STILLWATER – Coach Mike Gundy insisted he had no reason to hide whether starting quarterback Wes Lunt would be able to return from a knee injury in time to face No. 12 Texas in Oklahoma State’s Big 12 opener tonight.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to tell anyone about it.
After Gundy promised to update Lunt’s status Friday as part of Oklahoma State’s new policy this season to issue injury reports, the school instead put out an advisory that it was discontinuing the practice because “those reports have led to unintended consequences.”
So, Mack Brown and the Longhorns (3-0) may have to wait until they arrive at Boone Pickens Stadium to find out whether it’ll be Lunt or backup J.W. Walsh taking the snaps for the Cowboys (2-1).
Lunt, a drop-back passer, was hurt on the sixth play of Oklahoma State’s 65-24 win against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15. Walsh replaced him and showed off his running ability while helping the team set a school record for total offense.
Gundy claimed it wouldn’t make any difference to Texas which quarterback played because the Cowboys didn’t intend to tinker too much with their offense that has been among the top 3 in the nation the past two years and No. 1 so far this season.
“We have to run our plays. You can’t wholesale change an offense based on who’s the starting quarterback, even though there’s some variation in their ability,” Gundy said. “So, we have to run our plays and just do what we think’s best for J.W.”
Brown begged to differ.
“It is more difficult because there will be some stunts you would use against a quarterback that’s not very mobile that you can’t use when you have an option quarterback in there,” he said. “So it does change a lot of what you’re doing.”
Gundy said earlier this week that Lunt was improving and his left leg had been taken out of an immobilization device. He wouldn’t rule out that Lunt could play against the Longhorns and hinted that his opponents should be preparing for Walsh.
Was he providing sound advice or a smoke screen, though?
“No question, when you have a guy that can run around, it’s a lot more game plan for us. You just got to prepare for both,” Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “The main thing, do the things we do best. Don’t get too far outside of that.”
The Cowboys have won back-to-back games in the series for the first time, after losing 22 of the first 24 meetings, and both of the victories came on the road because of a scheduling quirk brought on by Big 12 realignment.
“Now we’ve got to come home and take care of our place,” OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert said.
The Longhorns have won six straight in Stillwater, never losing there under Brown’s leadership. The streak includes three victories in which Texas stormed back from at least three touchdowns behind.
Those are but a distant memory – if a memory at all – for most of the current players who have seen Oklahoma State take the upper hand the past two seasons.
“You gain confidence out there but at the same time, it’s a different year,” Cowboys safety Daytawion Lowe said. “Just like two years ago when we went down there, they probably had confidence and we won. So, that really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I think we’ve just got to go out and play.”
While the Cowboys deal with their quarterback question, Texas starter David Ash still hasn’t won over everyone who remembers the Longhorns struggling when he was splitting time at the helm last season with Case McCoy.
“He’s pretty much the same,” Gilbert assessed. “He’s a little bit more mature, but I think he’s the same kid we faced last year. When we get some pressure in his face, I think we’ll cause some drama.”
For Ash and whoever his counterpart ends up being, it’ll be a step up in competition and pressure than during nonconference play.
“Just like with their quarterback, it’s much easier when there’s no adversity or the game’s not close and you can just dial up plays and it doesn’t matter,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “Well, pressure from a D-line or from a defense or then pressure from the score of the game changes some of that.”
Players from both teams said the stakes are higher now, with the Cowboys starting the defense of their first Big 12 title and Texas trying to reclaim the throne.
“It’s Week 1. It starts it all,” Texas defensive back Carrington Byndom said. “This is where we make our statement about being conference champions. This is where we do it. This is the first game. We want to win it all, the conference championship, everything like that. We have to win this game.”