STILLWATER — Clouds hung heavy and gray above Boone Pickens Stadium.
It was fittingly gloomy.
Wes Lunt sat on the Oklahoma State sideline, his left knee wrapped and his season in question. On the very first possession Saturday, the Cowboy quarterback took a helmet to the leg, and the sickening way his knee bent made stomachs turn and hearts drop.
There was a pall over the stadium and the Cowboy Nation.
Then, Kye Staley caught a short pass, turned up the sideline and made everyone feel better.
On a day that OSU's 65-24 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette became a footnote to Lunt's injury, Staley provided an emotional jolt. He broke tackles. He eluded defenders. He rumbled 52 yards for a touchdown.
“He got the party started today,” Cowboy tailback Joe Randle said. “We were so happy when he scored.”
How could you not be?
The guy suffered a knee injury so severe that trainers who thought they'd seen everything swore they'd never seen anything as bad.
Cowboys everywhere know the story, how Staley rehabbed his knee, returned as a linebacker, thought he had lost too much of his speed, decided to quit, then realized he still had football in him. Now, he's a fullback who occasionally gets his hands on the ball.
Anytime he runs the ball much less scores, everyone who bleeds orange feels a little bit better.
But on the day that Lunt suffered an injury that looked as ugly as anything you'll see on a football field, Staley also provided a dose of reality.
Things don't always go as we think.
When the Cowboys announced last spring that Lunt had beat out J.W. Walsh, we all figured the next four years were laid out. Lunt would have some growing pains as an inexperienced true freshman. He'd grow into a seasoned veteran. He'd become a great Cowboy quarterback.
And Walsh, well, we wondered if he might eventually transfer. Surely, a guy who was never going to play wasn't going to sit and wait forever to take some meaningful snaps.
Now, Walsh is going to have to go out and beat Texas in two weeks.
Everything we thought we had figured out has changed before the end of September. A road that looked so certain took a turn with one ill-placed helmet.
“It changes,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “It changed a few years ago for Landry Jones.”