Guerin Emig: When OSU-Kansas State kicks off Friday night, Gundy’s offensive staff must show us they did something to improve their lot over the past 13 days.
STILLWATER — There will be growing pains for an Oklahoma State defense under a first-year coordinator. So it was for Jim Knowles before he built the beast that was OSU’s 2021 defense. So it will be for Bryan Nardo this season, something made evident by the Cowboys’ 34-27 loss at Iowa State their last time out.
An excuse for OSU’s offensive shortcomings isn’t so handy.
Mike Gundy has been head coach since Eddie Sutton was still winning NCAA Tournament games next door. Kasey Dunn has been around since coaching Justin Blackmon. He has been the offensive coordinator since 2020. The shortest-tenured offensive staff member is quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay, hired right before Dunn’s promotion in January of ‘20.
Things haven’t gone well for this bunch, something FBS statistics pages declare much clearer than any of us.
The angriest OSU fans reading those numbers want someone held accountable right now. No way that’s happening on a 2-2 team, however disjointed those two victories have been.
The not-quite-as-angry-but-still-steamed want Gundy, Dunn and staff to completely reconstruct their scheme, seeing as how OSU is in the midst of a 13-day gap between games. That, however, doesn’t account for the past several months of coaches blending an offense with their personnel.
Ever tried learning a new language in 13 days? That’s what tearing down and starting over would be like.
Let’s meet at this reality: When OSU-Kansas State kicks off Friday night, Gundy’s offensive staff must show us they did something to improve their lot over those 13 days.
When I asked Gundy Monday about using the bonus time for repairs to any offensive position group, he said: “We continued to try to get better than we’ve been.”
Then he pivoted to improvement at Iowa State, saying: “We blocked better up front. We were run blocking, we were covering guys up and we protected better. For that reason, we saw better results.”
This is a common theme. When I specified the need to unlock a downfield passing game, since OSU ranks 121st nationally in yards per completion, Gundy said: “Last game was the first game I thought protection-wise we were in a position to be effective. So if we’ll continue to protect and give ourselves a chance to throw the ball down the field a little, that’ll help.”
That puts some weight on offensive line coach Charlie Dickey.
I might put more on Dunn, the receivers coach and coordinator.
Alan Bowman, assuming he gets his second straight full game as starting quarterback Friday, something Gundy refused to commit to Monday, is not Mason Rudolph or Brandon Weeden. De’Zhaun Stribling and Jaden Bray are not James Washington or Blackmon.
But 9.75 yards per completion, the worst figure among FBS Power Five teams? And 10.4 yards per completion to wide receivers, Brennan Presley’s 6.5-yard average most telling?
Those numbers, plus the 13-day gap between games, seem to make this a great time for Gundy to meet a little longer with Dunn and staff.
“I make them aware of things I have concerns of, and then ask them for what their answers are,” Gundy said matter of factly Monday. “And listen to them and see if we have a plan in place to try to make it better.”
Gundy is being as guarded now as he was in the run-up to the Iowa State game, when he wouldn’t publicly shut down his three-quarterback carousel. We saw Bowman for ourselves. He helped score 27 points. It was a start.
Gundy, same as the run-up to Iowa State, is much more aware than he lets on. He knows his offense needs help to progress from Ames and beyond OSU’s 2-2 record.
The line must be stronger. The receivers must be surer-handed. The running back rotation, as wild as the one at quarterback until Ollie Gordon’s 18-carry, 121-yard effort in Ames, must be steadier.
And if the personnel is more limited than they’re used to, Cowboy coaches are seasoned enough in their jobs and familiar enough with their personnel, to still discover solutions. Or at least attempt to do so over a 13-day gameless window.
“Blocking, tackling, fundamentals, technique, worked a little on conditioning. Not anything specific out of the ordinary,” Gundy said Monday of OSU’s general state of practice last week. “We did about the same as we always do. It was a typical off week.”
Surely it wasn’t. Not for Gundy, Dunn and the offensive staff.
If it was, and we discover that Friday night at Boone Pickens Stadium, the outrage in OSU’s fan base will be more prevalent and more justified.