Mike Gundy considered the thrill factor in his team's 33-29 comeback win over Kansas State.
“It's a great game for fans … the television audience,” Gundy said. “A tough game for the coaches.”
And a valuable game for the players?
While hardly clean or offensively efficient, and nowhere near the comfortable result suggested by a two-touchdown point spread, the Cowboys suggested one significant takeaway from Saturday night: close-game mettle.
“You learn a lot about your team,” said OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh. “There were good things; when we were rolling, we were good. Then when you have the bad things, to be able to overcome that, it's always something special.”
Walsh experienced the good and the bad against K-State. His overall performance was uneven, going five straight series without directing a first down to start the second half, before taking the Cowboys on a crisp drive to the go-ahead touchdown.
The scoring drive featured Walsh at his best, zipping passes to Josh Stewart for 12 yards, Tracy Moore for 26, Brandon Sheperd for 15 and finally Charlie Moore on the scoring pass from the 6.
And it was a drive that validated Gundy's faith in Walsh, both on a challenging afternoon and as the quarterback of choice in this season.
“In crunch time, he made some good throws,” Gundy said. “I'm really happy about that.
“Playing together and clicking is a process, and we're going to work at it and be the best offense we can be.”
Sticking with the theme, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said that one drive, with season-long implications on the line, can be a building block for Walsh.
“It can turn you around and give you momentum,” Yurcich said. “He's not one to sulk at the same time, so I'm sure his practice habits and his demeanor are going to be the same.”
But Walsh has regularly impressed in practices, the primary reason he pushed his way past Clint Chelf on the quarterback depth chart.
More consistency at impressing in games is what needs to happen next. Then the dominoes could start to fall.
An enhanced passing threat earns more room for the running game to thrive.
Less traffic around the line of scrimmage makes life easier on the line.
The offense overall starts to click.
“It's always good to win a close game like that,” said Charlie Moore. “It's a way different feeling than blowing out a team. It gives you a little confidence, which we need.”
Of course, some of this is spin, bright-side chatter on the backside of consecutive ragged performances.
Some of it, too, could be real.
The Cowboys did win, finding a way when a lot went wrong. And they showed some grit, along with a clutch factor in rallying with big plays on offense and defense.
“We got a lot of toughness today and showed that we could finish,” said senior safety Daytawion Lowe. “A lot of courage. No one was hanging their heads down. We knew we lost last week. We were just excited. And we were all hungry to get the win.”
And as they hunger for more, the Cowboys will have something positive to draw upon.
“You learn a lot from these close games,” Moore said. “You learn a lot of things that are going to come up again later in the year.
“We learned how to finish this game and we're going to carry that. Later this year when there's a close game, we'll know that, ‘K-State, remember how we did that? Let's keep it up and do it again.'”