal for us because prior to Les and I coming in I don’t think we’d been to a bowl in a while. So, that was a big deal for us. Once we were able to get that accomplished, going down to play a bowl, we played Southern Miss, I believe. Coach Bower was the coach, I think. They were always well-coached with him. He was a good football coach.

“And I remember winning the game. I think Tatum Bell broke a long run, but I can’t remember for sure. That’s all I got”

On Josh Fields’ and Rashaun Woods’ connection off the field

“Well, they were good. They matched up a lot. They were really good on the field. It might have been the next year they started working really good together.

“They were playing good that year. Those guys had a good feel. Both highly intelligent. Fields was good enough to play quarterback in the NFL. He just chose to play baseball. Both very savvy football players.”

On Arizona State running backs

“They’re good skill players. You’re talking about guys that are Power-5 conference skill guys. Bringing the quarterback in gave them another running back back there throwing the ball and the other guys are skilled and can make plays. They’ve traditionally always had speed on the perimeter. This will be a good game for us to kinda figure out where we are.”

On Caleb Etienne

“He played pretty good. I was pleased with the way he played. His overall grade is a C, but for your first time to play at this level — he hasn’t really played in a couple, three years — it’s not bad. He should improve and grow and learn. There’s not much difference in what he’s doing and what we’re trying to get accomplished with the young defensive guys. Basically, he’s trying to learn on the run and gain some valuable experience.”

On playoff expansion

“I don’t know a lot about it. I think the first thing is money took over. This was something everybody said, ‘No, no, no,’ and then somebody said, ‘You’re missing out on $450 million,’ and then everybody said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That’s what happened. That’s real clear cut.

“Now, do I think it’s best? I don’t think college football is broke, so I’m not sure why we’re trying to fix it. Now, I know why we’re trying to fix it, because we’re talking about $450 million divided by 65 schools, is what I was told. I could be wrong. Don’t quote me on that.

“But my point being is the reason college football is a hot commodity and it’s a great stock right now is because every game matters in college football. That’s why people watch it. We revenue money by people watching television. We all know that. There’s a risk-reward in everything we do. I’m not going to be involved in any of the decision-making process, so it doesn’t really matter to me. But the point being is this is that you have to be a little careful that you don’t change it to where people aren’t as interested in watching the game because they know, ‘Well, there’s 12 teams that can get in,’ so if these two teams play and this team loses, they can still get in later on during the year. That’s not the case right now, so that’s why everybody watches every game.

“Same thing in basketball. Like, you can [have] eight, 10, 12 losses in basketball and still be a national champion. So, they don’t have to watch during the season. It’s not that big of a deal. What happens during the season is basketball is not a factor. The only thing that matters is the tournament.

“Same thing in baseball. And I love those sports. You can lose 15 games and still be a national champion in baseball, so I don’t need to watch until regionals. I’d be careful about that in football, in my opinion. 

“And are there really 12 teams that are capable of winning the national championship? You guys do this for a living. You can go back and look every year. Are there really 12 teams that deserve to be in a playoff or national championship? That’s the only thing. That’s my opinion. But remember, I have nothing to do with it.”

On whether it’s good for OSU and the Big 12

“I understand that. I know exactly what they’re trying to get accomplished. The only thing I would say is, if you just went back and looked at the end-of-the-season rankings prior to the bowl games over the last 10 years, eight years, is there really 12 teams that you say, hey, they can legitimately win the national championship. If not, then we shouldn’t really have them playing for it. I’m not saying they didn’t have a great year. But why are they in that mix when we don’t really know if that could happen. So that’s all I’m saying. That’s just my opinion, based on where it’s at.” 

On whether there is a subplot in OSU’s game against Arizona State because of conference realignment

The Big 12, they’re ahead. We’re fine. Big 12 is already working on it. We’re in good shape. 

On where that faith comes from

I’m getting good information. I don’t know, I’m just saying the Big 12’s in good shape.” 

On whether Saturday’s game plays into conference realignment

“This game’s not going to factor in that at all. We’re in really good shape with the direction we’re going. We’re making good headway. 

On whether Arizona State would be a good fit for the Big 12

“There’s two things there. The first thing is, just like the comments I have on the 12-team playoff, none of this factors to me. This is all the athletic directors, presidents and the Big 12 Conference. They’re going to make those decisions. Not the coaches. They don’t call us, I shouldn’t say that. The president at Oklahoma State University calls me all the time about things like this, and so does the conference commissioner. But I’m not going to be able to say, hey, I want this school, you go get ‘em. They’re going to do what they want to do. That’s based on negotiations at the media table with those teams. I just think we all realize, at some point, this league is going to grow, and the Big Ten is going to grow. That’s what’s going to happen.

“If they pay us good media money, and budget-wise in the conference, we don’t take cuts, and athletic directors can divvy up the money amongst the athletic department, and we can stay on the same curve, it was a good move. That’s all it comes down to. It’s all turned into money. So I’m guessing at some point, when our commissioner goes to the table and says, whatever schools, how do you feel about these schools, and they say we’re interested, then OK let’s play that game. They say, we’re not interested, they’re not going to play that game. I think that’s as simple as it gets. I can’t answer that question, because I think there will be some teams that might not have as much notoriety from football that end up in Power 5 league, based on other reasons. That could happen. I just don’t know that for sure.”

On Pat Tillman

“I’m a big military guy. I’ve always said this: first responders and military guys, where there’s fires and buildings blowing up and people shooting guns, they run in and stop them. I run the other way. I don’t want to run into something like that. I’m not tough enough to do that. Those guys do it. He gives an NFL career and says, ‘I’m gonna go fight for my country.’ That’s a big deal. That’s the ultimate sacrifice and should, in my opinion, be rewarded with the ultimate respect is to go fight for our country so we can all do what we’re doing today.”

On why he is a “big military guy”

“That’s the way I was raised. My dad had some military experience, and I was raised from that tall of things that we respect. You respect authority. You respect teachers. You respect coaches. You respect grandparents. You respect adults. You respect the flag. And you respect this country. And you respect the military. That’s the way I was raised.”

On if there was anyone who played better than he thought after watching film

“You know, JP [John Paul Richardson] played pretty good. He had the catches and then after that you didn’t see him much, but overall he played really good. He pass protected on a rush end on a five-technique and stoned him and held him out and did a great job there. He would be a guy that played really good, in my opinion.”

On John Paul Richardson

“He’s gotta make plays, but he’s fast, he’s shifty, he’s tough, he’s intelligent, he’s learning to be a good route runner and he likes to play football. That’s really who he is right now. Has he arrived yet? No, he hasn’t arrived yet, but he’s moving toward that. Now he’s just lacking live reps, experience. He needs 150 plays in live games to kind of get over that hump, but he’s heading in that direction.”

On how the tight ends played

“They played pretty good. We had an A-, we had a B and we had a B-. Those are pretty good grades. It’s hard to grade well for us. Like, Etienne got a C. Very few linemen ever get more than a B here. Most of them get B- and Cs. So, he played pretty well in his first game. But those guys are all kind of A-, Bish, so they played pretty good.”

On Jake Schultz

“He likes to play football. He was willing to make the move. He could’ve eventually helped us a little bit as a rush end, but there’s a long line of rush ends here and they’re young. So, he made a good move sliding over. Tough guy that likes to play, intelligent. We can play with him. He can make some plays.”

On how he felt they managed their defensive line personnel

“When you go back and look at the game, if you look at the scoreboard and then you look at where we were at personnel-wise on defense, we played a lot of different people early. Because when you looked at the scoreboard at one time, it was like 51-17 or something, so we had mainly all young guys in. Then they would score a couple times, so we had a few other guys with some young guys. Then we’d score and we’d put the other guys back in. The good news is a lot of young players got to play based on scoring quite a few points in the first half and gave them a chance to make a few plays or make mistakes and hopefully allow us to correct it.

“But we are fortunate that we do have some depth there. We have the ability to play multiple guys.”

On Taylor Miterko

“I think he was a B- guy. Thought he played pretty good. I know one time he threw a no-hitter and got back to the quarterback, but other than that, he was on the right guy most of the time. Actually run blocked pretty good. He’s more physical, but he’s got a little more experience there. He’ll be fine. He just needs some reps.”

On whether the blocked PAT at the end of Florida State-LSU becomes a coaching point this week

“It is all the time for us. They had a field goal blocked in the left C-D gap. Then the PAT blocked in the left C-D gap. It could’ve been a couple things, so I don’t know for sure what protection they were using. When I watched it last night, when they showed the replay at the end of the game, they didn’t show a closeup. They showed it from a depth, so I couldn’t really see what went on. Now, the other one was the tackle put two hands on a guy and the tight ends put two hands on a guy and they let a guy crease. If that would’ve happened [to OSU], that would’ve been where we said we were wrong. I don’t know what their protections are. Then I couldn’t tell on the other one what happened because they didn’t stop it and let me look at it and see it.

“But I was not happy we had a punt blocked. Can’t do that. Special teams and penalties really wear you out and can cost you games in the first two or three games of the year — special teams and penalties.”

On OSU’s penalties Thursday

“We were pretty good. We were five [penalties] for 45 [yards], and then we had one young kid that grabbed somebody and got a 15-yarder, but other than that, with the main guys we were fourish for 30ish or something. We were pretty good. Not bad.”

On the officials reviewing the interception that didn’t matter because of the offside flag

“They just wanted to try their stuff out. There is no review. I thought, ‘Maybe you can review offside and I’ve never been told that because I’ve never asked it.’ So I asked the guy on the side, I said, ‘Is this a reviewable play?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I said, ‘Well, do you know what they’re doing?’ And he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re wearing the earpiece. I’m not.’ He said, ‘I have no idea what they’re doing.’ So when it was over, I think he said that they intercepted and the catch was inbounds, which we all knew. Then they said it’s our ball. I don’t have any idea what they were doing. I really don’t.”

On which officials will call OSU’s game against Arizona State

“He hasn’t assigned them yet. I need to check with Greg [Burks]. He was working yesterday, then obviously working last night all the way until they decided what to do when that kid’s knee didn’t go out of bounds [in the Florida State-LSU game]. When they were showing the three guys up there that had all the soft drinks and hot dogs everywhere and they were sweating there at the last second, you saw them all standing there, they were talking to Greg in Dallas, would be my guess. He earned his money yesterday all the way up until late last night, so I haven’t had a chance to find out.

“Either it’s signed in the contract or they will assign a team from a certain conference. I’m not sure what this game is.”

On how he keeps up with all of OSU’s NFL guys

“Chris Deal in media, he keeps me updated on all of them. I was able to talk to those guys, all five of those guys that made a roster the other day. Then Jaylen (Warren) came back. I didn’t know he was gonna come back. He’ll keep me updated on those guys. Most of them, on their open date, they’ll come back and be on the sideline and things like that. We had those five and then four guys made practice squad, I think.”

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