Gundy Proves that if He Chooses, He Can Go into Television

Robert Allen

STILLWATER -- Ever wonder what Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy will do when he no longer coaches? Gundy has joked around that he loves ranching, and his working property southwest of Stillwater does sell Bermuda hay and has animals on it ranging from longhorn cattle to sheep and chickens.

However, Gundy has yet another vocational choice that he put on display on ESPN2 and ESPNU on Monday night before and during the CFP National Championship Game LSU won over Clemson 42-35. 

Before the game, Gundy and former Ohio State defensive coordinator and new Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley were on for an hour from the ESPN studios in Charlotte, N.C. with ESPN reporter Tom Luginbill previewing the X's and O's of the upcoming game. It was a highly football-centric conversation with the two coaches speaking a language that required some decent level football knowledge. 

One person that I spoke to after that show asked me if I understood anything they were saying and I had to admit that I understood all of it. There is a lot of football nerd in me and I have to keep up with the newest coaching language to keep up with my son that is the head coach at a junior college. 

Then came the actual coaches film room as TCU head coach Gary Patterson, a friend of Gundy's and fellow head coach in the Big 12, and Derek Mason, the head coach at Vanderbilt joined Gundy and Hafley. No moderator as in the past and Gundy took the ball and ran with it.

"I watched them play some this year, it was unusual (for me) to see them play this much," Gundy started in a conversation before the game kicked off. "After they beat Alabama, I thought they were a different team the way they approached things, not that they weren't a confident team throughout the year, but they really got a lot of confidence with the way they played. It would be interesting to see how (Brent) Venables and Clemson try to slow down that LSU offense and Joe Burrow," Gundy finished in tossing it next to Hafley to answer.

Gundy picked it up after Hafley and moved it to Patterson to continue the preview

"It's supposed to be a neutral game, but it's not. It's a home field advantage. We all know that, so you and I we're in the same league and we go at it," Gundy said looking straight at Patterson. "Tell me about trying to stop the run game with Trevor Lawrence because as Coach (Hafley) said when they played them two weeks ago he had 15 or 16 called runs going into the game and he ends up with over 20 carries, so now you are seeing a different animal."

Patterson took off in explaining how he would adjust his coverage and go more man cover in order to get an extra defender in the box to shadow or guard against quarterback run. Gundy has seen it, but a good time to take notes if you are a coach, like Gundy, with a running quarterback in Spencer Sanders. 

Right before the kickoff, Gundy got in his first accurate foreshadow for the game. He hit on the very first play.

"Alright, let's talk trick plays, trick plays in a game like this. Some coaches think, 'I don't want to burn my reps (in practice on trick plays) and I know what I don't know what I'm going to get,'" Gundy explained setting up all three of the other coaches to respond. "They are only good against certain looks and we've all been down that road. So, how do you feel about it? Are you willing to roll the dice?"

Then on the first play, Clemson runs out Travis Etienne out of the backfield and Lawrence hits him in the flat with a trailer behind him for a hook and lateral trick play.

"There you go on the first play," Hafley said. "I told you, we talked about it," added Patterson. "You called it," Hafley said looking at Gundy.   

Gundy was adept and running the show and literally pitched into and took it out of breaks during the pregame and the long first half of the game. Later, Gundy and the coaches continued talking and the director just faded in and out of the commercial breaks. Give Gundy credit, he showed that he could deal with timing in the broadcast. 

During the first half, Gundy sensed that the coaches might be talking over the audience's head and at times, they certainly did. At one point, Gundy calls the other trio of coaches defensive gurus as Patterson, Hafley, and Mason all have defensive pedigrees in coaching and asks them to explain cover one.

"We've been talking a lot about cover one, why don't you defensive gurus explain what cover one is?" Gundy tried to do that several times during the night, have coaches explain some of the terminology they were spitting out, but most of the time there was plenty that was likely over some or much of the audience's football vocabulary. 

Gundy talked through the game similar to what I believe he does on Saturday. I'm around him enough that I hear him explaining what he is seeing on the field and he challenges his staff over the headset and in the locker room at halftime. Gundy is a what I call a constant observer, he's always looking for an advantage. I've always explained to fans that adjustments are encouraged and pushed for on the fly and not just at halftime. It is communication that sometimes has to wait on halftime and a more conducive environment.  

Gundy was quick to point out how critical the pass interference penalty could be on LSU's final possession of the first half when it bailed the Tigers out of a third and 19 situation. 

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Gundy was good at describing the X's and O's and making some sense of it. He may want to explain to some fans a "smash route or a smash 7." He also might need to translate what he meant when he said the defense "bingo'd it."Robert Allen/ESPN

"Mark that down, that was third and 19 and they got bailed out," Gundy said. "That could be important." It was when LSU scored with no time left on the clock and took a 28-17 lead to halftime. 

Clemson scored a touchdown on a reverse early in the second half. The play started to the boundary, and then came back with the pitch to the receiver around to the field side and they did it against LSU playing man coverage. Gundy pointed out that back in the day when Mack Brown was first head coach at North Carolina and they ran a lot of man coverage, the corner on the receiver that came around and scored on the reverse would have followed that receiver and had a chance to make the play. It was a good observation on how defensive assignments have changed, a lot due to spread offenses. 

"How about that catch? He dropped it, I thought he pulled it in," Gundy said of a second half drop by Clemson. "It only hit the ground once, that ought to count for a catch."

Patterson was right there to joke with his rival. "It does in our game always, especially in Stillwater," responded the TCU head coach, who is 1-4 in games played in Stillwater between the Gundy and Patterson. 

Gundy had the line of the night too, when on a vertical play for a touchdown by LSU, he said.

"He's on his way to Baton Rouge. Heck, he may be halfway to Shreveport," Gundy joked as the other coaches laughed. 

USA Today and Yahoo on Twitter gave Gundy big credit on another foreshadowing during the game. 

Gundy predicted the fade in the corner by the Tigers before the play was executed. To be fair, all three of the coaches did some solid work in explaining and, yes, predicting what LSU and Clemson did at times during the game, but the coach with the mullet and the scruffy beard did it better. 

He also got several of his "culture" philosophies out there too. On the targeting call against Clemson linebacker James Skalski, who was ejected for what was clearly a good targeting call, Gundy, as he did some this season, sympathized with defenders. 

"It is so hard to play defense," Gundy said. The call was good, but he (Skalski) has been doing what he's been doing for 15-years playing football. "That is a tough situation."

Gundy is an old-fashioned and old school guy when it comes to football. He appreciates the history and the physical nature of the game. He also likes it when the game is respected and I've heard one of his final messages last night passed on to his players throughout his coaching career. 

As LSU ran out the clock with a kneel down and not trying to score again close to the Clemson goal line, and then the players started shaking hands, here was Gundy.

"Good stuff, showing respect for their players and respect for college football," Gundy said. "You respect your opponents. Coach O's blood pressure right now is about 180. A lot of respect here by the players and we all do it. That is the great thing about what we do. We battled and we compete, but in the end they are all warriors and in the end there is a lot of respect."

Gundy literally proved last night, he can be a game analyst with a minimum amount of schooling. If you wanted a replacement some day for Lee Corso on College Gameday, Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack are already fans, Gundy could be that guy. But don't expect him to put on mascot heads, that's Corso's tradition. Gundy would have to come up with his own, but I'm quite sure he could figure it out.   

I couldn't help but notice that on social media, there were several posters that wondered why Gundy wasn't out recruiting. He was. For those brilliant observers college football recruiting is in a dead period, nothing on or off campus. Gundy was in as many televisions last night as were willing to invite him in and he was wearing an orange OSU pullover. The best any coach could do last night unless you were Ed Orgeron or Dabo Swinney. 

That was smart too.

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