STILLWATER — With 14 seconds and one timeout left before halftime Saturday night, Oklahoma State figured to get two shots at the end zone.
The Cowboys, down 17-7 to No. 1 Florida State at AT&T Stadium, were on the Seminoles’ 20-yard line. OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh was in the shotgun with running back Desmond Roland to the left and fullback Jeremy Seaton to the right.
On the ABC broadcast, analyst Kirk Herbstreit gave this take: “With two safeties back here, it’s going to be hard to get the ball to the outside. You may want to take a shot into the middle of that Florida State defense.”
What happened next? A telling sign of the Cowboys’ identity on offense with Walsh at quarterback.
It was a handoff to Roland. OSU coach Mike Gundy called his last timeout, and the Cowboys settled for a 37-yard field goal as time expired.
“They don’t show a ton of trust in Walsh to get kind of get it closer,” play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler said.
Trust might not be the right word.
After Walsh threw a pick-six midway through the first quarter, wide receiver David Glidden said there “was no doubt we were going right back to him and he was going to go make a play.”
So, scheme seems more accurate.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich ran 69 plays Saturday. Forty-two, or 60 percent, were rushes.
Yurcich dialed up 27 passes, but six were completed quick strikes to Tyreek Hill mostly in the flat for 62 yards; a handoff alternative that hardly tested Walsh’s arm strength.
The adjusted stat line for Walsh’s downfield throws Saturday: 9-of-21 for 141 yards. And more than a third of that production came from one 55-yard Walsh-to-Glidden touchdown pass.
Throughout fall camp, coaches and players praised the wide receiving corps for its depth and athleticism. But on Saturday, OSU wideouts were responsible for just eight combined receptions.
“We want to make sure that our players are playing fast and understanding the schemes real well,” Yurcich said. “So we try to limit the playbook each week on what we’re planning on calling.”
Based on Yurcich’s comments and the game plan Saturday, the Cowboys’ offense with Walsh at quarterback is prominently ground attack. And it makes sense.
Walsh came into the program as a dual-threat and has displayed bursts of speed throughout his career as a rusher — including his 24-yard scamper-and-score to put the Cowboys within three points early in the fourth against FSU.
“Trying to improve from a vision standpoint has been really important, and creating more vertical cuts in (Walsh’s run) game,” Yurcich said. “That’s been a point of emphasis.”
And out of zone-read sets where Walsh is joined by as many as three running backs, the Cowboys can be equally as dangerous.
“I think our movement and sometimes our formations will try to take the attention off where the ball is going to go,” Yurcich said. “The plays that have had success really help compliment what plays we’re trying to set up.”
Yurcich also praised Walsh’s abilities that don’t show up on a stat sheet. He called Walsh a winner, leader and “gritty competitor." Glidden said that’s “why we love him.”
But by no means does Gundy want to abandon the up-tempo air-strike offense branded in Stillwater just because Walsh brings those intangibles to the table.
“We definitely want to throw the ball down the field,” Gundy said. “We’ve always thrown the ball down the field here. We feel like that opens up our running game.”
Can Walsh be the guy to consistently make that happen? When well-established in the pocket with feet set Saturday, the junior quarterback showed accuracy and power on a handful of deep incompletions.
But when on the run from defenders, those attributes were often diminished.
There’s no doubt Walsh is the established starter, but Gundy once again opened the door to multiple quarterbacks playing this season during a press conference Monday. He said Daxx Garman, the junior quarterback who has received rave reviews for his deep ball, is still in the mix.
Proof that a high-powered arm is still a hot commodity in Stillwater.
“Daxx has taken a lot of reps, and I think he’s ready to play in a game,” Gundy said. “There wasn’t a time Saturday night that we felt like it benefited our team for him to be in there. But I would say in the future, there will be a time that it will benefit our team for him to be in there.”