Iowa State (1-4, 0-1) will travel to Stillwater on Saturday for an 11 a.m. kick vs. Oklahoma State (3-1, 1-0). Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy held his weekly news conference on Monday. Above is video from that event. Below is a transcript from Gundy’s appearance on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference.
On how they’re approaching the second half of the season…
Not really, just because we have so many young players, and we deal with injuries throughout the year it changes with the lack of depth. And each week is different. In my experience when you have a really, really good team, a team that’s a championship team that would be in the top ten or top five in the country, then you can not play as well in certain weeks and still win. We’re not in that category; we have to play well each week, no matter who we play.
Do you think you guys are comparable to other teams?
There are some similarities with that, the difference being that we had several NFL players on the offensive side of the ball. They make it easier to make those adjustments.
Dax was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week; can you describe how he’s coming along?
He gets a little better each week, he’s certainly throwing the ball at accurate times. He’s improving his read and understanding our offense. This week he grew, we’re excited about what he’s bringing to the table. His competitiveness and attitude have been really good. I think our team has started to trust him and they’re comfortable with him playing quarterback.
What have you seen out of your defense so far and how do you think that’s coming along?
Well they’re getting a little bit better. There’s not by any means a situation where we know all the answers, but we’re improving a little bit each week. The first eleven guys out there have some experience and understand, but beyond that there’s a lot of youth and they’re learning it on the run.
Do you see any signs of playmakers developing on defense?
Not really. We haven’t gotten to that point in the season yet.
After watching the film, how did you think Dax did?
He did fairly well, he was improved. Early in his playing in other games, he was 60 or 70%. He was around 90%, so he improves as the games go along.
Having five freshman on the field, was it a situation you survived, but also gained some needed experience?
I think both things are true. When you have that many freshman out there you’re always nervous, but they gain more experience and they should improve each week. Slowly but surely, the more they’re out there they get a little bit better. But as we move toward league play, each week is a challenge and when you have a number of young players out there you try to put them in a position to have success.
Do you feel like you’re trying to utilize Dax’s big arm in your play calling, or that he’s forcing it a little bit when you have him throwing down the field?
Most of his throws down the field were good decisions. He has an ability to throw the deep ball very accurate, so it’s important for us to take advantage of what his strengths are at this time.
How do you think the team responds to that? Do you sense any excitement with big plays?
I think that the players, the fans, any people who watch college football like to see an exciting style of offense. People like to see the ball thrown down the field. We’ve always tried to be exciting here. We want to win games and be successful on offense, but if we have the ability to throw the ball down the field we want to take advantage of it and let it go.
On kickers and punters improving…
He’s practiced very well over the last two or three weeks. The punters and kickers aren’t always easy to read, they live in their own world. They train and prepare somewhat isolated from the team for the most part. You hope that they have those work habits that give them a chance to improve each week. He’s done a nice job with that over the last three weeks.
On Kip Smith…
He’s done a nice job. His kickoffs were considerably better this game than against San Antonio and that’s important. We have a number of young guys doing our kicks and punts as we mature as a football team. We’re in a rollover year, we did this four years ago with really young special teams units. It’s important that the kickers and the punters understand that we’re trying to get the ball down the field and give us the best chance for success.