Dana Holgorsen left a legacy at Oklahoma State.
And we're not talking about his offense.
While Holgorsen ushered in the Air Raid era in Stillwater and altered the course of OSU football as a result, his offense has undergone enough tweaks and overhauls in the two-plus seasons since he left for West Virginia that the Cowboys are no longer running his offense. But the guy running it is his quarterback.
J.W. Walsh wouldn't be at OSU had it not been for Holgorsen.
“We knew about J.W.,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said of recruiting Walsh when he was in high school, “but Dana kind of pushed the issue with him.”
Saturday, Holgorsen and his Mountaineers will be tasked with trying to keep pace with Walsh and the Cowboys. OSU is averaging 45.3 points a game, and while the Cowboys have a serious cache of weapons, Walsh pulls the trigger.
“He's savvy,” Holgorsen said. “He throws the ball well. He runs well.
“He makes it work.”
Those were some of the same attributes that drew Holgorsen to Walsh when he first saw high school video of him. Walsh was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country, and as a senior at Denton Guyer High School in suburban Dallas, he threw for 3,200 yards and ran for 1,400 yards.
Despite those eye-popping stats, though, Walsh didn't have a big-time arm. It was good enough to dominate in high school, but it was nowhere as strong as, say, Brandon Weeden, who became a star in Holgorsen's offense.
The other Cowboy coaches who watched Walsh on film could see that he didn't fit in Weeden's mold.
Why would Holgorsen want a so-so passer for his pass-happy offense?
“That conversation took place,” Gundy said.
“When we saw his tape and his history of being a winner, it didn't really take much to convince us to bring him in,” Gundy said. “But Dana was the one that kind of pushed (for him) early.
“We felt like what he brought to the table as a competitor, we would find a way to improve areas we thought would fit our offense.”
They could coach skills.
They couldn't coach heart.
Walsh's attitude is what jumped off the screen when Holgorsen first saw the quarterback on video, and the more he saw, the more he liked.
“Just watching him winning games and getting guys to rally,” Holgorsen said, “you can see it on the sidelines, you can see it in practice, you can see it in games, and it resulted in a whole bunch of wins.
“Every intangible that you want a quarterback to have, he has.”
Walsh is a coach's kid who has been around football all his life. He is competitive. He is tenacious. He is resilient.
So what if he didn't have a rocket for an arm?
“I think you can take those guys and make their skills better,” Holgorsen said.
Walsh is proof of that. He's worked diligently to improve his passing since arriving in Stillwater, devoting this past offseason to things like the transferring of weight from his back foot to his front foot and the movement of his non-throwing arm, and it's paid off. He is a much improved passer.
He broke the program's single-game record for completion percentage earlier this season when he went 24-of-27 against Texas-San Antonio.
Ironically, Walsh never got to play for the coach who so badly wanted him to be a Cowboy. Even though Walsh enrolled in January 2011, Holgorsen left for West Virginia a few days before Christmas 2010.
More irony: Walsh was out with an injury when West Virginia visited OSU last season.
Saturday, Holgorsen will finally get to see the legacy that he left at OSU. The way Walsh is playing, Holgorsen may not be as excited to see Walsh in Cowboy orange was he once was.
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.