AMES, Iowa — Clint Chelf kept breaking free for big chunks of yardage or cunningly reading the defense to hand off to Des Roland for huge gains.
But Chelf also kept throwing the ball into the ground or behind intended receivers.
And the Cowboys rolled, 58-27 Saturday over Iowa State.
Can this OSU quarterback conundrum get any kookier?
The Cowboys' passing quarterback, Chelf, is a better runner. The Cowboys' running quarterback, J.W. Walsh, is the more productive passer.
Let's get off the backs of Mike Gundy and Mike Yurcich. Cut them some slack. Who can blame them for not knowing what's going on with State quarterbacks this season?
But while OSU didn't find its QB in Jack Trice Stadium, the Cowboys most definitely found their tailback. Roland rushed for 219 yards on 26 carries, and when OSU runs the ball like that, the Cowboys always ride a little higher.
“I'm happy with the win,” Yurcich said. “Happy with the guys, the way we carried ourselves. The way we performed. The results. At the same time, there's a lot of stuff to get better at.”
No kidding. In the 6 1/2 quarters since Chelf was inserted into the lineup, he's completed 20 of 51 passes. That's sub-40 percent. That's shaky for 1959, much less the 21st-century Cowboys, who in recent years have helped shape the dynamic offenses of college football.
“I don't think he threw the ball very well today,” Gundy said of Chelf. “We have to be better throwing as a team.”
Absotively. If the Cowboys are to remain Big 12 title contenders – Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor and OU are fast-approaching -- they've got to wing it with efficiency.
That didn't happen Saturday, but no matter. Chelf's arm seems flummoxed, but his legs were fine and his decision-making solid.
Chelf produced more rushing yards than passing yards – 85-78 – and had almost as many runs (nine) as passes completed (10). You might expect that out of Walsh (who against Mississippi State had 135 yards passing and 125 yards rushing). But Chelf?
“Clint played great,” said guard Parker Graham, being a supportive teammate. “He had a couple of really long scampers. It's kind of funny. A lot of guys think that J.W.'s the runner, but Clint's got a little bit of speed to him to and he can run the ball a little bit.”
Chelf ran the shotgun option to great success, including two 32-yard runs, which helped free Roland. By game's end, Iowa State didn't know which was the more lethal poison. The Cyclones were just wishing Chelf would throw.
“Anytime, as a quarterback coach, 10 of 27 (Walsh threw a late incompletion), it's not going to make you feel great on the way home,” Yurcich said.
“It's disappointing. Drop here, drop there, missed throw here, missed throw here.”
Chelf started fine. He completed four of five passes on OSU's opening drive, the only misfire coming when flanker Charlie Moore slipped.
But Chelf completed just four of 16 the rest of the first half, and Yurcich pulled in the reins. Chelf threw only five second-half passes. One of them was a miscommunication in which Chelf threw deep to nobody except Iowa State safety Nigel Tribune, who intercepted.
And while Iowa State, at least in the first half, played two safeties over the top, it's not like OSU receivers were blanketed. In fact, early in the game, FOX cameras caught Gundy telling his passcatchers, “Hell, everybody on the team is wide open.”
Said Yurcich, “I think we were getting open for the most part, absolutely. I sure would like to see him have that play back in the score zone. It was a misread. Like to have that one back. Other than that, there were a couple of throws here and there. But you're going to have those throughout the course of a game.”
And give Chelf credit. He did more than manage the game. He impacted the game positively for OSU, even with an errant arm.
So now the Cowboys get ready for upstart Texas Tech, with Gundy saying it's likely Chelf will again quarterback. In windy Lubbock, a running quarterback comes in handy. In any college football port, a passing quarterback does the same.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.