MORGANTOWN — College football coaches don’t tend to stick in one place for very long in today’s world. That’s why it’s a bit shocking to look up and see that Mike Gundy is in his 19th season at Oklahoma State.
Since Gary Patterson’s retirement from TCU, Gundy has been the elder statesman in a Big 12 conference that does not feature very many long-tenured head coaches. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell is second with eight years and BYU’s Kalani Sitake is third with seven.
A coach doesn’t stick at one school for nearly two decades by accident and Gundy has more than proven his coaching prowess over the years.
“The thing that sticks out with him is how he’s done it,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “He’s won 10 games (seven) times or something crazy like that. He’s won it scoring high and he’s won it being one of the top defenses in the country. He’s won it a lot of different ways.”
Brown, who is tied for the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the league with two others, and the Mountaineers (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) will host Gundy and the Cowboys (4-2, 2-1) this Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium (3:30 p.m./ESPN).
Gundy has led the Cowboys to 17 straight bowl game appearances, but a shocking 33-7 loss to South Alabama at home and a follow-up loss to Iowa State had the Cowboys sitting at 2-2 earlier this season. The team rebounded from that stumble, however, and has won its last two games against Kansas State and Kansas, and now looks like one of the hottest teams in the league.
Gundy credited the improvement to two things — blocking and tackling.
“We’ve worked really hard the last four weeks on tackling,” Gunday said on Monday. “In the first few games, I told the staff it was my fault because I didn’t force them to tackle and be as physical in practice as they needed to. I learned toward health and it didn’t work; we weren’t very good tacklers.”
The team also settled on a full-time quarterback, former Texas Tech Red Raider Alan Bowman, and running back, sophomore Ollie Gordon. Bowman has thrown for 571 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions in the team’s last two victories, while Gordon has run for 100 yards three weeks in a row and added 116 receiving yards last week against the Jayhawks.
“The best way to illustrate it is, our offensive line has played considerably better the last month,” Gundy said. “It doesn’t matter who the quarterback and running back are.
“We’re blocking better. We’re covering guys up and not having negative plays. So we’re not in negative situations, we’re covering linemen up, we’re running the ball and that allows us to be a more-effective offense.”
As Brown sees it, Gundy and his staff simplified a lot of what the Cowboys were doing on offense and defense following the South Alabama game, and it’s working.
“He’s stayed pretty true to himself,” Brown said of Gundy. “He’s figured out ways to change. Rebounding from that game against South (Alabama) has been really impressive. To me, I look at that knowing the inner workings of how you get a team back and that’s pretty impressive.”
West Virginia is looking for its own rebound this week after suffering a stunning loss to Houston last Thursday. To do so, the Mountaineers will need to slow the Cowboys’ roll in their first game back at Milan Puskar Stadium since Sept. 23.