SNP- Gundy: UT deserves top spot

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Orange Power Goddess
A/V Subscriber
Oct 15, 2003
Gundy: UT deserves top spot in rankings
By Wade McWhorter
Sports Writer
Eight Division I football coaches think Texas is the top football team in the country.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is one of them.

Gundy, whose Cowboys take on Texas Saturday at 6 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium, has voted the Longhorns No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the last month.

“They are the No. 1 team in the country in my mind,” Gundy said of coach Mack Brown’s 7-0 squad. “I have voted them No. 1 the last four weeks, and they have continued to support my vote. They are one of the better teams I have seen in college football in a long time.

“You can talk a long time about what they have and what they can do. I think they are very well coached. Their quarterback is playing better now than he ever has. It will be a great challenge for us.”

Most people don’t believe OSU will be anywhere near up to that challenge. The Cowboys are 3-4 overall but winless in four Big 12 Conference games, and Gundy’s squad entered the week 361?2 point underdogs against a UT team that is ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press, USA Today and Harris polls but which is No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Gundy said his players probably aren’t aware of any point spreads but used the example of the Cowboys’ win over Oklahoma in Norman during the 2001 season as proof that anything can happen. In that game, the Sooners were 28-point favorites and had visions of playing for a national championship before OSU handed them a 16-13 loss.

“Any team can be beaten any day in any given game,” OSU junior tailback Greg Gold said. “I trust my guys. I know they’re gonna play their hearts out. And I know Coach Gundy and the coaches will have a great plan for us — they’re not just gonna throw us to the wolves.

“As long as we give good effort and stick to our game plan, cut our turnovers, I think we can play with anybody in the Big 12.”

Taking care of the football is a must for the Cowboys, who have committed 12 turnovers in their last two games. During that stretch, sophomore quarterback Al Peña — filling in for injured starter Bobby Reid — has tossed eight interceptions and also lost two fumbles.

Despite Peña’s struggles, Gundy isn’t down on his quarterback and neither is Peña down on himself. Gundy added that Peña’s problems have been more a matter of poor throws than poor decisions.

“Some of those throws, it wouldn’t have made any difference if it was Stillwater High,” said Gundy, referring to the four interceptions Peña threw last week against Iowa State. “You throw a ball up and behind a guy’s head, it doesn’t make any difference who is running the route or who you’re playing against... The throws he’s made have been errant throws, they haven’t been bad decisions — there’s a big difference. ...

“(Peña) is not very fragile. He was in here Sunday on his own watching tape and studying. He’s pretty mentally tough. I don’t see him losing his composure during the games.”

The Cowboys, who rank 111th nationally in turnover margin at minus-9 (13 takeaways, 22 giveaways), know that in order to be successful Saturday against a Texas unit ranked sixth nationally in total defense, they can’t continue to make similar miscues.

“We can’t make (UT) have a bad game,” Gold said. “We have to play our game at our abilities. I think some of the problems the other teams have had is they go for the home run shot every time. We just need to play our game and not try too hard to make outstanding plays. That’s when we turn it over. ...

“We have a rhythm and it’s going and we’re making plays and scoring points, then we have a turnover and it sets us back. We walk two feet and then take a foot back.”

TV time

Saturday’s game will be nationally televised by TBS, and Gundy said playing on the SuperStation is a definite positive.

“The greatest motivator for us this week is playing on national television,” Gundy said. “They love to play on TV. I think they’d rather play (Texas) on TV. Guys nowadays look forward to it, sort of like, ‘This is the best team in the country, this is what I can do against them.’”

OSU has played on television just one other time this season, beating Florida Atlantic on Sept. 8 in a game shown on ESPN2.

Next in line

It is unknown whether Reid, who is nursing a foot injury, will return to action this week.

Asked what would happen if Reid can’t play and Peña happens to get hurt, Gundy said he would turn to junior Jamie Beeghley.

Questions have arisen about true freshman Zac Robinson entering the fray at quarterback, but Gundy said he would not pull him out of redshirt status.

“Beeghley is the only guy we have left,” Gundy said. “We haven’t given (Robinson) hardly any work. Up until Bobby got hurt, he was just wearing a hat and carrying a clipboard.”