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Cowboys Preview Road Test Against Kansas State

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No. 22 Oklahoma State is squarely in the hunt for the Big 12 title but must go on the road to face a dangerous Kansas State team this weekend. Mike Gundy and the Cowboys previewed the matchup with the Wildcats on Monday.

Head Coach Mike Gundy

Opening statement:
"I'd like to start today by thanking the students and our fans one more time for their involvement in our game. They were tremendous. In the latter part of the game, there were times where we needed that support. I could hear it as a coach, so I know our players could. I heard them mention it. They've been tremendous, but to be there in the end means a lot for our team. The students were awesome, so it gave me an opportunity to thank them after the game, but I know our players really appreciated their support, and we felt like we had a big-time home field advantage. I wanted to thank them for that."
 
"Obviously, there's been a lot said about the last game. We've moved forward as a team. Our focus now has been Kansas State. Our message to them last night was when you have big wins and when you have unfortunate losses, you have to get over them pretty fast and start preparing for the next team. This game, like I would expect the others to be on our conference schedule from here on out, will be a challenging game for us. I would guess it would be a pretty close game right through to the fourth quarter. That's what we're expecting and what we're preparing for. We're excited about the next game. Our football team is healthy. Their attitude and their chemistry is top notch and we expect them to prepare well for the game against Kansas State."
 
On wide receiver Jalen McCleskey:
"He's in the right spot in our schemes if the other team is trying to play heavy on James (Washington). He's also a good football player. He has a gym rat mentality. He plays fearlessly and has a gym rat mentality. We wouldn't be near as successful now, or maybe not even remotely close, if he wasn't in our lineup."
 
On the Cowboy special teams unit:
"This will be a real challenge this week. Year in and year out, Kansas State will be one of the top special teams units in the country. They do a great job with their schemes and the players understand the coverage and have multiple reps in their schemes. Hopefully we can keep that going this week. We have been pretty productive in our cover units and in our return game when opportunities are available. We're better than what we have been in the past in our return game."
 
On Mason Rudolph's performance last week:
"I think Mason understood our philosophy going into the game. I think (Mike) Yurcich did a really nice job with it. We didn't want him to get out of the box. I mentioned after the game that a number of teams that play them, and I put us in that category over the last few years, tend to get out of our box and try to reinvent the wheel. For us, I don't know about the other teams, we end up not being very successful at anything. I think he understood that, and he was willing to take what the defense was willing to give us. Sometimes he forced the ball and tried to make everything happen too fast. I made that reference after the game that in this league it looks like basketball on grass. The quarterback play instigates that and they get over-aggressive at times, in my opinion. I thought in this last game that he handled himself very well, which gave us the best chance to be successful on offense and productive in the opportunities and times that we had to score."
 
On what is unique about defending Kansas State's offense:
"In this game, you're not going to have as many possessions on either side, just based on the fact that the number of times they snap the ball with two seconds or less (on the play clock) is four times the number that most teams in this league will be in that time with the 25-second or 40-second clock. It's a little bit of a different game. For us, we don't want to change our game. We want to play our game. We want to be sound in all three phases, but the numbers are different just based on the number of snaps that Kansas State and the teams that Kansas State play get during the game."
 
Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich
 
On Jalen McCleskey dealing with success:
"A lot of our players aren't surprised by the limelight or the attention or the statistics and I think McCleskey falls into that category.  He's always seen himself as a productive player and has anticipated his success. I think his dad has done a great job. He comes from great lineage and an athletic family, so I think he's grounded as well. He's a very mature player. At the same time, he knows he has to grow."
 
On James Washington's handling of the attention from defense:
"I haven't seen James fluctuate as far as his demeanor or mentality. He's very consistent with his temperament and approach to the game. How he practices, his effort level is always the same, so there hasn't been any change that I can see."
 
On Washington's impact on the other receivers' success:
"He's such a humble guy, I don't know if he thinks about that, but he should have pride in that. Those numbers and to be diverse as a receiving core, he should be proud of that. They make each other better in a lot of different ways."
 
Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer
 
On if the defense was better against West Virginia:
"Obviously we didn't give up a big play, which was huge, but we did give up a lot underneath. That week we practiced well, and they executed the game plan well. We go back to that and what we learned from that. You learn that if you execute during the week like we want to, good things tend to happen. If our guys aren't disciplined and the execution and what we practiced during the week isn't there Saturday, then bad things happen. Hopefully we'll build on it, and they'll learn good lessons from that game."
 
On playing the Kansas State offense on the road:
"They're very efficient. The last game they had nine or 10 possessions, and they scored 31 points so that's well over three points a possession. That's what's relevant with that, not that they get so many yards in a game. That's how I analyze how efficient their offense is."
 
On what worries him the most about Kansas State's offense:
"You cannot get the ball back to our team. When they go down methodically, score and eat up five or six minutes on the drive and score, that's an element that makes them a good, efficient offense. It's frustrating on you when you can't get the ball back and your offense is sitting on the sideline."
 
Linebacker Chad Whitener
 
On how he felt after watching tape from the West Virginia game:
"Like you said, we played well in spots. We have things we need to improve on, and that was really the main emphasis on Sunday. Last Sunday we really worked on things we needed to, and we cleaned up some spots."
 
On putting WVU behind them and moving on to Kansas State:
"Right after the game, we watched what we needed to watch during pre-practice, then we moved right on to Kansas State. That's what our whole focus has been all week."
 
On how the defense was able to pressure the quarterback vs. WVU:
"We saw on film we could get to him, and we started pressuring him. He gets real uneasy in the pocket. That's something we saw [on film], and that's something we saw during the game as well."
 
Defensive Lineman Vili Leveni
 
On what his first impression of Joe Bob Clements was:
"He's definitely a real coach. He'll tell you straight up how he feels and won't beat around the bush. He told me that when he was recruiting me too. I like him as a coach. With everything he teaches us, I think he's a really special D-Line coach because he always gives us certain tips. I've learned a lot coming out of high school, and I know a lot that I didn't know back then, and that's all thanks to Joe Bob."
 
On Coach Clements being familiar with Kansas State after playing there:
"Whenever we play Kansas State, he knows a lot about them obviously and how disciplined they are."
 
On Vincent Taylor getting so many sacks:
"It's more difficult to get those sacks in the inside because that's not just one-on-ones all the time. You often have to fight off two guards in the center and tackle. That kind of status is impressive."
 
On what has made Vincent Taylor so dominant:
"When I think of him I think of his dominance. He's a big guy, and he can really overpower any O-lineman. So yeah, dominance is definitely the first thing I think of when I think of him."
 
Wide Receiver Chris Lacy
 
On the team's momentum after the win last weekend:
"Yeah, we just got a big win but this week we're focusing on the next game. Of course we want to win every game so were focused and coming up with a game plan. We're going to go out there and execute."
 
On what he liked from the offense on Saturday:
"I liked that we were able to move the ball. We had zero turnovers so we were very efficient on offense, which is a good thing."
 
On playing for Coach Gundy's 100th win:
"It was a big win. We had a lot to play for. We were all fired up in the locker room so we had a lot of motivation going into this game."
 
Safety Tre Flowers
 
On the team's mindset after winning this weekend:
"I mean just looking in the past you know, we want to be undefeated and we want to win the Big 12. and we have to win the next couple to do that."
 
On playing in Manhattan this weekend:
"All road games a very vicious, especially in the Big 12. It just comes down to knowing what you have to do, prepare and then just focusing in."
 
On how he played on Saturday:
"I wanted to be physical this week because Gundy always harps on it. It was one of those things where I bought into it this week and now I'm going to take it forward."
 
Offensive Lineman Zachary Crabtree
 
On beating a top-10 team in West Virginia:
"It'll help with our final four games, but I don't know if it's a confidence booster per se. It was good to get that signature win that puts a good stamp on the season and now we can continue to go forward and build off of. We wanted that win badly and with us being in front of our home crowd, it being homecoming and what that means here at OSU, we didn't want to let the fans down."
 
On the offense's patience against West Virginia:
"Coach Gundy told us all week that we were going to have to be patient and we just had to take what the defense gave us. That defense is a schematic nightmare at times with the way they run certain things, but Coach Gundy said to stick to the game plan and that's what we did. It feels good to put together slow, methodical drives like that and when you piece together those 10-play drives and get into the end zone, it's a really good feeling. You know that you're able to march down the field and then when you do get that big play, it's a big bonus."
 
On playing in front of the home fans:
"Coach Gundy always says to play to the crowd and use it to our advantage and that's what we did on Saturday. When that place is packed to the rim, and when you're down on the field and look up and see that there are students all the way up to that top wall. It's loud and it's rocking and it just gives us an opportunity to feed off of that constant energy. When it's full, teams don't want to come here and play. That was the case on Saturday and it really helps us to create that home-field advantage and use it to our benefit."
 
On playing Kansas State this week:
"I've been to Manhattan once, but I was coming off of an injury and I didn't really play in the game. It's a tough place to go to and they're very disciplined and they don't make mistakes. Coach Gundy has talked about that and so we have to play a clean game. That's what will give us a chance to go up there and beat them. They're going to fit the gaps and be where they're supposed to be. They don't miss assignments, and when you play a team like that they don't give up the big play. You have to be patient and stick to your game plan. Coach Gundy compares it to a boxing match and that's what it'll be like. They're going to get their punches and we're going to get ours, but we just have to keep chipping away and at the end of the fight, we just need to have a little bit more than they do."
 
Quarterback Mason Rudolph
 
On the patience of the offense against West Virginia:
"I think each game adds a different road block to our offense. We knew we weren't going to be able to blow the top off of West Virginia and so we had to patient and take the dink-and-dunk approach. We were patient with the ball and tried to eliminate turnovers and just kept on chugging."
 
On limiting turnovers in recent games:
"We just have to take care of the football and that's something I'm trying to cut down on. I think Coach Yurcich always emphasizes having two hands on the ball in the pocket and just making sure that I have good ball security, and then just reminding me that it's OK to throw the ball away instead of forcing something, especially down in the red zone."
 
On Kansas State's defense:
"They've always been a physical group and that's kind of what (Kansas State coach Bill) Snyder's always been about. They're a well-disciplined unit and a good team all around, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think it'll be good to get back to facing a defense that lines up in a four-down look. It'll be an exciting week of preparation and I'm looking forward to it.

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