Mike Gundy usually watches football practice from high in the tower. But unfortunate circumstances that will affect Oklahoma State football for the rest of the season caused the Cowboys coach to walk down to the field on Wednesday.
“I got down real quick and held onto the rails coming down, because I didn’t know what was next,” Gundy said.
Three of his players had suffered injuries, including last year’s Biletnikoff Award finalist Tylan Wallace, who is believed to have torn his ACL.
Center Johnny Wilson and safety Tre Sterling were the other players hurt but Gundy, who confirmed Wallace will be out for the rest of the year, said the Cowboys could get Sterling and Wilson back this season.
“We don’t practice full speed much this time of year,” Gundy said after Saturday’s 34-27 win against TCU. “So just half-to three-quarters speed drills. I don’t have an explanation for it. It’s just an unusual situation. One, and then the other one, and then the other one, probably less than three minutes on the other side of the field.
“I have not in however many years I’ve been coaching — 29 or 30, something like that — have seen a day like that.”
The Cowboys were experiencing one of the worst moments of the season but still had to prepare to host TCU in three days. Gundy stepped on the field and stopped practice to address his players, coaches and support staff.
“That’s not an easy conversation to have with your team,” offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson said. “But obviously, provided some perspective on what we needed to do and how we were supposed to come together and it was just great.”
“Sometimes that can break you,” running back Chuba Hubbard said of the injuries. “If we would have dwelled on it, who knows what would have happened. So he just told us, ‘If you really care about them you’d step up for them.’ So everyone is like ‘Yeah, you’re right. Let’s finish this week strong, come out and play for them and get this win’.”
The offensive line was missing veteran starter Wilson, who was replaced by Ry Schneider, and the Cowboys still ran for 301 yards against the best defense in the Big 12 and No. 15 run defense in the country.
Hubbard’s 223 rushing yards against TCU is his fourth 200-yard game this season and the first 200-yard performance of any player against TCU coach Gary Patterson.
Forty percent of quarterback Spencer Sanders’ completions were caught by Wallace heading into Saturday. Wallace had 53 catches for 903 yards and eight touchdowns before his injury. After the players showed their support for Wallace at the injury table on Wednesday, Gleeson asked his offense who was going to play in the Z receiver slot in Wallace’s absence.
Junior Dillon Stoner was the first to answer.
“His chest perked up and he came right to the middle of the sideline huddle and looked me right in the eye and goes ‘I’m playing Z,’” Gleeson said.
Stoner answered the challenge by scoring OSU’s first two touchdowns on catches of 57 and 22 yards. He finished with three catches for 93 yards and two TDs.
The defense played well in Sterling’s absence. Safety Kolby Harvell-Peel had two interceptions and recovered a fumble to help OSU finish plus-three in turnovers. Safety Jarrick Bernard also grabbed an interception to give the OSU three interceptions in back-to-back games.
“The script played out exactly how (Gundy) described it on Wednesday,” Gleeson said. “We love those kids. It’s an unfortunate deal and it was just amazing to see the fruits of your labor kind of come to fruition on Saturday in a tough spot.”
OSU is heading into its second off week of the season, which will give Sterling and Wilson more time to try to heal from their injuries. It will also give the Cowboys an extra week to get more comfortable playing without Wallace.