STILLWATER — When an injury thrust backup quarterback J.W. Walsh into action six plays into Oklahoma State's last game, coach Mike Gundy got onto his headset and asked offensive coordinator Todd Monken a question: “What have we got for him to run?”
“Well, I don't know,” Monken responded. “He took about 10 snaps all week. I don't know what to tell you.”
The plan Monken concocted on the fly proved to be plenty effective, with the Cowboys setting a school record with 742 yards of total offense in a 65-21 win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
As Oklahoma State (2-1) moves forward with starter Wes Lunt's return uncertain, it won't be as simple as having Walsh run the same plays cooked up for his injured teammate. Lunt fits more closely into the mold of predecessor Brandon Weeden, a drop-back passer who stays mostly in the pocket. Walsh has similarities to Zac Robinson, the Cowboys' quarterback before Weeden who was as likely to take off running as he was to throw the ball.
“There's no question that you have to call it different,” Monken said. “You can't call the same things. They're built differently.”
The good news for Oklahoma State is that there's an extra week to figure it out, and to give Lunt more time to recover. No. 12 Texas (3-0) comes to Stillwater on Sept. 29, bringing in a highly regarded defense that's allowing 328 yards per game — less than half the Bowl Subdivision-best 687 yards OSU is averaging.
“We can't change really what we do, and I think the best way to describe it is we just run our plays and we fit him in to where we think it's advantageous for what J.W. brings to the table,” Gundy said.
Oklahoma State made some adjustments on Saturday to help Walsh as he threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 73 yards and a score.
During one stretch, Walsh handed the ball off on 14 straight running plays as the Cowboys used a pair of tight ends, Justin Horton and Jeremy Seaton. When the streak was broken, Monken called for a play-action pass and Walsh hit Jackson on a quick slant for a 58-yard gain. The next play, again on play-action, Walsh threw to Jackson again for a 20-yard touchdown.
“Where you have your issues is the drop-back passes,” Monken said. “That takes a lot of reps. Some of the pop stuff and the play-action, some of that, that's not as hard because it's really simple. If you can run the ball run/play-action is a pretty easy gig. Run, suck them up, throw it over their head.”
Monken said that Walsh got only six of the 37 snaps in Oklahoma State's team session during practice on Wednesday. Lunt gets the lion's share as the starter, and there's even more emphasis since he's a freshman who needs the work.
But that left little in the way of preparation for Walsh when he was forced into action.
“You just start to checkmark things that we've done a lot of, that he's done a bunch of, that wasn't specifically for a guy like Wes,” Monken said.
“He still screwed all that up, but he made some plays and started running around. Holy cow. Half the time when he's running, I'm yelling at him for what he's doing, but that's just him.”
Coaches have said that Walsh's running ability has been hard to evaluate through training camp since Cowboys don't tackle in practice. What could be a scramble for a big gain is blown dead if a defender gets a hand on Walsh.
“It was just a lot of fun to get out there and do what we were able to do offensively,” Walsh said. “We were fortunate enough to have everybody play the way they did and just do what we do. It was just a lot of fun.”
Lunt's leg has been immobilized this week to help it heal faster, leaving more time for Walsh to run the offense and prepare. Gundy has said he expects to know more about Lunt's availability by this weekend, although he doesn't plan to announce whether Lunt can play until the day before the game.