HOUSTON — OSU passes were going sideways and into the ground Saturday at Reliant Stadium. Penalty flags seemed to negate what few gains the Cowboys mustered.
New punter Kip Smith was so busy — five kicks by midway through the third quarter — he was wearing the neon orange paint off his shoes.
The Twitter world wondered if Mike Yurcich could be shipped back to Shippensburg after one game as offensive coordinator.
“We were about as blah as we'd ever been,” Mike Gundy said.
Nothing had really changed even after the Cowboys switched to quarterback J.W. Walsh after two series.
But there was a sense, hard to explain but easy to feel, that Walsh had brought some energy and cohesion to Yurcich's brand of the Air Raid offense.
And that feeling paid off. Walsh directed OSU to a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State, clarifying at least for now all questions about Cowboy quarterbacking.
Walsh is the man.
Gundy declared Walsh the starter for Game 2, Saturday at Texas-San Antonio, but no announcement was necessary.
“When he came in, he gave us a little bit of a spark, so we stayed with him,” Gundy said.
The Cowboys started relying on a Yurcich wrinkle (the shotgun option) on their already-installed full-house backfield.
Mississippi State defensive ends kept crashing, zoning in on tailbacks, and Walsh kept pulling the ball and scooting to the sideline. Late in the second quarter, Walsh's 46-yard run set up his three-yard touchdown run, and the Cowboys stormed to victory.
And clearly, the multi-threat Walsh is the best fit for Yurcich's offense, which incorporated quarterback runs at little Shippensburg and has done the same in one game at OSU, which has thrived for three years with pocket passing and lots of it.
So the OSU offense came full circle. When Walsh commited to OSU in 2009, the Cowboys deployed run-pass quarterback Zac Robinson. Then Dana Holgorsen was hired as coordinator, and Walsh was a misfit. He came to Stillwater anyway, tried hard, practiced hard, even had some success during OSU's 2012 QB carousel.
But turns out, the hiring of Yurcich was splendid news for Walsh.
“When I committed here, I was ready for whatever,” Walsh said. “I knew it was a business, and things would change constantly.
“With Yurcich here, and the way he calls a game, it's a much better fit, just because there's a little more QB run game.”
Doesn't Mississippi State know it. Walsh ran for 125 yards on 13 carries, most of them on those sweeps out of the fullhouse option. Walsh threw for just 135 yards, completing 18 of 27. The downfield throws of Brandon Weeden and Wes Lunt were nowhere to be found.