MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Oklahoma State quarterback carousel continues to turn.
One week after who would take the snaps for the No. 24 Cowboys appeared to be settled once and for all — backup-turned-starter J.W. Walsh was out for the season with a knee injury, and starter Wes Lunt had returned just in time from his own knee/ankle injury — the OSU quarterback situation is again uncertain following its 44-30 loss to No. 2 Kansas State Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Lunt was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury, following a series where he appeared to be hobbled after taking a hit from Wildcat defensive end Meshak Williams after delivering a screen pass to Joseph Randle. Lunt stayed in the game — and threw his third interception of the contest two plays later — but was replaced by Clint Chelf on the Cowboys’ next possession.
Chelf, who was Brandon Weeden’s backup for two seasons but began 2012 third on the depth chart, was sharp in emergency duty and in the first meaningful action of his college career. He completed 16 of his 27 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, but an attempted late-game rally fell short when Chelf was intercepted in the end zone by Allen Chapman with 2:06 to play.
“I thought he played really well,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of Chelf. “You hate saying that — we got beat by 14, and really were down and kind of scrambling to come back — but how much better could a guy play, really? I mean honest to God.
“It’s a testament to him, a guy that kind of stuck to it. He was our backup last year, and then to be told you’re third, I think that’s very, very hard to do. I’m happy for him that he got an opportunity to play.”
OSU coach Mike Gundy did not disclose the nature of Lunt’s injury, but Cowboy Network sideline reporter Robert Allen reported during the game broadcast that Lunt was nauseous and having trouble seeing while being examined by the OSU medical staff on the sideline.
Before the injury, Lunt had an uneven performance, completing 11 of his 20 passes for 184 yards, one touchdown and three picks. He executed the play-action fake perfectly to help leave Austin Hays wide open for a 54-yard touchdown strike that gave the Cowboys an early 7-0 lead. But he swung momentum in the opposite direction in the second quarter when he tossed his third pick-six of the season, which was returned 29 yards by Chapman to put K-State up 31-17.
The quarterback questions are likely to linger into next week. But in Chelf, the Cowboys have the signal-caller who has been has been in the program for almost four seasons and knows their offensive system better than any quarterback. He also possesses some mobility — more than Lunt, but less than Walsh — as evidenced by his four carries for 33 yards Saturday night.
“I’ll be ready to play,” Chelf said. “I’ve always been ready to play.
“That’s how I’m going to approach it. I hope (Lunt’s) OK, but I’ll have to approach it as I’m the starter.”
And if Chelf starts against West Virginia, Jase Chilcoat becomes the backup. Chilcoat is a former walk-on from Midwest City, who was lured back to the program with a scholarship as the Cowboys’ third-team quarterback when Lunt sustained his first injury in September.
Monken has stressed that he believed the Cowboys had three solid quarterbacks coming out of spring football. He just didn’t expect he’d have to use them all. But the carousel keeps turning. And turning. And turning.