SAN ANTONIO — Styrofoam-boxed postgame meal in hand, Josh Stewart headed toward the team bus through the bowels of the Alamodome.
As the Oklahoma State receiver walked away from the food table, someone placed a wrapped set of plastic utensils on his container. He looked over to see who delivered his forgotten fork, spoon and knife.
It was J.W. Walsh.
“Another completion,” Stewart said, laughing.
Walsh didn't break his swift stride or turn around, but he threw his head back as he laughed, too.
On a day when everyone coming out of the Cowboy locker room felt good — OSU throttled UTSA 56-35 and played so fast that the Roadrunners' “Beep! Beep!”s were better suited for the Cowboys — no one felt better than Walsh. All the talk that he is only a running quarterback? All the consternation that he has no arm? All the panic that the Cowboy offense is abandoning the spread, chunking the air raid?
Not so fast.
“That's definitely not the case,” Cowboy offensive lineman Parker Graham said.
That was evident Saturday.
Walsh was splendid, throwing more touchdowns than incompletions. Roll that stat around your head a minute. It's hard to have those kind of numbers in a defenderless walkthrough, much less in an actual game.
He completed 24 of 27 attempts for 326 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. That completion percentage — a whopping 88.9 percent — was the best that any Cowboy quarterback with at least 20 attempts has ever managed in a game. Better than Brandon Weeden. Better than Zac Robinson. Better than Josh Fields.
Granted, Walsh and the Cowboys were playing a program in only its third season of existence, but every season has its cupcake opponents. Still, no one has been ever been more accurate than Walsh was Saturday.
He started hot, hitting receivers on short routes and building a rhythm. He completed the first 10 passes that he threw, then after a couple of misses, completed 10 more in a row.
He wasn't just connecting with one or two guys either. He hit Stewart, Jhajuan Seales, Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore and Brandon Sheperd — and then the second quarter started.
Even though Walsh aired out a nifty play-action pass to Stewart for a big gainer, most of Walsh's passes were short and intermediate ones, so we still don't know just how much he can stretch the field. And yet, it was evident that his arm is much improved over last season.
“Credit to him,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “He's worked really hard over the summer, and it sure looked like it paid off today.”
Walsh has worked throughout the offseason on his throwing mechanics. He knew from the time he arrived on campus that his motion was neither as sound nor as consistent as it needed to be, so worked extensively with Yurcich on footwork and body posture among other things.
Walsh has noticed a difference. He feels better. Stronger. More confident.
Teammates have noticed a difference, too.
“If he saw any little thing that looked like it was a little cloudy, he'd usually try to run,” Stewart said of the old Walsh. “But he's gotten to a place where he feels comfortable with his arm. He can place it right over that guy instead of thinking, ‘Run.'”
Walsh could provide a heck of a combination for the Cowboys. Since they installed the air raid, they've had quarterbacks who could throw exceptionally well but couldn't run a lick (Weeden and Wes Lunt), a quarterback who could throw well and could run a bit (Clint Chelf) and a quarterback who could run exceptionally well but couldn't throw very well (the old Walsh). They've never had a guy who was truly a dangerous threat with both his arm and his legs.
The new Walsh is.
“With him at quarterback, if everybody stays healthy” Stewart said, “we have a shot at it all.”
That is big talk, but why not? An already promising season looks even brighter after Saturday. Walsh can run and gash a defense like he did against Mississippi State, or he can throw and pick apart a defense like he did against UTSA. That will make him and this Cowboy offense a nightmare for every opponent that remains.
No wonder Walsh was in such a good mood outside the locker room on the way to the bus.
“It's good being able to see us able to run the ball down people's throats and then throw it around and mix it up,” he acknowledged. “To have both of those in our back pockets, it just makes us that much more dangerous.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.