STILLWATER – Looking back over his 44 years as a football coach, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young couldn’t remember a single game that he’d ever missed until he had to sit out the first two contests this season for medical reasons.
He’d rather it not happen again.
Young was forced to listen on the radio from his home instead of accompanying the Cowboys (1-1) to Arizona for their 59-38 loss on Saturday night. It wasn’t a pleasant evening.
After Oklahoma State dominated overmatched Savannah State 84-0 in the season opener and dedicated the shutout to Young, the Cowboys gave up 636 yards and committed several critical defensive penalties in the Week 2 loss.
“It’s tough,” Young said Monday. “Obviously, it wouldn’t have been any different had I been there. But at the same time, it would have been easier on me if I had been.”
Oklahoma State’s players and coaches are refusing to make Young’s absence, for an undisclosed medical procedure, an excuse. But it certainly could have been a contributing factor.
Glenn Spencer, the linebackers coach and a co-defensive coordinator, took over the play-calling and graduate assistant Jermial Ashley oversaw Young’s defensive linemen while he was out.
“Our defense and our team is a family, and whenever you don’t have a family member or a coach or a player there, it hurts,” defensive end Cooper Bassett said. “He’s our lead guy and it hurt not having him there. I know as a defensive lineman especially, it hurt not having our coach there.”
Young said he participated in meetings with the defensive line and coaching staff last week – perhaps against doctors’ orders since he added “I better not be saying I was here all week” – but he wasn’t on the field for practices and he missed the game.
He expects to be back full-time this week.
“I know this week it will be great having him out at practice and holding the D-line line and the defense accountable and just lighting the fire underneath us,” Bassett said. “Our staff last week did a good job. The bottom line is the players didn’t get it done.
“All the excuses everyone wants to make, we could care less. The bottom line is we didn’t get the job done. We didn’t execute, we didn’t tackle, we didn’t run, we didn’t take care of the ball, we didn’t get turnovers. The bottom line is it was all on the players.”
Young should return to the sideline Saturday, when the Cowboys host Louisiana-Lafayette (2-0).
Coach Mike Gundy said it’ll be then – during the brief minutes between defensive series on game day – when Young’s presence will be felt the most.
“The more guys that see what’s happening, the more guys that can communicate and get to the players, look them in the eye and get information to them and get them back on the field is an advantage,” Gundy said.
“I think that’s really where we missed him more than anywhere.”
Young said he preferred to keep his specific medical condition private, in part because he is “trying to be as little of a distraction as I can.”
“I feel great,” Young said. “I had no symptoms going into this procedure. I had no symptoms coming out. It’s no different I am today than I was three weeks ago. I just had some tremendous doctors.”
On Saturday night, he described a somewhat hopeless feeling while tuning in on the radio. He didn’t bother looking for a place to watch on TV, with the game only available in Oklahoma on Dish Network and that arrangement made at the last minute.
He tried to visualize the game from the radio broadcast, but it was impossible for him to know what specific defenses and blitzes were being called and understand what wasn’t working.
“There’s not much you can do,” Young said. “I’m just like the other fans at that point in time. You just wish for the best.”
After chewing on his fingernails throughout the game Saturday night, he got to actually see the game tape Sunday – three times – and start assessing what went wrong.
“We had all those penalties and we had some missed tackles and we got outgapped a little bit,” Young said. “There’s plenty of blame to go around.”