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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma State football: Why J.W. Walsh got benched

by Berry Tramel Modified: October 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm •  Published: October 22, 2013

 

Mike Gundy is playing coy with the OSU quarterback position. Will he start Clint Chelf on Saturday against Iowa State? Most of us believe he will, and Josh Stewart even talks like it’s a done deal. Will Gundy use both quarterbacks? Most of us believe he won’t.

But while we don’t know what Gundy will do, we do know what Gundy has done. And even though he’s coy on why he made the in-game change from Walsh to Chelf, that’s easy to figure out, too. And it’s a lesson that goes back to OU’s current quarterback situation.

Walsh lost his job Saturday against TCU when he threw into heavy coverage near the goal line, and TCU intercepted. It was Walsh’s second pick of the game. But the first was not a capital crime. Walsh was hit just as he threw, and there seemed to be a communication breakdown between Walsh and Stewart. The second interception was a felony.

OSU had second-and-goal from the TCU 6-yard line. It was first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, before Walsh dropped a center snap and took a four-yard loss. By game’s end, a 24-10 Cowboy victory, OSU had eight trips inside the TCU 20-yard line — and came away with two touchdowns and one field goal. If OSU had just converted the two field goals that Ben Grogan missed from 31 and 32 yards in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the first half, and scored a touchdown from near the goal line when Walsh threw the interception, the Cowboys would have led 30-0 at halftime. That’s a pretty good half against a good defense, albeit one of the TDs came on Stewart’s punt return.

But instead, it was just 17-0. And it was only 10-0 when Walsh took the snap on second-and-goal from the TCU 6-yard line. And threw it straight to a Horned Frog.

Here is how OSU coaches had to be thinking about the situation. They are playing Walsh because he’s tough and savvy and can run and can lead and can be counted on to make good decisions. Chelf clearly has the better arm, but OSU made the decision to sacrifice downfield passing for a quarterback who could run and be a heady leader. But when that heady leader makes decisions like Walsh made on that second-and-goal, the landscape changes. If the staff can’t rely on Walsh to make good decisions, why not have Chelf and his stronger arm in the game?

And isn’t that what we saw in Norman? The Sooners went with Trevor Knight early and lived with his erratic passing and lack of experience through seven quarters. But when Knight threw that unsightly interception against West Virginia, Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel had seen enough. They went to Blake Bell.

Coaches can live with a lot. But they seem to have a short fuse for mental mistakes. For throwing inexplicable interceptions.

Chelf threw an interception on his first pass Saturday. But that was like Walsh’s first interception. Chelf was hit as he threw, the pass was poor, stuff happens. But brain-lock throws will get a guy benched unless he’s got a ton of great games on his resume’. A brain-lock throw got Walsh benched. Now it’s Chelf’s turn.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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