AMES, Iowa — Mike Yurcich knows he stepped into Pistol Pete-sized boots when he accepted Mike Gundy's job offer. Knows he's coaching where mega-points and mega-yards are not expected, they're demanded.
“There's a standard that's been set here for awhile,” Yurcich said. “And we're not there.”
From offensive coordinator at little Shippensburg to offensive coordinator at OSU, Yurcich is under the six-shooter halfway through his inaugural Cowboy season.
The offense that put Yurcich's predecessors in prime position on the coaching carousel, that made 50-point games and first-round draft picks common, has gone stale. OSU scored 21 points on Mississippi State and West Virginia; 17 offensive points on TCU.
The 5-1 Cowboys, somehow still ranked a lofty 13th, play at Iowa State on Saturday, and if OSU is to contend for a Big 12 title, Yurcich's offense has to blossom.
Gundy offers nothing but support for Yurcich.
“I'm sure he feels like he's taking it personally,” Gundy said. “But he's doing good. He's in a little different situation than what we've been in.”
Gundy has a point. When Dana Holgorsen came aboard as coordinator in 2010, and Todd Monken did the same a year ago, they inherited Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Yurcich inherited the eclectic trio of Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf.
But no one wants to hear it. Who in the Big 12 has a quarterback of substance, anyway, this side of Baylor?
“We know where we've got to be,” Yurcich said. “We know we have to improve. But I tell you, when you look at the past and you see the offensive prowess that's been through these stadiums, it's pretty awesome.
“I think every coach in this league never wants to settle or make excuses. Nor do we. It is what it is. We've gotta to improve. We know that.”
Yurcich had a learning curve in a lot of ways. Just adjusting to talent. Maybe he ran tailback Jeremy Smith on so many stretch plays because Smith looks like a blue-chip talent compared to Shippensburg-level runners. But in the Big 12, tailbacks better hit the corner quick.
Gundy says he's pleased with Yurcich.
“His attitude, his coaching, his teaching, his composure, has been good,” Gundy said. “And his game-day management, play-calling, has been really good. He's maybe more aggressive than anybody we've ever had here.”
But it's a bottom-line business. The Cowboys who scored 44 and 48 points a game in 2011-12 are gone.
OSU doesn't have an NFL-caliber tailback. The offensive line is beat up. The quarterbacks have been inconsistent.
But Walsh and Chelf quarterbacked the Cowboys to a bunch of points last season. Eventually, any lack of success is going to fall at Yurcich's feet. And he knows it.
“You can only control what you can control,” Yurcich said. “Try to help your players out the best you can. That's really what it's all about, getting them playing fast, getting them playing confident, having fun … those are the most important things.
“It's not necessarily pressure. There's a lot of things in life that are pressure. More pressure than this.”
Maybe so. But the pressure will mount on Yurcich, if OSU's offense doesn't find its high gear. The same history that makes this such a desirable job also makes it dicey.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.