Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy and members of the team visited with the media Monday at Boone Pickens Stadium to preview this week's game at Kansas State. Their comments:
Head Coach Mike Gundy
"Our team got back together last night and started preparation for this week's game. I don't think it's a mystery to anyone that the team we are playing is very good and very deserving of their national ranking. It starts with Collin Klein and his unselfish ability to make plays. They're a very mature team. There are a lot of juniors and seniors and they're experienced at key positions. They're sound and have only given up 17 points per game. They're the third team in a row that we've played that's given up 17 points per game. There are a couple areas that stand out. One is their return yardage. They're averaging 26 yards on a punt return and their opponents are averaging 3. They've got 20 sacks and have only given up 6. With turnovers they have 19 and they've only allowed four. Obviously. time of possession works in their favor with their style of play. This is a great challenge for our team. We have to have really good practice this week. We're going to have a nice evening for football. The weather is supposed to be perfect. There's not much room for error. We'll try to do the best we can to prepare and go up there and see if we can hang in there long enough to get in it in the fourth quarter and play with great effort and take care of the football. "
On this team's identity:
"I think we're starting to develop some chemistry and create an identity. Defensively we're gaining some confidence. We're more sound and defending the deep ball better which will be really big in a game like this. Kansas State is going to run the ball and run it with the quarterback which gives them the extra player. They're going to try to throw the ball over your head down the field with a double post and switch routes. Defensively we're gaining some momentum. Offensively, we haven't had enough people in the right spot to really create that chemistry yet. They've done a great job. We've had a number of players in the last two weeks who have given us something in a game when they're hurt and injured. We've shared with them how much we appreciate what the team has given us. We're getting there. We certainly aren't at the level they are with the maturity and experience that they have on their team."
On how the defense has performed the last three weeks:
"One, we've started to get healthy. I thought that against TCU was the first game that our defense had everyone out there. I think Brodrick Brown in playing better. Shamiel Gary is playing better and Daytawion Lowe is playing better. We're getting good play inside and we just have a few other players that need to pick up their game. We're getting effort and we're tackling better. They're starting to get adjusted and our coaches are doing a nice job. This will be a good challenge to face a team averaging 45 points a game. We'll find out if we've gotten anywhere near where we need to be."
On having players who are playing through injuries:
"You have two types of players. Some guys can play with pain and some can't. One thing we clarify that I think it's important for people outside the program to know is there's a difference between being injured and playing with pain. Unfortunately, for guys who play the game of football, you have to play with pain. The chances of going through your career without a type of injury are very slim. That's really who you are. Some players never get to that point, and some do it from day one like J.W. Walsh. We've had a number of players who are playing and giving us effort while in pain."
On some of Kansas State's players besides Collin Klein:
"(Tyler Lockett) is a good player. Arthur Brown, I've never been in the NFL and I don't draft players, but I wouldn't mind picking him early. Klein gets a lot of attention, deservingly so. I haven't looked at polls, but I'm guessing he's the frontrunner for the Heisman, and I think he deserves that, in my opinion. But, he's not the only guy on their team, now. There are other guys who are solid, and they have guys who are smart and play their position. In my opinion, from an outsider looking in, they do what they're asked to do.
On being patient defensively against a team like Kansas State:
"You have to come up with a way to try to make them make mistakes, which has been uncharacteristic from them to this point. Wes Lunt, Daytawion Lowe, Quinn Sharp and the rest of our guys can only do what they're capable of. They need to practice well this week, they need to study tape, they need to prepare and then they have to go play with great effort. They can't do more than what their ability will allow them to do. 110 percent really doesn't exist—100 percent is all you can give. That's a part of being patient in a game like this. To go play, trust the game plan and play with great effort."
Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken
On recovering from a slow start against TCU:
"We just started doing things right. Early on we lined up wrong on a third down, we had a missed assignment on the interception and on the next third down we made a decision on a route that we hadn't done before, so it stopped us from piecing good plays together. We finally got a first down, then we hit a big play and we kind of settled down. We hit a few big plays and just started playing better football."
On Wes Lunt's performance in his first game back from injury:
"He played really well. Even moreso because of the situation. If it was an experienced guy like Brandon Weeden, you wouldn't compare it to that. You would probably say it was average, but for a guy who hadn't played much or practiced much, I thought he bounced back pretty well."
On Joseph Randle being a key constant this season:
"It's been good Having Joe, thank goodness. Especially when Jeremy Smith had gotten hurt. Joe, even since I've gotten here, is very durable. He stays away from being hurt a bunch and he doesn't really complain. He just works and goes out there and plays."
On Kansas State's defense:
"They're a lot like Iowa State. They're real sound, they don't gamble a lot, they keep everything in front of them and their offense does a good job of limiting their exposure on defense. They're really well-coached and their linebacker, Arthur Brown, is a really good player. They have a lot of juniors and seniors who have played a lot of football at the junior college level, so they don't have a lot of holes. I don't know what we'll be able to expose other than we have to play good football and not turn it over."
Defensive Coordinator Bill Young
On the parallels between this week and last year's game against Kansas State:
"We looked at the film of our game last year, and really and truthfully we just gave up big plays on some passes, lost contain of the quarterback and busted some coverages. From a run standpoint, we have to be really sound and stay in our gaps. They do a tremendous job of double-teaming defensive tackles and throwing them from their gaps. They also take huge splits on the line. We're going to have to be conscious of that."
On whether this year's defense is more equipped to face Kansas State:
"We're a veteran defensive football team. We played them before and that always helps, having seen the scheme a couple times and understanding what they're trying to do. Instead of having two or three freshmen out there, we have some older players. We should be better prepared."
On Collin Klein:
"I don't know how you simulate him in practice. We don't have anyone that looks like him, throws like him or runs like him. We'll do our best there. The big thing about him is, I don't know if you can really stop him--you just try to contain him as best as you can--you try to minimize the offensive plays and yardage he gets."
On holding the last three opponents to 14 points or less:
"We've got some players back, and that's helped quite a bit. I think the players who are playing are getting into the scheme of things and understanding their responsibilities. We're able to play more players, stay fresh in the fourth quarter and chase the ball better."
CB/KR Justin Gilbert
On how the team handles controlling its own destiny in the Big 12 race:
"We take it pretty much one game at a time. The biggest game is always the next game, so we're preparing for Kansas State as the biggest game so far this year."
On the team returning to the BCS standings for the first time since last season and the team's underdog mentality:
"I really didn't know about any of this. I didn't know if we were ranked at all or not because I don't really pay attention to the rankings. I feel like some people may be overlooking us because we're a young team and our offense and defense lost some key players from last year. I think we're going to be overlooked a little bit all year but we're still going to win some games."
On slowing down TCU's offense after the Horned Frogs scored 53 points against Texas Tech the previous week:
"Executing the game plan to perfection was the biggest thing. The whole week, all the guys were watching film and trying to execute the game plan, which we ended up doing."
On taking the recent defensive success into the Kansas State game:
"We're not going to do anything different than what we've already been doing. We have to continue to play hard-nosed defense and keep them out of the end zone."
Offensive Lineman Lane Taylor
On Kansas State's defense:
"They're just a sound defense. They'll be in the gap when they need to be there. They aren't going to bust coverages. All around, they're just a solid defensive team."
On preparing for Kansas State:
"Nothing changes. We prepare for each team we play the same way, whether they're the second ranked team in the nation or they're unranked."
On Wes Lunt's performance against TCU:
"I think he played well. He really did. It has to be tough taking six weeks off, then coming back into the fire. He did great once he got it rolling out there. He played an awesome game."
Safety Shamiel Gary
On preparing for Kansas State's offense:
"Discipline is going to be very big because they're very assignment-sound in what they do. They do a good job of getting turnovers and keeping the ball moving on second and third downs. We just need to make sure our linemen stay on their gaps, linebackers fit the right holes, and safeties make their tackles."
On stopping Collin Klein:
"We just need everybody to stay with their assignments so we can make plays."
On if the defense can continue its good performance into this week:
"This game's timing is nice. The past three or four weeks, we've been playing very good defense. We've really stepped up our game. Hopefully we can continue our success on defense this week."
Defensive End Cooper Bassett
On preparing for Collin Klein:
"It's not so much about getting ready for Klein. It's more about getting ready for their offense. They're extremely disciplined. They throw so many different things at you. So many different plays and different ways they show and run their plays. It presents a big challenge. We have to be very disciplined and sound in our tackling."
On preparing for Kansas State, and if they learned anything from last year's win:
"We'll watch a lot of their game tape from this season, and also our game against them last year. We'll try to pull away as much as we can from that game and fix as much as we can. This is a new team for them, so they have some new weapons that they can throw at us. Hopefully we'll be able to get the win this week like we did last year."
On Collin Klein:
"He's a guy that isn't going to try to slide. He wants to run over you and through you. He doesn't wow you with his arm, but he gets the job done. On top of that, he's a great leader and a great person, so you know that he's going to be resilient and all of his teammates are going to have his back. We've got to really bow up and be strong. Hopefully we can keep him contained as much as possible."
Linebacker Alex Elkins
On the team's outlook for the rest of the season:
"We control our destiny. There's no point in looking forward because we have a game this weekend that can basically decide our future. There's no reason to look past that and we all know that. We have all the motivation we need coming in to this game, playing the number two team in the nation. We win this game, and we're back in the top spot with a chance to win a conference championship."
On the motivation of playing Kansas State:
"We're going to be excited to get the opportunity to play these guys. Aside from everything that's happened this year, this will be a great opportunity to showcase our skills and prove that we're here to stay."
On the current mindset of the OSU defense:
"It's at a really high confidence level right now. Shutting down a high-powered offense like TCU's has got to be a confidence-booster for you. We've known we've been able to do that and we've known our capabilities, the only question has been whether or not we would be able to execute. We've been executing these past few weeks, but there are still some holes left to fill. As long as we know that we can keep getting better, we're just going to keep getting better on the field."
Kicker/punter Quinn Sharp
On winning Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week:
"It's a good feeling. I had a little bit of a down game against Iowa State, missing those two field goals. I was hitting the ball well all day, but I just had a couple of mis-hits. To bounce back and go five-for-five and help out the team in a big way in the first half like that was big for special teams. Gundy challenged us this week to come up with some plays and we did."
On his play against TCU:
"I kind of knew it was going to be a busy day with Wes coming back. I figured it might take him a little bit to get back into a rhythm. I knew he was confident in himself, but he just had to get up to game speed again. I was trying to get myself prepared because we were trying to limit their returner, Dawson. We didn't want to give him a chance to take momentum from us, and I thought we did a good job of bottling him up all day."
On the Cowboys controlling their own destiny:
"You don't over-emphasize it or anything, because it is one game at a time. We have to take each week seriously and prepare for every team the same way. It is in the back of your mind. We do have the ability to control our own destiny and get to where we want to be at the end of the season. If we can achieve that goal, that would be great."
Offensive Tackle Parker Graham
On traveling to Kansas State:
"It's going to be a packed house. It's going to be a big game for us, but at the same time, we're not going to think about that. We're going to worry about their defense, and try to call plays that are going to counteract whatever they're trying to do to us."
On the O-Line's physicality:
"We've replaced a lot of guys and people use that as excuses for us. We just didn't want to hear that. We're going to go out there and try to beat the guy in front of us. All five of us are going to do that every week."
On the K-State defense:
"I would compare them really heavily to Iowa State's players on defense. As far as defense goes, they don't make mistakes. Iowa State was the exact same way with that. They're in their gaps every single play, and if you don't capitalize on them, they're going to embarrass you. We have to come out, and make sure we're taking care of all our guys."
Running back Joseph Randle
On playing in Kansas:
"It's always good to get to go home and play people that you knew from back home. It'll be fun."
On preparing for K-State:
"Really, I'm just caught up in the moment. We're just trying to work as hard as we can. We're trying to get prepared and put out our best effort on Saturday."