Gundy, who coached under former OSU and current LSU head coach Les Miles, as a touch of the Bayou Bengal mentor’s honesty, but perhaps sans his linguistic stylings. Gundy kept it basic for early portions of his comments, saying that the No. 11 Cowboys (3-0) wanted to “get in the right frame of mind” after an open week and heading into a sixth road game in State’s last seven counting the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“It’s a routine; they are in such a pattern from the end of July until we have our first open week,” Gundy said before touching on what his team can do better. “We want them back in routine. We had good practices last week, and we want to continue to take good care of the football. … I think each game we have had a weakness in a different area. It’s the safeties one week, corners one week, the linebackers. We didn’t tackle well enough now getting into conference play. We have to continue to protect and get to the quarterback and tackle better in space.”
The Cowboys were arguably known best for running through three quarterbacks and still having success last season. This year, they’ve settled on J.W. Walsh, and are racking up typical OSU offensive numbers with more than 35 points and 300 passing yards per game. Gundy said the transfer of former OSU and current Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt was simply part of the culture of today’s game – and the youth that play it.
“It used to be young men would sign, commit and come to your school and be there for four or five years and work hard to become the starter,” said Gundy, who won the OSU quarterback job midway through his freshman season in 1986 and thus has never experienced significant time as a reserve. “Social network and Facebook and Twitter and all the sources that are out there have instigated young people transferring. If things don’t go well, or they don’t look like they are the future, they will transfer and go to another school.
“If you have two quarterbacks you are fortunate in my opinion, because there is always that pressure from outside sources. I can see both sides. I’ve never been a big fan of transferring. I think it is difficult. In some cases, players have had success with it, but if you look at history there will be more instances where a young man didn’t do as well. I do understand quarterback is different than other positions in that, for the most part, one guy plays. I just don’t know what the answer is at this time.”
Gundy was then asked about West Virginia, specifically the travel more so than the schemes or players of the opponent.
“When I was at Maryland (as an assistant from 1997-2000), we played West Virginia every year, so I am a little familiar with the stadium,” Gundy said. “It’s really a good football environment. The people of West Virginia love football and they have 60,000 in their stadium. But it is a difficult road trip for us. You’re talking about a two-and-a-half hour flight, then you land in Pittsburgh and you’re 45 minutes away from the hotel and then an hour on game day. There are some challenges. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt, and everybody in our league has to go over there. But we feel like we have a good plan. Our strength coach gives us some good insight on the way to travel. We talked to the players about it. We hope that one of the advantages we had – this will be the sixth road game in our last seven, counting the bowl game – is that it works to our advantage.”
Gundy also said he understands the quarterback issues the Mountaineers are facing, and how fan bases across the nation will look to other issues than simple player ability and experience when dissecting why teams are struggling.
“Personnel is a big issue,” he said. “People like to look at other areas for errors, but we are only as good as the players we are coaching. Any time there is youth involved, particularly at the quarterback spot, it makes it difficult to bring players along. We went through that a couple years here when we had (current NFL QB Brandon) Weedon and things come easy and then you roll over and break in another quarterback and it’s not easy. The scheme, the plays, the sets are similar to what (WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen) has done in the past. If things start to go bad early, it’s tough for young players to dig their way out. Teams across the country go through it.
“There’s a huge amount of parity. And I’ve mentioned that it’s going to increase every year, which is great for college football, great for the fans, great for everybody but the coaches. You’re gonna have six or eight teams a year that have a mature quarterback and a good defense that can make a run of winning double-digit games, and then you’re going to see a huge pack of teams that are gonna have seven- and eight-win seasons based on the parity. That’s where college football has changed. In this league, there are a number of teams that could win based on where and who you play.”