John E. Hoover: No time for pity party at injury-plagued OSU
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
10/23/12 at 4:39 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: For OSU, no time for injury-bug pity party
STILLWATER - Given the way events unfolded over the weekend, Oklahoma State football coaches found themselves relying on their own parenting skills to help counsel the Cowboys through difficult times.
Life, it seems, isn't fair.
Neither is playing quarterback at OSU. Not this season, anyway.
Five weeks after starting QB Wes Lunt goes down with a dislocated kneecap, backup J.W. Walsh is stricken with his own knee malady.
So many things went right for the Cowboys last year on their way to the program's first Big 12 championship. Now, as injuries stack up like cord wood for the coming winter, fate has become cruel.
How do they not throw themselves a pity party?
"It is tough," said offensive lineman Lane Taylor. It's kind of a crazy scenario. ... It's an up-and-down roller coaster."
What most fans don't realize is that so many college football games are actually won or lost on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those are usually a team's days for the heaviest preparation. Opponents' film is studied, game plans are installed and practices are intense.
If players don't have the proper focus or mental discipline or studious approach to Tuesday and Wednesday, then "you get your butt beat on Saturday," coach Mike Gundy said.
With Walsh down for at least the rest of the regular season and with Lunt still not 100 percent for this week's Big 12 Conference game against TCU, O-State players must avoid any "poor, pitiful me" syndrome.
"I think it's very possible for that situation to present itself," Gundy said. "Because young people - and even old people, but more so when you're young - it's 'Why? Gosh! I'm a senior and we can't go two games or three games in a row without our stinking quarterback getting hurt?' "
So Gundy, father of three boys, goes back to some of the tough lessons handed down to him by his own parents.
"You've just got to talk to them, just like they're your own kids, and say, 'Look, if anybody can change this, please let me know how to do it. Otherwise, I don't know what to tell you. It's life. It's the way it is.' "
OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken says Gundy is brilliant at getting the message across to players that they don't have time to wallow in self pity.
Next man up. Play the game. Do your job and everything else will take care of itself.
The easiest way for that to happen now, Monken said, is to have some success, regardless of who's playing quarterback. Maximize the game plan, whether it's more handoffs or a slower tempo or a limited playbook, and then execute. It's also helpful if everyone else elevates their level of play, if only a little. Cutting down on mistakes is paramount.
But Monken also said there comes a time when hard reality can set in, when players become wise to the difference between what's being said and what's actually happening.
A next-man-up mentality is fine, but if the next man up is throwing interceptions because he's never played before or is getting sacked every play because his knee hurts too much to move, then suddenly, next-man-up is a load of malarkey. That's when an injury becomes as real as a kick to the gut.
"And you can't promote that in the media. You can't promote it outside your locker room," Monken said. "We know we have injuries. Deep down, I wish we didn't have them.
"But it's what parents do with kids. You know? Find a way. Where there's a will, there's a way. 'You can be whatever you want to be in life.' Right? That's what you tell 'em. Deep down, you're sitting there going, 'That kid can't be a doctor. He ain't smart enough.' But that's what you tell 'em. Right? Isn't that part of the deal?"