OSU football: Mike Gundy on verge of a second straight mediocre season
AMES, Iowa — Mike Gundy rankled the masses again this week. Not by how his Oklahoma State Cowboys played in a 45-27 loss to Baylor. That was last week.
This week, Gundy said the OSU program was on “as good a ground as it’s ever been.”
That’s not what Cowboy fans needed to hear, fresh off the images of JaMycal Hasty and Tyquan Thornton and Josh Fleeks running unencumbered through huge patches of Payne County pastures. Five Baylor plays broke for at least 44 yards, including four of at least 63 yards. The Bears looked like sixth-grade infidels at fourth-grade recess.
Alarms sounded. The Gundy critics who say he doesn’t recruit as doggedly as necessary, and that group has included athletic director Mike Holder, had new ammunition.
OSU’s talent has dipped. It’s been four years since the Cowboys played with a defender who would be taken in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, and while OSU has its own home run hitters in Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard, the assembly line behind them appears to have ended.
All of which makes for a shaky Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, where the 23rd-ranked Cyclones have replaced the Cowboys as the Big 12’s best State. Kansas State owned that distinction in the Bill Snyder glory years, but OSU swiped the crown the last decade, putting up a noble fight against Oklahoma and Texas, which for almost a century have ruled Middle America gridirons. Now Iowa State is the most feared of the Big 12’s historic underdog programs.
Gundy, of course, is a victim of his own success. His biggest crime is the Cowboys are on the verge of a second straight mediocre season, after the 7-6 rollercoaster of 2018. Not since 2006-07, when the Cowboys followed 6-6 regular seasons with minor-bowl victories, has OSU produced back-to-back ho-hum seasons.
Between World War II and 2008, OSU had five years of at least nine victories. In the 11 seasons since, the Cowboys have eight years of at least nine wins and six years of at least 10 wins.
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This decade, OSU has been the second-most successful program in the Big 12. It’s a monumental accomplishment for everyone associated with Cowboy football, Gundy foremost.
But he’s been amply rewarded; Gundy is set to make $5.125 million this season. To whom much is given, much is required.
All coaching salaries have gone cuckoo, of course. According to USA Today, Purdue is paying Jeff Brohm $6.6 million this season. God help us all.
Those kinds of numbers are hard to swallow, but they are impossible to swallow without big-time success. Ten-win seasons help the medicine go down. A Cheez-It Bowl trip hoping to get above .500 is no spoonful of sugar.
Some Gundy critics are shooting flairs. They say he’s uninspired on game day, though that’s not true. He was ripping into the officials during the Baylor game. They say his coaching hires have been weak, but that’s not true, either. Glenn Spencer (defense) was a good coordinator and Mike Yurcich (offense) was a great coordinator. Too early to tell on Sean Gleeson and Jim Knowles.
That’s just noise. OSU’s biggest problem is the talent has fallen off. And Gundy knows that. He’s putting on a brave front. His analysis of those Baylor cross-country plays were more insightful than you get from most coaches. Two he blamed on coaching mistakes; poor scheming that is a slight indictment of Knowles. One was a lack of energy/effort/emotion, after an OSU turnover. One was just pure Baylor talent.
Whatever the reasons, for a team with Hubbard and Wallace to get beat 5-1 in 40-yards-plus plays is alarming. And so is a 4-3 team, with much higher expectations, headed to Jack Trice Stadium, where the Cowboys no longer are the biggest State on the block.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.