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The Top 5 Quotes from Mike Gundy’s Bowl Announcement News Conference

‘I’m anticipating a large, large majority of our team playing in this bowl.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Mike Gundy is taking his Cowboys on what has become their annual bowling trip for the 18th straight season.

Oklahoma State will play Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Gundy met with reporters via Zoom on Monday to talk about bowl season. Here are five things he said that stood out.

Nixon Missed Big 12 Title Game for ‘Personal Reason’

The Cowboys were without running back Jaden Nixon in Arlington on Saturday, leaving freshman Sesi Vailahi as the Cowboys’ second tailback behind Ollie Gordon.

It was a bit of a unique scenario in that Nixon didn’t travel with the team a week after converting on a key fourth down against BYU the week before to put the Cowboys in the Big 12 title game. Nixon is the Cowboys’ second-leading rusher this season, carrying 50 times for 197 yards and a touchdown. His speed also allows him to be a weapon in the passing game, where he has caught 12 passes for another 123 yards and a score.

Gundy said Monday that Nixon was attending to a personal matter.

“He had a personal reason for not being here,” Gundy said. “His health is fine. We’d love to have him back, and hopefully he’ll head back over here. I’m anticipating seeing him in the next three to four days, and then he and I can sit down and talk and hopefully he’ll be back to practicing with us next week. I don’t have a for sure answer one way or the other at this time.”

‘I’m Anticipating a Large, Large Majority of Our Team Playing in This Bowl.’

Players had elected to sit out of bowl games prior to the transfer portal’s existence, but now in the portal era of college football, it’s even harder to gauge what teams will look like in a bowl game.

As of writing, OSU has one portal defector in depth safety Lardarius Webb Jr. With some teams already touching double digits of portal entries, it’s hard to imagine OSU would stop at only one, but Gundy said Monday that he hopes to have a bowl roster somewhat in place by the start of next week.

“Just going off history, we would think we would know by next Monday, for sure, who’s going to not play in the bowl game,” Gundy said. “That’s not 100%. Every year we learn more about decisions that players make. I would think in a week we would be pretty close to knowing who we’re going to have available for the game.

“… I’m anticipating a large, large majority of our team playing in this bowl. But over the last two or three years, I think we all would agree, that we don’t know anything for sure until it’s there in front of us. So hopefully we’ll know in the next four or five days.”

Another Bowl Opponent Going through a Coaching Change

On the other side of things, changes are already happening in College Station.

It’ll be the third straight bowl game OSU faces a team going through a coaching transition. Ahead of the Fiesta Bowl after the 2021 season, Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU. Ahead of last season’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Wisconsin fired Paul Chryst and replaced him with Luke Fickell. Then here we are in 2023 with Texas A&M paying Jimbo Fisher north of $75 million to not coach the Aggies. A&M hired away Mike Elko from Duke.

Coaching changes oftentimes lead to busy portal windows. Per 247Sports, five players within the past month have announced their intentions to leave College Station, including sophomore defensive lineman Walter Nolen. Nolen recorded 37 tackles this season, including 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He was the No. 2 player in the 2022 recruiting class.

“It’s very unique in that obviously Jimbo is not there,” Gundy said. “I’m guessing Coach (Bobby) Petrino is in Arkansas. I mean, I haven’t even checked all that, but I can’t imagine he’s still there. I don’t know if the defensive coordinator’s there. I’m not sure what all is going on.

“… Now that you’re asking these questions, I’m thinking they could have some portal things go on over the next two or three days, and that could change considerably based on who they have available. I’m guessing A&M is going to regroup at the end of this week. We’re going to regroup at the end of this week, and early next week maybe there’ll be some clarity on exactly what we have moving forward to get ready for the game.”

Using the Next Few Weeks as ‘Spring Practice’

An important part to bowl season for teams involved is the extra practices making a bowl provides.

Gundy and Co. have used the practices to essentially prep for the future, giving reps to younger guys, something he said won’t change this season. But because of the portal’s impact on college football during this time of year, there is no denying bowl prep is different than it has been before.

Gundy used the term “spring practice” a few times when talking about prep over the next few weeks for the game, but make no doubt, the Cowboys are also going to try to beat the Aggies in Houston.

“I mean, we are excited about playing in the TaxAct Texas Bowl,” Gundy said. “I mean, we’re excited about it. We’re going to have spring practice for the next three weeks. We’re gonna have a game plan for Texas A&M. We’re gonna go play hard and try to win the football game. But these games, things have changed over the last few years because instead of us talking about the things that are directly related to the bowl, we’re talking about players being available, players not being available, going into the draft, portal, transfer. We can have players two weeks from now decide to not play in this game, I guess.

“So it is different. I don’t think that we could say it’s not. It’s much different than it ever has been. But that’s going to be our approach moving forward. We’re thrilled to be in the game. I think these bowl games are really good for the team.”

Nardo’s Big Offseason

Year 1 of the Bryan Nardo era of OSU defense had its ups and its downs.

Second-half adjustments were, for the most part, a big positive, but there were also some ugly first halves — mainly the Big 12 title game and OSU’s trip to UCF. But even outside of Nardo and his new 3-3-5 scheme there were quite a bit of personnel changes this season with the secondary being uber young and the defensive line not having a ton of experience at OSU going into the year.

Gundy said a big point of emphasis for the offseason will be self-scouting to find how teams attacked the Cowboys this year and what adjustments they can make to stop it. He said that will be the case for all three phases, but with Nardo and his scheme still being new, it will be particularly important for the defense.

“It’s a bigger offseason for Bryan than any of them because this is all new to him, and the concepts that we are using are new to Oklahoma State,” Gundy said. “So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of ourselves over the next month.”

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