STILLWATER — J.W. Walsh now holds the ultimate BMOC title: Cowboys Starting Quarterback.
But for how long?
And does it come with an asterisk, completely dependent on Wes Lunt's availability following the knee injury he suffered last week against Louisiana-Lafayette?
“It's J-Dub short term,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of Walsh immediately following the win over ULL. “Wes is our guy, not because of what happened — J-Dub played his butt off. Now, do I think in his mind he should compete and fight to prove that part of it? Of course.
“But Wes is our starter.”
There's a long-standing assumption that starters shouldn't lose their jobs to injury. But can the backup win the job, thanks in part to the injury, but also on the strength of their own outstanding play?
Walsh shined in his first extensive duty as a Cowboy, rallying the troops from a seemingly dire situation to a 65-24 rout of Lafayette after Lunt was lost just moments into the game. Walsh — known most for his running skills — threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns and led OSU to a school-record 742 yards of total offense.
Barring a rapid recovery by Lunt, should Walsh direct another rousing victory next Saturday against Texas, would the Cowboys have a quarterback controversy on their hands?
“The good news is I don't have to answer that right now,” said Mike Gundy, playing it a bit coy. “I really expect J.W. to play well. It's a good question, because it crossed my mind Saturday night.
“It's kind of the animal of the position and that question will always arise.”
The severity of Lunt's injury remains unknown, as Gundy and his staff aim to make Texas divide its limited practice time preparing for the differing styles of the two Cowboys signal callers.
Walsh worked with the No. 1 offense last week, before Lunt was to be re-evaluated. The assumption is that Walsh will play against the Longhorns.
And if he does, and wins, Gundy knows there will be some movement among the Cowboy family to ride that momentum.
“But Wes had played fairly well up to the point where he was injured,” Gundy said. “J.W. played well the last game. And I really expect him to play well, for however many games he plays. And I think he does.
“Hopefully, we'll have to answer that question. That would be a really good position to be in.”
What coach wouldn't want two quality — and winning — quarterbacks?
Few coaches, however, want any part of a quarterback controversy. Remember, it was Gundy who insisted on naming a No. 1 out of spring ball, when Lunt, Walsh and Clint Chelf waged a close battle for the job.
Gundy spoke then of the value not only of getting one quarterback the majority of the reps, but of having one voice to lead and be followed. It doesn't figure he's changed his opinion on either of those issues in such a short time.
“We really see Wes as the starter who's injured,” Gundy allowed this week. “And J.W.'s come in and done a nice job behind him.”
Most likely, Gundy is prodding Walsh to compete and prepare fully, in the event Lunt is lost for a significant number of games. Even if Lunt bounces back quickly, competition holds value.
Consider Walsh game for some competition.
“I'm going to prepare every day like I am going to be ready,” he said. “You never know what's going to happen. You never know the situation.
“Even before this week, you've got to prepare your mind like you're the starter each day. That's what I've been doing. And I'm going to continue to do that. And now that I get reps with the 1s, I'm going to try and take advantage of every opportunity I have.”
Walsh offers versatility as a run-pass operator who came out of Denton Guyer High (Texas) as the nation's No. 4-ranked dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com. He passed for 3,200 yards and ran for more than 1,400 more as a prep senior, leading Guyer to a state runner-up finish.
Against Lafayette, he seemed to have the confidence of his teammates, too, boosted by an obvious moxie and swagger.
“Wes Lunt is one of the best players on the team,” said receiver Josh Stewart, a teammate of Walsh's back at Guyer. “It hurt losing Wes, but we had to move on. And we had to try and make plays without him. And we did a good job.
“And that's how we're going to go about it.”
Still, for all Walsh offers, he has his limitations, too.
Lunt, while not a running threat, is a superior passer at this stage of their careers. And the Cowboys are all in on the Air Raid offense, which was the backbone of the most successful seasons in school history the past two seasons. OSU is committed to it and recruiting to it.
Recall as well OSU's last dual-threat quarterback, Zac Robinson, late in the 2009 season. While one of the Cowboys' best all-time quarterbacks, his effectiveness was compromised at the end of his senior year, when a season's worth of punishment from running left him limited in the biggest games: Bedlam to end the regular season and against Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl.
OSU's ideal scenario likely remains the same as it did to start this season, which is to feature Lunt as the starter and have a weekly package utilizing Walsh's skills. And those skills, albeit after one game, have been confirmed.
But a quarterback controversy?
“We made a decision on (Lunt) being our guy,” Monken said. “Moving forward, that's what you do.”