STILLWATER — During the worst season of penalties in the Mike Gundy era, was there a point at which he might have snapped?
Was a chair thrown during a meeting?
Was there ever the threat of the permanent benching of a starter?
No, the Oklahoma State coach reports. But he was sickened by such sloppy play. He is beyond determined to fix an issue that dogged his 2018 football team.
At 45.5 yards per game, the 2017 Cowboys were the least-penalized of Gundy’s 14 teams.
At 70.5 yards per game, last season’s Cowboys were the most self-destructive.
For storytelling numbers on OSU’s losses to Iowa State, Baylor and TCU last season, start with the penalties.
Gundy’s response: During each of 14 sessions in this spring-practice period, game officials have been present. Sometimes, there’s a full crew. More often, there’s a trio of guys in striped shirts.
When an infraction occurs, a flag flies and a teaching moment ensues.
“(Officials) are watching everything,” Gundy explained. “There are repercussions for penalties. It’s talked about. It’s coached. That’s the only way you can fix things, right? You address it, come up with a plan and put it in order.
“It’s our job to make (the players) aware of it. It’s our job to have discipline and structure, and to have a plan for stopping it, and then they’ve got to go do it.”
OSU’s football spring crests with a 1 p.m. Saturday event at Boone Pickens Stadium. There is no actual game format. Essentially, it’s a football practice with a period of scrimmaging.
Fans will watch the quarterbacks. Officials will watch for the types of mistakes that crushed Oklahoma State at Baylor last year.
The Baylor debacle started innocently enough. During the first quarter, a yellow false-start flag was lobbed in the direction of the Cowboys offensive line.
In the mind of Gundy, however, it might have been a red flag — a screaming warning that the Baylor game ultimately might resemble the Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas State games.
Ultimately, the Baylor game was added to a list of Oklahoma State failures.
During a 41-17 loss to Texas Tech, there were eight Cowboys penalties for 73 yards.
During a 48-42 loss to Iowa State, there were nine penalties for 87 yards.
During a 31-12 loss Kansas State, there were five penalties for 89 yards.
At Baylor, as the Cowboys squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and wound up with a 35-31 setback, there were mind-blowing totals of 12 penalties and 133 penalty yards.
Oklahoma State was the favored team before each of those four contests, and yet the Cowboys were 0-4 in part because of penalties.
The four-game totals: 34 penalties, 382 penalty yards. In four-game penalty yardage, OSU was minus-204.
At Baylor, OSU had seven 15-yard penalties. During the fourth quarter alone, there were flags for a facemask grab, a late-hit personal foul and pass interference.
All three infractions occurred as Baylor drove for the two touchdowns that doomed OSU to a defeat that should not have happened.
“I didn’t address it well enough last year, and I let it slide,” Gundy said Wednesday. “It was a mistake. I’m not letting it happen now. We’ll see if it works.”
With fewer penalties, the 2018 Cowboys might have been 10-3 instead of 7-6. Some of the more penalty-prone OSU players should roll video of their 2017 and 2011 counterparts.
In 2017, OSU was penalized 66 times. Clean execution was a factor in a 10-win finish. Last season, there were 89 penalties.
In 2011, the Cowboys were penalized only 45.5 yards per game. For having played smart, brilliant football, that team was the most accomplished in program history: There was the combination of a Big 12 title, a Fiesta Bowl triumph and a 12-1 record.
Gundy didn’t wait until August to begin hammering away at the need for fewer penalties. The hammering began weeks ago.
With a new starter at QB and a rebuilt defensive front, these Cowboys will be in serious trouble if there’s not a serious reduction of the mistakes that tarnished 2018.