No. 6 Cowboys get most out of shorter practices

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STILLWATER, OKLA. (AP) - Coach Mike Gundy is taking a less-is-more approach at No. 6 Oklahoma State.

Less practicing, more winning.

Gundy has instituted shorter practices for the Cowboys in recent years, coinciding with a steady rise up the rankings. Instead of taking advantage of the maximum 4 hours per day or 20 hours per week allowed by the NCAA, Oklahoma State is on the field practicing less than 4 1/2 hours per week.

That’s 1 hour, 45 minutes on Tuesdays, 1 hour, 35 minutes on Wednesdays and an hour on Thursdays. That’s it.

“We’re nowhere near the 4-hour rule. We don’t ever get near 4 hours, or 20 hours a week,” Gundy said. “I mean, we have to fill out the paperwork but it’s a non-factor.”

The goal is to focus more on game days than practice. So far, it’s an overwhelming success.

Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) is experiencing some of its best times ever, winning a school-record 11 games last season and reaching the midway point of this season undefeated and sitting in fourth place in the BCS standings _ the program’s highest position ever _ heading into Saturday’s game at Missouri (3-3, 1-2).

It’s not just fun because the Cowboys are winning. It’s a concerted effort by Gundy and his staff.

“If you’ve ever had a job where when you got up, you were dreading getting to the office because of the boss or your environment or you didn’t like it, it’s not very fun. Your production level’s going to go down, I don’t care who you are,” Gundy said.

“If these guys feel that way about football here, then we’re wrong as coaches. We’re dead wrong, because there’s only just a few of them that’ll do it no matter what because they’re so mentally tough.”

Gundy understands that college football can be a grind on players. Back when he was a quarterback for Oklahoma State in the 1980s, he got done with football in May and had all summer to get a part-time job, hang out at the pool, coach an American Legion baseball team and generally get away.

Now, the sport is a year-round pursuit without much down time beyond spring break and a week or so after a postseason bowl.

Gundy said he realized about three years ago what was happening to the players who weren’t willing to keep plugging along no matter what. He recalled “seeing kids that were willing to run through a wall when they were a sophomore and then by the time they were a senior, they didn’t even want to start to run toward that wall.”

So, he listened up. He talked to his seniors about what changes could be made, and over time he has developed the current plan.

Like their hurry-up offense, the Cowboys make the most of their time, with focused, fast-paced practices. They’re also on the field for a little over an hour on Sundays without pads, correcting mistakes from the previous day’s game, and each week has about 7 hours of team meetings and film study scheduled _ although players can go over the tape more on their own, too.

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