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Does Texas' collapse vs. OU help or hurt OSU's chances Saturday? Mike Gundy has a few thoughts.

Jacob Unruh
Oklahoman

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy would tell his players the unapologetic truth.

That’s how the veteran coach would handle the task of helping a team recover from a crushing collapse against a rival.

This is why it happened. This is what happened. This is what was good and bad. This is how to fix things. This is the plan to make things better.

“That’s the way you deal with young people today, in my opinion, is you tell them the truth,” Gundy said.

First-year Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is tasked with the challenge of refocusing his team when the No. 12-ranked Cowboys travel to Austin at 11 a.m. Saturday, just a week after the Longhorns let a 21-point advantage slip away against Red River rival OU.

Gundy was asked at his weekly media luncheon Monday afternoon if that kind of result helped or hurt the Cowboys’ chances.

He pondered that question himself over the weekend. He still struggled to come up with a concrete belief.

“I don’t know anymore,” Gundy said. “I’m guessing that they were upset — not visibly, but just dejected, maybe. But they pay Sarkisian a lot of money to fix ‘em and get it right this week. He’s got a lot of experience, so I’m sure he’ll handle it the right way emotionally.”

Gundy said he’s learned in his 16 seasons as OSU’s head coach the best way to prepare his players after such a loss is to be honest.

He does that with his coaching staff.

“Sometimes they don’t always want to hear that, player or coach,” Gundy said, “but for me that’s what I’ve learned being the head coach for a long time.”

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More than a week ago, OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders threw three interceptions in the 24-14 win over Baylor.

With the extra film study of the bye week, Gundy was able to dive into what went wrong and what was right about Sanders.

The biggest issue: Sanders did not get his feet set for multiple throws, even on ones not intercepted.

“It’s not all his fault,” Gundy said. “We didn’t protect him very well.”

Gundy then demonstrated a golf swing, showing that if Sanders swung a club he would have had his weight entirely on his back foot.

“He’s not square, he’s not balanced, he’s not athletic and he’s not moving forward in a position to be an effective thrower,” Gundy said. “Three of four of those times wasn’t his fault. There was a bad guy in his face.

“A couple times was his fault, because he didn’t set his feet, maybe anticipating that.”

Gundy said the issue has been identified. Sanders and quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay are working to fix the problem.

One way to fix it is research. Gundy said studying NFL stars like Tom Brady helps. Gundy did not recommend Patrick Mahomes — “I wouldn’t look at his footwork and try to go to a clinic.”

But Sanders also needs protection. He had that against Kansas State, a game he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns. Against Baylor, he threw for 182 yards and a touchdown along with the three picks.

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Kolby Harvell-Peel stepping up

Gundy remains impressed with safety Kolby Harvell-Peel as a player and a leader.

“Harvell-Peel has been excellent for us as a leader," Gundy said. “He’s practiced extremely hard, he’s played hard and he’s enjoying the year. 

“In my opinion, he’s doing what we try to get our children to do is embrace where you’re at in life and live for this day and don’t worry about whatever; just have fun. He’s doing that this year.”

Harvell-Peel, a senior, has been a dynamic safety in his four years. In 2019, he was first team All-Big 12 and was voted the team’s most valuable defensive player.

Last season, he was second team All-Big 12 and fourth on the team with 44 tackles. He also had two interceptions.

But this year he’s been better with 27 tackles and two interceptions through five games.

“I thought last year he played good but not great,” Gundy said. “I think this year he’s playing great up to this point.

“Now, he’s made a mistake or whatever, but still, he has really helped our team from a leadership standpoint.”

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Second-year running back Zach Middleton has become a valuable special teams player.

The Tulsa Bishop Kelley graduate was moved to one of the Cowboys’ kick return positions against Baylor.

“He’s always practiced really hard and done well,” Gundy said. “He’s a little bit of a jack of all trades in a lot of areas on special teams and can help us do different things.”

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Injury update

Gundy thought running back Dez Jackson would have a chance to return from an injury against Baylor, but Jackson did not practice.

There remains a chance he could return this week.

There is also the possibility that defensive ends Brock Martin (dislocated elbow) and Tyren Irby (knee) could also return. 

Gundy also said receivers Bryson Green and John Paul Richardson are back. 

Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at junruh@oklahoman.com or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.