LUBBOCK, Texas — Hey, I remember you. A playmaking OSU quarterback.
Hey, I remember you. A Big 12 title contender wearing bright orange.
On a windy Saturday night in this western outpost of the Big 12, OSU football went back in time. Back to 2012, when the Cowboys routinely got quality quarterbacking. Back to 2011, when the Cowboys won the Big 12 with a series of impressive road wins.
Clint Chelf led 18th-ranked OSU to a 52-34 rout of 15th-ranked Texas Tech in a game that reminded Middle America not to sleep on the Cowboys as a Fiesta Bowl possibility.
OSU has been playing good defense all season long, found a running game a week ago in Iowa and Saturday night found the quarterback they've been seeking all season long.
Chelf threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and kept OSU's offense humming enough to stay ahead of the frenetic Red Raiders.
This was the Chelf we saw down the stretch last season, when he rose from third-teamer to campus hero in producing point totals worthy of OSU's offensive reputation.
“His leadership out there, his overall game management, it's nice to have that experience,” said Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.
Chelf wasn't perfect. He threw two horrible interceptions; right-at-a-black-shirt passes that could have tipped this game the other way. But Chelf shook off those crimes and stayed heady and productive.
“Glaring mistake when you throw it to the other team,” Gundy said. “If it's not for that, everybody's saying, ‘Hey, he played a great game.' But for the most part, he made some big plays. Continues to run the ball effectively. He played pretty good tonight.”
Chelf was much improved over the previous two games, when he regained the job from J.W. Walsh yet completed less than 40 percent of his passes and had some of us clamoring for Gundy to go back to Walsh. Against Tech, Chelf completed 18 of 34, which is 53 percent and in the Chelf neighborhood of last season.
Yurcich most appreciated Chelf's demeanor. Chelf is nothing if not unflappable, that much we've learned. And not even a game-changing interception affected Chelf.
OSU stormed to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, led 28-10 in the second quarter and appeared capable of putting away Tech early when Shaun Lewis intercepted a Davis Webb pass with six minutes left in the first half.
But Chelf didn't see Tech end Pete Robertson drop into coverage; Chelf's pass hit Robertson in the bread basket and made for an easy 21-yard interception return for a touchdown. By halftime, OSU led just 28-24, and Jones Stadium was ready to explode with a dramatic comeback.
But Chelf stayed steady. Josh Stewart's big punt return set up an OSU touchdown and reversed momentum. Then Chelf dashed 67 yards for a touchdown on a third-and-9 quarterback draw, and the Cowboys were back up by 18 and in command.
“It's not easy to do,” Yurcich said of keeping composure after a rough play. “I don't think people understand how difficult that can be, especially on the road.”
Yurcich gave his quarterback plenty of weapons with which to excel. New formation wrinkles. Some nifty calls, like a flea flicker that Chelf turned into a 44-yard deep ball to Jhajuan Seales. More tailback efficiency.
This OSU offense suddenly looks nothing like the unit that sloshed through the early part of the Big 12 schedule. This OSU offense looks like what we thought we'd see all season. This OSU offense looks like why the Cowboys were picked to win the Big 12.
If Chelf can play this November like he did last November, OSU has a fighting chance to live up to that billing.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.