A swarm of reporters surrounded J.W. Walsh during Oklahoma State’s Cotton Bowl Media Day at AT&T Stadium Monday.
Walsh played his high school ball at nearby Denton Guyer, so the local interest certainly made sense. But it also marked the first time Walsh spoke publicly since Clint Chelf replaced him as starting quarterback in mid-October. Cowboy coach Mike Gundy put a media ban on all quarterbacks for much of the regular season.
How has Walsh handled the last couple months?
“Anytime you win games, there’s no reason to be negative or be upset about anything,” Walsh said. “That’s why it’s the greatest sport on earth, because it’s a team game and it’s a team sport. For us to have success like we’ve been having, that’s been the biggest key.”
Walsh took over the quarterback duties on the third offensive series of the Cowboys’ opener against Mississippi State and then started the next five games, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,333 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 294 rushing yards and three scores.
But the Cowboy offense often sputtered with Walsh behind center, particularly in a 30-21 loss at West Virginia and in a 33-29 comeback win against Kansas State. Walsh struggled with accuracy and in consistently getting the ball to the outside and downfield. He was pulled in the second quarter against TCU on Oct. 19 after throwing two interceptions, including one in the end zone.
OSU’s offense has found much more rhythm since the quarterback switch, scoring at least 38 points during its seven-game winning streak that put it back in Big 12 title contention before a Bedlam loss on the last day of the regular season. Chelf, who passed for 1,792 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 321 yards and six scores, earned second-team All-Big 12 quarterback honors from the coaches and the Associated Press.
And unlike last season, Walsh did not enter the game in a specialty package in short-yardage and goal-line situations when Chelf took over as the starter.
Walsh said he doesn’t remember much about the moment he was benched against TCU — “it was a few months ago,” he said. But Chelf and Walsh are genuine friends, and both have said that’s made it easier for them to support each other during another season with major quarterback changes.
That approach hasn’t surprised longtime teammate and close friend, Josh Stewart.
“That’s just J.W.,” Stewart said. “He handles it well. It’s not killing him or nothing. He’s fine. He’s just waiting on his moment again and trying to practice and get better. That’s all he can do, and he understands that.”
Meanwhile, Walsh said he’s continued to work on his game, focusing on his footwork, making the correct reads, understanding the playbook and becoming a more consistent passer.
Because after this season, Walsh will enter yet another quarterback derby with incoming freshman Mason Rudolph, junior Daxx Garman and redshirt freshmen Richard Lagow and Jake Hubenak.
And Walsh will still be ready if needed in the Cotton Bowl.
“The best part about it is we’ve been through it as much as possible so far,” Walsh said. “Everybody on the team’s used to it and everybody on the team kind of knows how to adjust to it now.
“At this point, we’re all just kind of prepared for whatever. As long as whoever’s on the field is always prepared like they’re the starter and prepared to play, then I think we’ll have success as a football team.”