STILLWATER — With No. 1 LSU's victory in Tuscaloosa Saturday night and Oklahoma State's ascent to No. 2 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, a matchup between former Cowboy coach Les Miles and his replacement, Mike Gundy, in the national title game is a very real possibility.
How would Gundy feel about facing his predecessor at OSU, and former boss, for the national championship?
“If he's there, I sure I hope I get the chance,” said Gundy, who was Miles' offensive coordinator when he was at OSU.
While Gundy has taken the Cowboys to unprecedented heights during his seven-year tenure at his alma mater, Miles has widely been credited with starting the rise of the OSU football program when he was hired more than a decade ago. And on Monday, Gundy reflected on what Miles meant to OSU.
“He kind of got the ball rolling here,” Gundy said. “I was fortunate enough to take his place and then (was) able to keep it going from that point on. Everybody needs to be thankful for what he did here, in my opinion.”
When Miles arrived in Stillwater in 2000, he inherited a team coming off a 3-8 season that lacked talent. To make up for that, Miles preached grit and toughness with practices that often lasted longer than three hours and built a power offense that utilized tight ends and fullbacks.
“He came in here and said, ‘OK, here's how we're going to take some players who are pretty average, and by being tougher than everybody else, we're going to win enough games to where they start to think we can win,'” Gundy said. “And then, we should be able to recruit better players.
“He was smart enough to realize that some of the guys that we had here may not be as good as what we think we need, but if we are tougher than (opponents), we can pound this thing out and win enough games and kind of get it rolling.”
And Gundy and Miles spent every day together, collaborating on the offensive game plan. Gundy handled the passing game; Miles the running game and plays in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
“We argued all week over this and that,” Gundy said. “And then on Saturday, we'd go out and have fun and we'd score points.”
After three winning seasons in four years, Miles left for LSU and Gundy has continued to elevate the OSU program. Gundy said he maintains a good relationship with Miles, though the two rarely talk during the season.
Today, LSU and OSU play very different styles of football. But Gundy said he still holds onto many of the lessons he learned under Miles. He watched Miles come up with a solid plan for the OSU program and not look back no matter what, and Gundy has adopted the same overall approach.
“Even though the cover of the book may be different, the inside is very similar,” Gundy said.