STILLWATER — Clint Chelf will quarterback OSU in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue, and Mike Gundy's stated reason is rock solid.
He's trying to win the game.
There are other reasons to start Chelf, who went from third-teamer to cult hero in the month of November.
Try to keep Chelf around; as a graduate (earlier this month), he is eligible to transfer and play immediately at a school that offers a master's program unavailable. Or maybe Gundy believes Chelf is the best long-term option for OSU, and might as well get Chelf all the work you can going into 2013.
Of course, 2013 is a reason to not start Chelf. If the Cowboys are committed to this Air Raid offense, and there is zero evidence to believe they're not nor shouldn't be, then freshman Wes Lunt remains the OSU quarterback of the future. That's what Cowboy coaches saw last spring, and despite some growing pains in Lunt's limited playing time around a series of injuries, there's no reason to see anything differently now.
But Gundy says his decision is not based on looking ahead, to January or the spring or the 2013 season.
“He's played well at the end of the year, deserved to be there,” Gundy said of Chelf. “The most important part of it is the seniors. What's important for them. We'll think about next season after the bowl game.”
Gundy often brings up commitment to the seniors. He's been critical of the coaching carousel — both coaches leaving for other jobs and schools firing coaches — that leaves some teams short-handed in bowl games.
Forget, for a moment, the irony of a coach who flirted with Tennessee and Arkansas two weeks ago to talk like that. Gundy is fundamentally correct. The players, especially seniors, are often the victims in bowl games.
OSU will play the bowl game without its offensive coordinator; Todd Monken took the Southern Miss head coaching job. Purdue will play the bowl game without its head coach; Danny Hope was fired in November.
“The seniors are the most important thing to me and ultimately to our coaching staff,” Gundy said. “Arguably the most successful senior class to ever come through here, we should have a responsibility to them. If I was a player, I would appreciate that.”
The Cowboys seemed to rally around Chelf, a good-soldier story who directed victories over West Virginia and Texas Tech and darn near did the same in Bedlam.
Chelf said his favorite moments from 2012 were “just being able to go and play with the guys on the team. Just finally being on the field with Lane Taylor, Evan Epstein and the other seniors has really been a blast.”
Chelf's effectiveness waned by season's end. After leading OSU to wins of 55-34 (West Virginia) and 59-21 (Texas Tech) and 24 first-half points against OU, Chelf's offense slumped.
Chelf led three second-half touchdown drives against the Sooners, but four second-half drives ended in punts. Then against Baylor, the first 10 possessions produced two touchdowns and two field goals, before two late TDs got OSU within 41-34 by game's end.
Victory should not be in question against Purdue. The Cowboys should wax the 6-6 Boilermakers with Jase Chilcoat quarterbacking, much less Chelf, Lunt or J.W. Walsh.
But OSU rallied around Chelf at a moment of crisis, and Gundy hasn't forgotten. He's embraced the quaint notion that this bowl game is part of this season, and even if the calendar says 2013 at kickoff of the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the 2013 season will have to wait.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.