STILLWATER — Could Oklahoma State and Todd Monken have envisioned this back in August?
A career day for Cowboy receiver Josh Stewart against a struggling West Virginia defense? Perhaps.
But third-string quarterback Clint Chelf successfully directing the OSU offense in a meaningful game in mid-November? How about Chelf’s best ball of the night dropping into the hands of true freshman receiver Austin Hays?
Yet in a battle of prolific offenses that Dana Holgorsen originally installed, the team the WVU head coach left — and the offense that’s currently more dinged up — ultimately put up more points than the team Holgorsen is currently running in a 55-34 shootout victory for the Cowboys Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“There are times you’re human (and think), ‘We’ve lost this guy and that guy,’” Monken said. “And you’ve got to pull your pants up and say, ‘So what?’ We’ve got to figure it out. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
“They don’t just pay you when you’ve got (Brandon) Weeden and (Justin) Blackmon. They pay you to try to figure it out.”
Chelf, who replaced an injured Wes Lunt in the second half of the Cowboys’ loss at Kansas State last week, became the third OSU quarterback to start this season — and the third to win a conference game. It’s a position that has been hit hard by injuries all season, though Lunt and backup J.W. Walsh — who coach Mike Gundy said was out for the season with a knee injury three weeks ago — also dressed and were medically cleared to play, according to Monken.
And Chelf put together his second consecutive solid performance, completing 22 of his 31 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. He immediately established chemistry with Stewart, who had a career day with 13 catches for 172 yards and three total touchdowns (one rushing). He also hit Charlie Moore on a fade route for a touchdown, and Blake Jackson down the middle for a 48-yard score.
“Really, all you’ve got to do as a quarterback is just get the ball in those guys’ hands and let them work,” Chelf said.
Meanwhile, a Mountaineer offense that looked so mighty early in the season stalled down the stretch Saturday. The OSU defense put together four consecutive stops, which helped the Cowboys (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) outscore the Mountaineers 17-0 over the contest’s final 18 minutes.
WVU's Geno Smith (364 passing yards) and Stedman Bailey (14 catches for 225 yards) put up gaudy numbers, but OSU’s offense was more balanced, out-rushing the Mountaineers 151-78.
OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young and cornerback Justin Gilbert both noted they often knew what the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4) were capable of running out of certain formations, because the Cowboys’ system is so similar. But Young also knew WVU was capable of being explosive.
“It was so hard to relax,” Young said. “Because you knew they were capable of scoring in a second.
“We were talking to (the players) about if we could just shut them out (in the fourth quarter) and keep them out of the end zone on touchdowns. Field goals we didn’t think would beat us, but touchdowns, they can catch up with you in a hurry.”
The Cowboys’ offense also benefited from a dramatic turnaround on special teams, an area Gundy said was “terrible” against K-State.
Gilbert gave OSU a lift with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half. OSU also recovered a botched a kickoff and punt deep in WVU territory, which led to 10 Cowboy points.
“It’s important that everybody realizes the supporting cast for (the offense) has been really good each week,” Gundy said.
“We went a stretch there through IowaState and TCU where our defense was fantastic, and our offense was sputtering and the quarterback kind of managed his way through it. And then we went through today where our special teams were really good to kind of get Clint going.”
With all the injuries, it’s almost become normal for the Cowboys to enter each week with uncertainty at the quarterback position. That was the case again following Saturday’s win.
But Monken said the offensive performances OSU keeps putting up — no matter who plays quarterback — are a credit to the system first implemented by Holgorsen, and to the guys on the field.
“You hope you recruit good players,” Monken said. “You hope that they’re smart. You hope that they understand what you’re teaching them and where to go with the ball and how you give yourself a chance to have success on offense.”