STILLWATER – J.W. Walsh officially introduced himself Saturday.
And it was a grand introduction to OSU's fans.
And to Cowboys coaches, too.
With quarterback Wes Lunt down and then out less than two minutes into a designated bounce-back game for the Cowboys, Walsh was called into service against Louisiana-Lafayette in a scoreless contest.
This wasn't mopup duty against Savannah State. Or the gimmick failed fourth-down run at Arizona.
This was real.
And frankly, outside of maybe receiver Josh Stewart, his old running pal at Denton's Guyer High, nobody knew what to expect from Walsh.
Practices and scrimmages hadn't revealed the best of the redshirt freshman.
Saturday's big stage did.
Walsh, entering amid seemingly dire circumstances, directed the Cowboys to a 44-0 halftime lead and on to a 65-24 win that eased all the uh-oh thoughts slicing through the silence when Lunt was sprawled holding his knee on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf.
Walsh completed 21-of-30 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns and added 73 yards and another score rushing.
Not Mike Gundy.
“He had a couple practices in the spring where he was really good, early,” Gundy said. “But this is a complete different setting, because practice and scrimmages are one thing… this counts.”
Not offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
“Some of the plays he makes today,” Monken said, “you don't see in practice.”
Like Walsh's 13-yard scramble on a third-and-9 play, extending an eventual touchdown drive that boosted OSU's lead to 17-0. Like Walsh's 36-yard scamper away from pressure on a march to a 51-7 lead, capped by Walsh's 4-yard scoring run on a designed keeper.
Recruited at the end of the Zac Robinson era, Walsh suddenly found himself as a leg man in the armed attack OSU converted for Brandon Weeden and has now maintained with Lunt.
“He's not going to be as good as Wes in 7-on-7 (drills),” Monken said. “He better not be. And he's not as good as him at what we do.
“But that doesn't mean he's not a good football player.”
Without the elite arm and in practices and scrimmages that blow the ball dead whenever quarterbacks are touched, Walsh has never been able to display his full package of skills.
“Everyday he does that in practice, it's a sack,” Monken said of Walsh's daring scrambles. “That's always been the history with running quarterbacks, you don't know until they play.”
Now they know more about Walsh, who didn't miss much in the passing game, either, against Lafayette. And what the Cowboys do from here – as long as Lunt is out – is likely to change.
“He's a guy who's going to make as many plays with his feet as his arm,” Monken said. “So I don't think there's any way you don't play to his strengths.”
There's a chance, too, that Walsh is simply a gamer; a guy who breaks out his best for the biggest moments.
“I think he's a pretty good 'baller,” said Stewart, who caught nine passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. “He's a good player, man.”
Stewart would know, having ridden shotgun to Walsh in Guyer's high-powered prep offenses.
And this much was clear, too, Saturday: Walsh didn't shy from the spotlight, even though the circumstances were less than ideal.
“As soon as I saw (Lunt) grab his knee, I immediately felt bad for him,” Walsh said. “But at the same time, I've got to go out and play. So I immediately got my mind right.
“And the team was great with me; they were slapping my hand and slapping my head, telling me, ‘Hey, we're not going to skip a beat. We're going to go run the offense and we're going to score and do what we do.'
“And that was evident today.”