MIKE GUNDY: On behalf of President Hargis, my director of football team and University, we’re very excited about our week in New Orleans, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, our hospitality has been tremendous. Our player players have had a great four or five days. We have really enjoyed the food, the people, and looking forward to another day of preparation and then getting ready to play in the game.
Q. We talked about it all year but this is it likely J.W. Walsh’s last game. What has this bowl week experience been like with you and him and seeing he has been with the guys?
MIKE GUNDY: It has been a great experience for the team. J.W. will always have a special place in the hearts of the Oklahoma State family, with the way that he has handled his career, and he has had a great three weeks of preparation, and I have enjoyed watching him and I feel like that he is looking forward to playing in the game, and I think that as he has in every game he will give us great effort and hope that he plays well and has an opportunity to enjoy his career. It would be nice if for some reason we could get another year, but if not, I’m glad he gets to finish his career in the Sugar Bowl.
Q. I don’t know if you saw what happened with Trevone Boykin last night. He was arrested, bar fight, San Antonio. Do those sort of incidents, while they haven’t happened to you here, does that scare you with your players and when you’re away on a bowl trip like this?
MIKE GUNDY: Yeah, for coach or coaches, we understand that there’s you know, we have young people with the group, and incidents can happen. And we stress every day, multiple times, about preparing themselves for their life beyond football and we want them to enjoy these times, but also understand that people are watching and to try to make the best decisions possible. So the answer would be yes. I worry about and am always concerned with the players because in most cases they make a mistake, but the outside world won’t see it that way. We have been very fortunate. Our players up to this point have done a great job and so very seldom is there a day go by in an environment like we’re in now that I or the coaches don’t tell them that we don’t appreciate them in the way that they’re taking care of themselves and representing Oklahoma State University.
Q. Building on that a little bit, when you go to a bowl game, motivation and getting used to your surroundings and having, you know, fun, I think is a big part of leading up to the game and winning. And it seems like your guys have done a good job of that this week, including the guys that have been here before that even lived here before Katrina have kind of helped with that.
MIKE GUNDY: It’s important for our staff that they enjoy the bowl week, an opportunity to be in a great city like New Orleans, to be around their team, the experience, and what we try to tell them is that there’s not many times in their life they’re in an environment like this. I joked with them after practice the other day. We get on the buses at the hotel and drive the wrong way down a trolley path on buses with police escorts and they stop the traffic on Canal Street. And I challenge them to have some type of an opportunity later in their life where somebody would do that for them. And I just stress to them the importance of college football and the importance of the Sugar Bowl and the opportunity that they have. And day they seem like they’re enjoying themselves this week. They have practiced well. We have been fortunate that we have been in a number of bowls now. And for our coaching staff, you want your players to be healthy. You want them to be fresh. You want them to play hard and have a great game. So they will have that memory the rest of their life, that they had an opportunity to be in a tremendous bowl like the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and that they went out and played as hard as they could for their teammates. And if they can fall back on that in the end, then it will be a productive game and I think our team has put themselves in that situation this week.
Q. Coach, talk a little bit about Ole Miss offense and defense, please.
MIKE GUNDY: Very talented team. I had mentioned to the group the other day that if you take 15 starters on offense and 15 starters on defense and I know there’s 11, but you rotate a few in, if you just say there’s 15 on each side of the ball there’s an additional six or eight that play on their special teams. So you come up with about 42 to 45 players. I don’t watch a lot of football on the West Coast and the East Coast, but man for man could be as talented as a team as anybody in the country, give or take based on certain college football fans’ opinion on quarterback play, running back play, receiver play, D line play, so on and so forth. But Ole Miss has recruited a very talented football team. Quarterbacks come in have been a very active player, has been a competitor in our opinion. Their wide receiver also, Laquon [Treadwell], we have watched him and develop and he has a future to play for a long time, and the defensive line wise, very strong and physical, a lot of speed on defense, can run side to side. So it’s a talented group. We will need to play our best game and put ourselves in position to have success based on the talent level that Ole Miss has in this game.
Q. You know another season without a 1,000 yard rusher, and we talked about the running issues all year. But considering the personnel that you bring back next year and all of the variables, how close do you think this program is to reaching that mark again?
MIKE GUNDY: You know, I don’t know. We only look at the next game, and so the preparation that we have for Ole Miss and next week, we start to regroup and have to do it all over again and come up with a plan of who we are, where our strengths are, and certainly our running game needs to be developed. I think that we will be or I know that we will be more mature up front and it will give us a chance to have some continuity there, and in developing a thousand yard rusher or maybe not a thousand yard rusher, but you guys know that we want to rush for average 4.5 yards a carry, which is really more important. So we will continue to work toward that goal.
Q. Some of your players here were talking about the chance to face an SEC school. Is this an opportunity you and your team look forward to being able to face off against an SEC school?
MIKE GUNDY: I think it’s always fun to play teams from other conferences, over the last six or eight years, you hear a lot about the Big 12 and the SEC and so I think it’s important that we play the very best game we can. There’s a lot of talk about the college playoff system and when teams from our conference and the SEC compete against each other, if that could have an effect on the committee and the way they think, I’m not sure, obviously have never been in those meetings, but it’s important for us to prepare and play in every game. And I say this each year. We come up with plans and our preparation is to play the very best game we can and we want to win every game we play in and that’s the approach that we have had in this bowl game.
Q. You were in the Superdome yesterday. You’re a special teams coordinator in addition to being head coach for this one. And from what I understand, and being in there, it was the first time I was in there as well, the light configuration is different, circular and almost dead above. Your punt returners, I know you wanted to get in there. Your thoughts on the stadium and how did your guys handle the lighting and catching the ball?
MIKE GUNDY: I wish you wouldn’t have spilled the beans on me being the special teams coordinator.
But they said they did very well. It was good for us to get in the Dome and field some kicks and punts and throw the ball around a little bit. And I asked a few of them and they didn’t have any concerns. So I’m guessing that their catching ability went just fine, and I don’t see it being an issue in the game.
Q. Coach, I have two you have two high powered offenses here. Do you anticipate that type of game tomorrow?
MIKE GUNDY: We have a lot of respect for Ole Miss’s offense and we have had success at times offensively. It’s interesting in bowls, as soon as you start to guess it’s going to be a high scoring affair, defenses play their tail off, and then sometimes I have been in bowl games where we were expecting it to be low scoring and it goes the other way. The only thing that I’m somewhat convinced is that Ole Miss is a really good football team and we feel like that we have a really good football team. And it will be interesting to see what the match up is based on four weeks of preparation.
Q. Mike, it’s always a delicate balance preparing for a game in terms of how physical you want to go through practices. Would you say that your practices leading up to this game have been maybe more physical or about the same in terms of bowl game prep?
MIKE GUNDY: More physical, John. We feel like Ole Miss is a physical football team and that we needed to prepare our players the best we could for what we think and what we should expect in the game. And so our practices were more physical over the last three weeks than maybe what it would have been in some other bowl games.