ARLINGTON, Texas — J.W. Walsh threw his first pass of the night and the crowd gasped.
Here we go again. Midway through the first quarter. A pick-six from the Oklahoma State quarterback benched last season for inconsistencies just like this. What had been a scoreless game minutes earlier was suddenly a 10-point Florida State lead as the Seminoles had knocked in a field goal the series before.
But what looked like an early collapse … wasn’t. The Cowboys clawed their way back Saturday night inside AT&T Stadium and were within three points of tying it up in the fourth quarter.
Yes, OSU lost 37-31. And no, coach Mike Gundy said he doesn’t believe in moral victories.
But in a postgame press conference, Gundy made a powerful statement that points to the resolve of a young OSU team thrust into the national spotlight.
“This team won’t back down from anybody,” he said.
The Cowboys’ youth has been well-documented to this point. More than 30 top contributors from a season ago are gone. Eight true freshman were expected to play Week 1.
So when the Cowboys were down 17-0 midway through the second quarter and were behind 10 points at halftime and again late in the third quarter, there was reason for concern as to how they would respond.
“I think everyone just kind of settled in,” Walsh said. “It was the first game of the year and I think everyone had a deer-in-the-headlight look at first. And once we got rolling, we were clicking and things were moving for us.”
And Walsh was the catalyst.
He followed that pick-six with a 55-yard touchdown bomb to David Glidden early in the second half, then scrambled for 24-yard score early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three points.
But his flip-and-fumble late in the fourth was catastrophic.
“They made some mistakes,” Gundy said. “But they made some mistakes going full speed. That’s the future of your program.”
Gundy was reassured that the weaknesses of his program aren’t in effort. Without watching tape, he said all three phases – minus a number of miscues on special teams – went in with the right game plan to be successful. But those mistakes are magnified when playing the defending national champion.
The takeaway was clear Saturday night. The Cowboys weren’t afraid of the big stage, even when it seemed as if they were falling apart early.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” Walsh said. “We’re upset about the loss, but going into film tomorrow, there’s going to be a lot of good things to build on.”