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Oklahoma State Football

Corrections and Improvement Involve Youth, but also Communication

September 5, 2022

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy will tell you he goes home after a game and it takes awhile to wind down, win or loss. The aftermath of a football game even your 150th win as the Oklahoma State head coach leaves all kinds of feelings, some good, some bad, and some float out there in between. All of them, the feelings, the thoughts, and most important the eventual corrections keep dancing around in your head. Gundy admitted immediately after the 58-44 win last Thursday over Central Michigan that he knew his No. 11/12 Cowboys had plenty of corrections. He also knew that especially on defense that he was not working with an easy fix.

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Gundy at the news conference on Monday.

"Well, the first thing is, there is no substitute for experience and reps,” Gundy said when I asked about where he was starting to lead off Monday’s press conference. “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 I tie that into what we feel like we got from the players and what we had actually prepared them for or what we didn't.”

That is smart and it is along the same lines of what defensive coordinator Derek Mason said to the media after the game before he went upstairs and started examining the video for himself. There is new with the coaches too. Mason is new, Joe Bob Clements moved to linebackers, and Greg Richmond has the defensive line to himself with a lot of new young coaches involved. To compound the situation, Central Michigan went from being that ground and pound team that would throw deep to loosen things up and stretch the field to going West Coast and Bill Walsh-like with quick slants, sticks, and flats.

Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports
Linebackers like Xavier Benson (1) weren’t always where they were supposed to be.

“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,” Gundy said. “It’s first time it's ever happened to (players). 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.”

I can tell you from my examination there was little confusion on run defense. The gaps were filled and the run defense responsibility was there. The linebackers and even secondary support fit their gaps and responsibility. Now, in the passing game that was completely different. There were exchange routes run too and you had linebackers and safeties, sometimes corners looking around and not sure what they were seeing or how to respond to it. Give Central Michigan some credit for the confusion as they helped to create it. It wasn’t an offense they had shown.

However, Gundy has to be concerned with the response, how it was initiated, how it was communicated, and whether it was executed. Then make sure that next time it will be.

"We were very, very mature a year ago at the two linebacker spots and the five safety spots (corner, safeties) whatever you want to call them, very mature. I mean, we all know that,” Gundy explained. “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 (NFL team), 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."

Mark Henle Arizona Republic for USA TODAY Sports
Herm Edwards and his staff will see mistakes and look to get the Cowboys to repeat them.

Arizona State is a primary run team with a dual threat quarterback that ran roughly 65-70 percent of the time last season and had the same mix in their 40-3 opening win over Northern Arizona. You wouldn’t think they break out a West coast passing attack, but they are coached by a former NFL head coach in Herm Edwards with an NFL Super Bowl winning offensive advisor to the head coach in Brian Billick. You can’t teach it all in a week, but a short course will work, just in case the Sun Devils try to test the Cowboys and whether they learned anything last Thursday. Promise, it will come up again. If not this week, then sometime over the rest of the season.

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Corrections and Improvement Involve Youth, but also Communication

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