STILLWATER — Clint Chelf admits he recently took time to think back on his improbable road this season from Oklahoma State's third-team quarterback to the stretch run starter.
The next step in that journey will be taking the first snap in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue on Jan. 1. And he will be directing an offense that recently lost its coordinator, Todd Monken.
Chelf talked with The Oklahoman last week about how Monken delivered the news he was leaving to the Cowboy quarterbacks, his favorite moment this season and how his family's Christmas festivities always featured a Bedlam twist.
The early bowl practices often allow a team to work on itself, rather than prepare for an opponent. How have those been going so far?
“It's going good. We went back and looked at the last two games and what we did wrong and tried to correct those mistakes and get better. And then after that was done, we started focusing on Purdue. They're a good team, and so we've got a lot of work to do left and we've got a lot of practicing to do.”
How did you find out Monken was leaving to become the head coach at Southern Miss?
“He called us in the day before (he left) and just told us. He's a matter-of-fact guy, so he just said, ‘Guys, I've taken the job.' We kind of understood. It was our day off when he called the meeting, so we kind of knew something was up.”
Were you surprised at all by the announcement?
“We know what kind of business it is. We know the best way for his family was for him to take a head coaching job and further his career. We all kind of understood that, and we all know he's a great coach and he'll do well down there.”
Head coach Mike Gundy also interviewed with other schools. What's the coaching carousel like for players?
“We just understand that coaches have to do what's best. When you win games, that's going to happen, they're going to talk to your coaches. We all know that we have another game left and for us, as players, we just have to go out and keep practicing, keep performing and help the team win.”
Do you take it as a compliment that other schools want to talk with — and hire — your coaches?
“Exactly. That's what Coach Monken told us. He said if we didn't score any points and didn't win games, he wouldn't be looking for other head coaching jobs. He'd probably get fired. So he's very grateful for that, and we're very grateful to have had him.”
Since it will be an “offensive coordinator by committee” approach in the bowl game, do you feel more responsibility as the starting quarterback to make sure the right play is called?
“Not really. I kind of feel like that anyway. Even when Coach Monken was here, there was a lot of stuff put on the quarterback. That's really not going to change. All the other coaches do a great job with their guys and getting them in the right spot and learning the plays.”
What's your favorite Christmas memory?
“Growing up, my family's split (between OU and OSU). So I would always get OU stuff from one side, and my uncles would always come back and give me a bunch of OSU stuff. Those kinds of battles are kind of the main thing I remember. Later on, in high school and stuff, when I was just an OSU fan, they would come out and bring like an OU shirt or something, and then follow it up with something really cool with OSU. Those gifts were pretty fun.”
You still have one more game left. But have you had a chance to reflect at all on what a crazy journey this season has been for you?
“No doubt. Dead week, finals week, there's really not a lot going on. You have a test every other day or something, so a lot of times you just sit down and relax. I've definitely thought about it and how far I've come and what I've been through. It was a fun reflection period, but now I've got to move onto Purdue.”
What's been the most gratifying moment?
“Just being able to play with the guys on the team. Getting out there finally and being on the field with the Lane Taylors, the Evan Epsteins, the seniors out there. And just to really get to experience it all and go through it with them their last couple games has been a blast.”
Do you look at the bowl game as a chance to prove you deserve to be the starting quarterback for 2013? Or is it still about finishing this season with a victory?
“It's still about this year, definitely. Whenever we come to the point next year, then I'll focus on that. But right now, I'll I'm thinking about is Purdue and ending this season right. I think it would be wrong, for our seniors, to look ahead any more.”