Seven months ago, Oklahoma State was on the verge of ending a bowl streak that dated back to 2006 and was one loss away from the program’s first losing season since Mike Gundy’s inaugural year at the helm of his alma mater in 2005.
And seven months later, Gundy is excited about that.
“When you have a season like we did last year, it reenergized me,” Gundy said on the Fox Sports set before his press conference. “… We didn’t play as well as I thought we should have, so it reenergized me to look forward to this season more than ever.
“I’m more excited and looking forward to a season than I ever have been before in a long, long time,” Gundy opened his press conference with. “So can’t wait to get started.”
It was a very tumultuous season in Stillwater in 2018 with Gundy pointing out many times throughout the season the struggles of the offensive, or the mounting discipline problems as evidenced by the astronomical amount of penalties against OSU. Oklahoma State ranked ninth in the Big 12 in penalty yards per game, with its 70.5 being just ahead of Texas Tech’s 74.2 yards per game.
“We didn’t play as well last year as we should have, in my opinion, and it was the result of me not doing my job and holding coaches and players accountable,” Gundy said. “We weren’t a very disciplined football team. We weren’t a very tough football team. Those are two areas that we can control the outcome. I feel like we need to be a more disciplined, physical, tough football team.
“So I’m going to make a point as I did in the spring and hopefully it carried on this summer when the players were working out and obviously we’re not out there with them, to be a more disciplined, physical football team, and I think that will help our team. So I’m excited about just seeing the results.”
Gundy was willing the bear the load for allowing his team to get as it did a year ago. And according to the Cowboy coach, it may have been a bit of complacency on his part.
“I’m now currently raising my third child and the first two have said multiple times if we did when you allow him to do, we would have never made it through the night. And I think that’s what happened to me last year in my 14th year,” Gundy said. “I let little things slide in practice and in meetings and just the overall concept, and as the head coach my responsibility is to make sure we do everything perfect all the time. I didn’t do a good job of that.”
And he’s expressed to his players that things will change.
“He told us before the offseason started that he’s going to come in with a different type of intensity this year,” junior receiver Tylan Wallace said. “He’s going to make sure he harps every single little thing that we do, and make sure we do it right.”
Making last season more frustrating for coaches and fans alike was the stark contrast of play each time the Cowboys went onto the field. They knocked off three top 25 opponents in Boise State, Texas and West Virginia – and coming up one point shy of upsetting Bedlam rival Oklahoma in Norman – but lost games to Texas Tech and Kansas State – neither of which finished with winning records – as well as Baylor and TCU teams that were only bowl eligible thanks to victories over the Cowboys.
“I don’t think anybody would question that there was a chance we could have had double digit wins last year,” Gundy said. “Teams we beat, they probably look at themselves and say how did we let that team beat us? That goes on forever. So just being a more focused and disciplined head coach should make us a better football team this fall.”
Tracin Wallace’s time at Oklahoma State has been riddled with injuries.
So much so, that in early June he announced on Twitter that he was retiring from football, having made just one catch for one yard last season after making the shift from quarterback to wide receiver. He had suffered his third torn ACL during a practice after the second game of the season.
Throughout his rehab in the later part of last season, he was constantly on Twitter trying to keep his twin brother Tylan Wallace on level ground as he his star was rising – culminating as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for the top college receiver.
Tylan, who was excited at the start of last season to have his brother in the receivers’ room, is adjusting to life without his brother as a football player.
“It’s a little different,” Wallace said on the Fox Sports set. “Him being there my whole life, it’s always been a blessing having him by my side the whole time. It’s going to be a little different trying to adjust without him being there, but he’ll be there in spirit, definitely.”
One-man Wolff pack
While talking about the great achievements from Big 12 teams and athletes, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby closed out by point out the recent successful transition for former Oklahoma State golfer Matthew Wolff.
“Then more recently just to single out one, how about Matthew Wolff (leaving) from Oklahoma State being the National Player of the Year and already getting a first tour victory on the PGA Tour after less than a month,” Bowlsby said. “That’s great. You like to see young people succeed like that.”
Wolff recently won the 3M Open to earn his PGA Tour card nearly a month after winning the NCAA individual national championship.
Domestic violence dominates the day
Domestic violence has finally been drawn into the public conscious recently, especially with high profile cases of football players – at both the NFL and college levels – at the center of that.
For the Big 12, that was at the forefront on Monday as two teams taking part in Day 1 of the Big 12 Football Media Days recently reinstated running backs after allegations of violence against a female.
First-year Kansas coach Les Miles spent the bulk of his opening statement addressing the recently announced one-game suspension for All-Big 12 running back Pooka Williams Jr. after going through the legal process for domestic violence.
“We felt like a strong point was the made not only with Pooka Williams Jr. but with the team. For seven and a half months Pooka was going through a process and he didn’t have the opportunity to spend time with his team, go to the weight room, you know, just be a part,” Miles said. “Pooka went through legal investigation with the legal community. Pooka also had proceedings that went through the conduct board at the university, and he basically understood very much that if he did not meet the criteria that the board asked that this would not last long and he really met every criteria that he could.
“He has taken responsibility. He’s been remorseful. He’s learned from this experience, as has our team. We’re thankful to have him back, and, again, no violence against a woman is okay.”
Fellow All-Big 12 running back Kennedy Brooks of Oklahoma had been under Title IX investigation by the university and recently returned to the team with Lincoln Riley stating Monday Brooks is “full go.”
“During the process I was not involved at all. Not updated at all,” Riley said. “That’s a process that our school takes very seriously and we leave that to the people that their job is to handle that and when they do we take it from there.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Cowboy football.