STILLWATER — J.W. Walsh's first pass was one of those little swing tosses, a sideways pass that's almost as automatic as a handoff.
Instead, Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Le'Marcus Gibson stood between Walsh and OSU flanker Josh Stewart, knocked down the pass and would have taken it to the house had he been equipped with a pair of hands.
And you thought, uh-oh. Quarterback gets injured. A Louisiana-hyphen school in town. Could the Cajuns upset the Wes Lunt-less Cowboys the way Louisiana-Monroe knocked off Tyler Wilson-less Arkansas last week?
But before high noon Saturday, we had our answer. Walsh was just fine as an emergency quarterback and might be the same against Texas in a fortnight.
And by day's end at Boone Pickens Stadium, the Cowboys had a 65-24 victory that also answered the question of who is the real University of Louisiana.
Walsh helped end the debate. Taking over after Lunt went down with a leg injury 106 seconds into the game, Walsh wasn't perfect. Wasn't the Brandon Weeden clone that Lunt appears to be.
But Walsh was salty and effective and, frankly, downright fun. Too early to say the Cowboys have traded in Weeden for Zac Robinson — those were Lafayette Cajuns, not Texas Longhorns, chasing Walsh on Saturday — but Mike Gundy's staff had to be thrilled with Walsh's virtual collegiate debut.
“Seemed like he played OK,” said Gundy, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary gruffness. “Took care of the football, ran hard.”
Played OK? The Ragin' Cajun defense was overmatched, but still. The Cowboys posted school records of 39 first downs and 742 total yards. They led 44-0 at halftime in a game in which we legitimately thought could be a test after Lunt went down.
“We know J-Dub can play,” said tailback Joseph Randle. “He's proven it in practice. We weren't too worried about it. He brings a lot of different stuff to the table.”
Granted, you take some stuff off the table, too. Walsh's first couple of possessions were shaky, including another into-traffic swing pass.
In the first quarter, when Walsh rolled out and one-bounced a throw to Tracy Moore, everyone realized why the true freshman Lunt had won the quarterback job last April.
On the next play, OSU ran a shovel pass, then called 14 straight running plays. Seemed to be a clear message that Gundy and staff realized Walsh's limitations.
But those running plays worked, opening the pass game. Suddenly, Walsh looked like a real-deal dual threat quarterback.
A slant pass to Blake Jackson, who broke it for a 58-yard gain. A strike to Jackson on a post pattern for a 20-yard touchdown. A 22-yard completion to Charlie Moore on a streak route. A 13-yard completion to Kye Staley off a rollout. And finally, a 33-yard TD pass to Josh Stewart on a deep slant.
In a six-play span, five Walsh completions totaling 146 yards.
“I was pleased with the way J.W. stepped in,” Gundy said. “He had a good look in his eye. There wasn't any fear, in my opinion, and I'm pleased with that.”
And that's why Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will not sleep easy the next two weeks, even knowing Lunt likely will miss the Sept. 29 OSU-Texas game.
The Cowboys' Air Raid offense is hard to stop, but at least Diaz knew what was coming. Now, with Walsh, Diaz doesn't.
No reason why he should. “Hell, I don't know,” said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “We have to flip. Our base system has to stay the same, but we have to tailor it to him.”
When Lunt went down, Monken said, Gundy got on the headset and asked, “What can we run with Walsh?”
Monken's response: “I don't know, he took about 10 (practice) snaps all week. I don't know what to tell you.”
But Monken pieced it together, relying more on the run game. Here's evidence: with Walsh, the Cowboys faced seven plays of 3rd-and-3 or 3rd-and-4. They threw on only one of those plays.
Walsh can run — 73 yards on six carries, mostly scrambles, against the Cajuns — and his passing was more than adequate: 21 of 30, for 347 yards and four touchdowns.
Again, that won't happen against Texas. Not 21 of 30, nor 39 first downs, nor 65 points. Walsh won't find the freedom to run against the ‘Horns that he found against the Cajuns.
But the Cowboys now know their backup quarterback is a gamer. They avoided Arkansas' fate.
“Whoever your quarterback is, nobody cares,” Monken said. “You better come up with a plan and win the game. Stop (griping) that the sky is falling.”
It fell on Arkansas. It didn't fall on OSU, thanks to J.W. Walsh.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.