STILLWATER — Everywhere Mike Gundy went after getting back from Kansas — the coffee shop, the gas station, dropping off his kids at school — he heard how bad was his quarterback.
“Everyone was worried about J.W. (Walsh)”, Gundy said.
Things will be different Monday. Now, Gundy will be asked if Walsh is the OSU quarterback. Gundy won't answer, because he plays it coy, but give him truth serum, and the answer might be yes.
Walsh led the Cowboys to a 31-10 rout of 24th-ranked Iowa State on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, and two things are working in Walsh's favor as Wes Lunt apparently nears a return from his knee and ankle injuries.
1. Walsh's development. 2. The calendar.
November isn't that far away. If Lunt is going to be virtually starting over, and he might be considering he's taken six game snaps since Sept. 8, why not give him a medical redshirt and ride Walsh the rest of the way?
“We don't have to make a decision right now.” Gundy said. “The good news is that we've always felt like we've had two quarterbacks who are good players. I think we're finding out that's true.”
Walsh wasn't great Saturday. Gundy estimated that Walsh made eight to 10 mistakes that a veteran quarterback wouldn't make. But against a defense that is the strength of a team that was ranked in the BCS top 25, Walsh was plenty good enough.
He threw for 415 yards, completing 32 of 47 passes. Best of all, Walsh wasn't limited to the dinks and dunks. He threw the ball downfield with some effectiveness, despite three drops on what would have been long gains or touchdowns that didn't help.
Walsh was pristine on the game's biggest play, a rollout pass to Charlie Moore, who deked ISU cornerback Jansen Watson and sprinted free down the sideline. On the run, Walsh hit Moore with a perfect long pass that led to a 74-yard touchdown pass, which broke a 10-10 tie.
“He's growing up,” Moore said. “Gotten better each game. Last week (a 20-14 squeaker over Kansas) was a rough game as a unit. It didn't all fall on him. He's having fun, he's running the ball and making passes. It was a fun day to watch him.”
When Walsh got a little sloppy with a couple of throws that easily could have been gone the other way had the Cyclones been a little more opportunistic, offensive coordinator Todd Monken dialed down the OSU offense and turned more conservative in the fourth quarter.
“A veteran guy in our offense doesn't make the mistakes J.W. made today,” Gundy said. “That's part of the growing pains. He's also made some plays on his own that helped us continue drives.”
So despite what Gundy says, he absolutely has a decision to make. Unless Lunt is hurt much worse than we've been told, it's fish or cut bait time. Go with Lunt or go with Walsh.
Monken said Lunt's return falls on three criteria: 1. His health; 2. OSU skill players available; 3. How Walsh plays.
Makes sense to me. Injuries to Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson have thinned OSU's receiving corps. Can the Cowboys air it out with Lunt if they're patching their passcatchers together?
Clearly, this coaching staff is committed to this offense, which suits Lunt's skill set more. But if Walsh is playing well, and it's this deep into the season, should they switch?
My votes says go with Lunt if he's ready for TCU next Saturday. Otherwise, stick with Walsh.
Walsh has his limitations, maybe starting with his height. He's liberally listed at 6-foot-2. Iowa State tipped a few of Walsh's passes at the line of scrimmage, and Walsh compensated with occasional high throws the rest of the game.
But Walsh made plays. He generally delivered the ball on target, ran for some key yardage and moved the chains.
“I feel much more comfortable,” Walsh said. “It's crazy how much time and the reps you get change everything for your confidence.”
After Kansas, “I wasn't down at all. You can't dwell in the past. Move on.”
Monken said the KU game, in which Walsh threw poorly in rainy weather, was too small a sample size to get too worked up.
“They're both very young,” Gundy said of both quarterbacks. “They're both just starting the learning curve. We would hope that the mistakes that J.W. made today won't be made next week. It's the same thing with Lunt.”
Quarterback derby on.
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.