STILLWATER — One person who didn't believe J.W. Walsh's knee injury sustained on Oct. 20 was a season-ender?
“No,” the Oklahoma State quarterback said Saturday night. “Never once in my mind was I out (for the season).”
So it certainly wasn't a surprise to Walsh when he was a key factor in OSU's 59-21 dismantling of Texas Tech, running and taking hits and showing no signs of pain.
And giving a glimpse at how the still-to-be-named Walsh package designed for short-yardage and goal-line situations can help the Cowboys as they fight for bowl positioning — and an outside shot at a share of the Big 12 title — in the final two games of the regular season.
“I'm sure, for him, it was good to get going,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of Walsh. “And even though he got hit, to be able to bounce up and say, ‘Hey, I'm OK.'”
“OK” in much quicker fashion than expected — playing in a game four weeks after the injury.
Walsh found out the afternoon following OSU's victory over Iowa State that he had played the majority of the contest with a fracture on the side of his knee. The injury wasn't necessarily severe, but Gundy publicly announced it was bad enough to end Walsh's season.
Walsh couldn't think that way.
“I knew it wasn't as bad as what they were saying it was,” Walsh said. “I could just see it, I could feel it. I was just one of those things where it wasn't that bad.”
Since the injury didn't affect tendons or ligaments and didn't require surgery, Walsh's rehab process wasn't extremely complicated. He needed to keep the muscles in his leg strong, but keep the pressure off the knee so the bone could heal. That meant staying on crutches, even around the house.
The worst part for Walsh?
“It didn't hurt,” he said.
Spoken like a dude known for his grit and toughness.
Walsh returned to practice the week of the West Virginia game and was medically available to play in that contest. And Gundy said he knew Walsh could help the Cowboys against Tech when he ran particularly well during Wednesday's practice.
“At that point, we felt comfortable with him being able to play at a high level with speed and taking a hit,” Gundy said. “Now you don't ever really know (about) taking a hit (until a game situation), but he got banged around some in practice Wednesday, and so our comfort level went up.”
So Walsh was implemented into the game plan, mostly running plays out of the Cowboys' two-back diamond formation. On OSU's first drive, he converted a first down with his legs, and later rolled to his right and tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kye Staley. In the second quarter, he ran for his own 2-yard score.
It's the change-up role Walsh was originally expected to play this season, but it never materialized until now because of all the quarterback injuries. And it's a job that doesn't necessarily allow him to scramble and make the big play with his legs; but it also doesn't require him to throw the ball downfield.
Walsh said all the right things following Saturday's game — that if this package is how he'll get on the field, then he's all for it. He said it even felt normal to come in the game for certain situations, and then switch out with starter Clint Chelf.
Who knows if Walsh will ultimately be satisfied with that role long-term. But he'll contribute for the Cowboys down the stretch, something that seemed highly unlikely a few weeks ago.
And he'll absolutely be an asset.
“He's a leader on our team, when he plays and when he doesn't play,” Monken said. “He's one of the guys that likes to be out front when he runs (during conditioning). He's positive. He's just built that way.
“He's good for our team. That's just who he is.”