The Pregame Huddle: Week 14

What could have been...

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Chip Killian wasn’t surprised when he heard Samaje Perine crediting the offensive line in the first words of his postgame interview or when he read reports about Perine providing his blockers with pizza and fried chicken after his two biggest games of the year. 

Perine is just 19, but maturity has always marked the Sooners’ running back, dating back at least as long as Killian, Perine’s high school coach, met him as a young eighth-grader in Pflugerville, Texas. 

When he first arrived to Hendrickson High, he enrolled in the school’s junior ROTC program for an added level of discipline. When he suffered a serious knee injury as a sophomore, he showed up to the team facility the next day to strengthen all the muscles around his injured knee. Surgery was coming soon, and he wanted to get a head start on his recovery. 

"A lot of that speaks to his parents," Killian told Fox Sports Southwest this week. "They demand that from him." 

Both work in the technology field. At one point this season Killian got a shoutout during a Perine interview. He thanked his high school coaches for making him work so hard. 

At some point, Perine may stop impressing us. For now, we’re still waiting. 

Saturday, Killian sat through a four-hour rain delay for a playoff game while assistant coaches tracked their famous alum’s record day at Oklahoma. A year earlier, he was in the locker room with them, fighting on Friday nights. Now, his name’s etched in the college football record book. 

"He’s more developed than most college freshmen," Killian said. "We knew it was not outside the scope of what he could accompish. 

RUDOLPH READY TO GO AT OSU

The day after his first action on a college football field, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph picked up the phone and called Kyle Richardson. His message to his high school coach back at Northwestern High in Rock Hill, S.C. echoed what most of Oklahoma State felt after Saturday’s loss to Baylor. 

"He’s excited about the future," Richardson told Fox Sports Southwest this week. "He knows he didn’t play great, didn’t play perfect, but that was the most points they’d scored in like four games. He felt like there was a spark with the team, just something different, you know?" 

Rudolph completed just 12-of-25 passes but accounted for 281 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Oklahoma State lost 49-28 at No. 7 Baylor, but the 28 points were its highest point total since a 37-20 home win against Iowa State on Oct. 4, six games ago. 

"He played pretty well," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "There were some times he missed some throws, but for his first start at this level and competing and staying in the game mentally–It’s not easy." 

Rudolph began the season a shoe-in to redshirt in his first year on campus after enrolling in January. J.W. Walsh was the starter, but suffered a season-ending foot injury in OSU’s second game of the season. Arizona transfer Daxx Garman assumed the role of starter for the next eight games, but suffered a concussion against Texas on Nov. 15. 

With a freshman walk-on and Rudolph the only quarterbacks left on the roster, Gundy chose to remove Rudolph’s redshirt and spend a season of eligibility on what could be just two games of action (three, if OSU beats Oklahoma next week and qualifies for a bowl). 

Richardson had hoped Rudolph would retain his year of eligibility, but as a former coach at the college level, doesn’t blame Gundy for the difficult decision. 

"They’re in a dogfight to get to a bowl and it’s difficult to walk into a meeting room and see a group of seniors that has no eligibility after this year and not necessarily throw in the towel, but not put your best players on the field to give them the best chance to win," he said. "He handled it how he had to handle it." 

To help Rudolph along, Oklahoma State slowed down the pace of the offense by huddling, something the Cowboys hadn’t done since 2009 when Gundy still called the plays and hadn’t hired Dana Holgorsen to implement an Air Raid attack. 

"A lot of people mentally, they check out. You don’t go into a meeting as the same way as you would a starter," Richardson said. "For him to go out and have the performance he had after pretty much guaranteeing he was going to redshirt going into Week 10, that’s even more impressive. Honestly, he only got about three or four days of first-team reps." 

It wasn’t the first time Rudolph stepped into a difficult situation. As a sophomore, he was charged with replacing quarterback Justin Worley, the Gatorade National Player of the Year who had left to play at Tennessee.

He’s dealing now with the same growing pains he dealt with then. 

"He’s got to catch up with how fast defenders can cover space. Some of those windows he had in high school or he’s had in practice will not necessarily be the same window he has come Saturday," Richardson said. "He had a guy wide open and saw him, but what he didn’t see was the safety screaming down 100 miles an hour. That window went from huge to interception. That’s the difference and that only comes with game reps." 

Rudolph’s arm strength is one of his biggest assets, but at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he drew comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger for his ability to take a hit and still deliver a pass, even if a defender was hanging on him. 

"He never really gets too high or gets too low. He’s really a calm, collected individual, so whether he was throwing a touchdown pass or he was throwing an interception, it was all about playing the next play," Richardson said. "He’s a tough individual mentally and physically, he’s got all the tools to be a big-time Division I quarterback and we knew that here."

DON’T BET ON GUNDY TO FLORIDA

Anytime Mike Gundy’s name comes up with a job, his famed quote about Oklahoma State being his "New York Yankees job" is soon to follow. 

Two years ago, Tennessee and Arkansas were the possible suitors. This time, it’s Florida, and a report surfaced Saturday that suggested Gundy was pursuing the Gators opening. Another report surfaced Tuesday suggesting Gundy and his Sooner State peer Bob Stoops could be ruled out of the Gators’ search for Will Muschamp’s replacement. 

It’s been a tense couple weeks for Gundy, the winningest coach in school history. Last week, billionaire super booster T. Boone Pickens had a headline-making response to a question about whether or not he supports Gundy. 

"I’m certainly supportive of Oklahoma State University," he said. "I’m always going to be for OSU, I don’t care who coaches them. 

Gundy’s response? 

"I don’t need anybody to tell me that they like or dislike me," he said. "I don’t really care. I just like to coach my guys and keep playing ball. … I don’t know what to say. He’s old enough to make his own comments now, right? I can’t control what he says." 

Alright then. 

Saturday, Gundy caught criticism for a terse press conference when he channeled Bill Belichick or Bryce Petty, but instead of being "on to Cincinnati" or "ready for OU," he was just "doing what’s best for the team."

Between that and the ever-icy conditions between Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder–much of which centers around differences of opinion in scheduling–it’s become easy to stoke the fire of Gundy bolting for Gainesville or elsewhere. 

Don’t count on it. The reason is the same as always, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Gundy’s famed quote about how he sees OSU differently than many others in the college football community. 

Gundy doesn’t sound like a man looking to leave a program that made him a 23-year-old position coach, a year removed from being a quarterback for the Cowboys. Gundy’s ties to Stillwater run deep, and it’s hard to see him leaving a school he’s been associated with as a player or coach for more than 20 years for Florida, where he has few, if any ties. 

One eyebrow-raising quote from a man who has spent millions making your job easier doesn’t erase all that history. 

Gundy does strike me as a man who is currently unhappy. That unhappiness stems from losing, though, not from being unhappy at OSU. 

He hasn’t endured a losing season since 2005, his first season as the head man in Stillwater. A loss at Oklahoma next week would end Oklahoma State’s season on a six-game losing streak. 

This season had the look of a rebuilding year and injuries along the offensive line and quarterback only cemented it. However, at OSU, rebuilding years have more often looked like eight-win seasons, not five-win seasons. 

Gundy’s done a lot of special things at OSU, bringing Stillwater its first Big 12 title in 2011 and coming up a hair short of a national title appearance. I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t in orange and black looking to make more special moments next season and for years to come.  

THANKSGIVING RIVALRY GAMES IN TEXAS A TEASE

It hasn’t happened since 2011, but Texas and Texas A&M are finally back playing on Thanksgiving. The only problem is they aren’t playing each other. 

Texas A&M is hosting LSU and Texas will host No. 5 TCU on Thursday afternoon. 

When the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC, the Longhorns retained their Thanksgiving tradition, trading out TCU and Texas Tech for an annual home game on turkey day. 

This year is Texas A&M’s first time back on the field for this oh-so-hallowed Thursday, but I imagine seeing the Longhorns and Aggies on the field on Thanksgiving night will be a little bit like a child of divorce seeing their parents on dates at the same restaurant with new significant others. 

We’re still waiting for our first real step toward a reunion. 

"That’s for the administrators and everyone else to figure out. I have no idea if we would ever play or what’s going to happen with that game," Texas coach Charlie Strong said. "We have enough on our plate right now." 

Strong talked Monday about being a two-plate kind of guy when he digs in for a Thanksgiving feast. I wish that applied here, too. Those decisions are above his head and he has some responsibility to keep a united front with his bosses, but both Texas A&M and Texas have hired new athletic directors since the rivalry ended. 

I thought that might bring us closer to a reunion, but for now, we’re still left waiting. 

BOWEN, SNYDER HAVE HISTORY

Kansas coach Clint Bowen and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder will meet as opposing coaches for the first time on Saturday, but not long ago, Snyder was hoping the Jayhawks’ interim head man would join his staff. 

Bowen has spent more than two decades as a player and coach at Kansas, and from the west, Snyder took notice. Snyder didn’t offer many details on Monday, but said he once spoke with Bowen about a job. 

The Lawrence Journal-World reported via multiple sources that the interest came after Mark Mangino left Kansas in 2009. 

Bowen ended up taking the defensive coordinator job at Western Kentucky before taking the same job at North Texas in 2011 and returning to Kansas in 2012 to join Charlie Weis’ staff. Why didn’t Bowen have any interest in Kansas State? 

"Probably because he’s a KU guy," Snyder said. 

FUN WITH NUMBERS

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

IF you haven’t seen the Taiwanese animation interpretation of Samaje Perine’s record day, you need to rectify that immediately.