BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said following the Cowboys' stunning loss at West Virginia that he wishes he could have his key third-and-goal call back, where running back Jeremy Smith tried to bounce outside to the right and was immediately swarmed and dropped by a slew of Mountaineers for a loss of five yards.
But what about the second down call? When, from the 1-yard line, J.W. Walsh lofted a pass up to Tracy Moore, who had run a fade route to the corner of the end zone?
It turns out that wasn't on Yurcich at all. He had called a run play. But Walsh audibled at the line of scrimmage.
Outside criticism has been hauled Yurcich's way following the Cowboys' lackluster offensive performance against Mountaineers. But Walsh's admission shows that the blame can be shared by more than one person, at least when it comes to one of the game's most crucial plays.
“It was a bad decision,” Walsh said. “I shouldn't have done it, looking back. And I regret it. But the decision was made and we went with it.
“Sometimes they don't work out for you.”
Cowboy coach Mike Gundy was surprised to see the ball go into the air on that play. And he doesn't want to see it again in that particular situation.
But neither he nor Yurcich was surprised Walsh owned up to what all now classify as an error in judgment.
“That's true to his character and what he is and what he stands for,” Yurcich said. “We all make mistakes. I've made mistakes. He's made mistakes. You've just got to learn from them and get better the next day.”
Added Gundy: “That's the kind of guy (Walsh) is. He's not going to do or say anything than the truth and the way it is.”
Walsh, like most quarterbacks, has the freedom to change any play at the line of scrimmage, based on the coverage the defense shows, where the blitz appears to be coming from and other factors.
He saw a 1-on-1 matchup between Moore and cornerback Travis Bell. Cornerbacks had been consistently biting on the run all day.
So Walsh subtly signaled to Moore to run the fade, a pitch and catch they routinely practice year-round. But the pass was well-covered, and Moore could not out-jump Bell to corral the football.
“He had that much trust in me that he felt comfortable throwing it on the 1-yard line,” Moore said. “A lot of people questioned the call, but when we've done some of the stuff that we've done in practice, then obviously I'm not gonna fault him for it.”
Gundy said he's already discussed the audible with Walsh, Yurcich and the rest of the offensive staff. The coach chalks it up as an important live-and-learn moment for his young quarterback that still has just eight career games with significant playing time.
But Gundy's message was clear: Run the ball in that situation next time.
“The truth is this: If the ball's on the 2-inch line, I'd prefer to run it,” Gundy said. “And that's what we told (Walsh). Two-inch line's an exaggeration. Six-inch line.
“You guys (the media) are being nice. You're not coming out and saying it. But I don't mind coming out and saying it because J.W. doesn't care.”
As far as the rest of the play-calling day is concerned, Yurcich said there are a couple others he wishes he could have back besides his third-and-goal choice. But that's standard after reviewing and digesting each game.
And so far, Gundy is satisfied with the work his offensive coordinator has done. He believes the Cowboys' woes on that side of the ball Saturday were about execution — turnovers, dropped passes, missed throws, blocking issues up front — rather than the plays Yurcich dialed up.
“I don't have any concerns with our scheme and the play calling,” Gundy said. “We didn't execute. We turned the ball over.”