Oklahoma State a mystery before Big 12 play
Saturday, when Texas comes to Stillwater, Okla., to take on Oklahoma State, maybe we'll finally learn something about the Cowboys, because so far, there have been few, if any answers.
But the bad news is, the situation sets up — win or lose — even more questions.
Oklahoma State has a pair of wins, a pair of quarterbacks and a loss. What they are, we know not yet. What they could be? Well, that could take shape this week, starting with who, in fact, will play.
Because, at this point, we don't even know that.
The reason we know so little this deep into the 2012 season is we haven't seen enough. Starting quarterback Wes Lunt played less than five minutes in the season-opening victory against Savannah State, started against Arizona in the loss and then made it just one series against Louisiana-Lafayette before injuring his left knee. All of that is hardly enough information to make an informed decision about a freshman quarterback.
What we also know is Lunt's injury seems to have healed faster than what coach Mike Gundy originally thought, fast enough that Lunt and J.W. Walsh are both listed as starters this week against Texas. And while Gundy did his best to be transparent Monday discussing Lunt's knee and injury, what he really did was make the picture more cloudy.
"It's hard to say," Gundy said of whether Lunt would play. "It's really hard to predict."
Maybe Gundy decided to play coy to give Texas something else to work on during the week, keep the Horns guessing while making them prepare for a pocket passer (Lunt) and a running quarterback (Walsh), but the added drama falls right in line with the mystery of 2012.
Oklahoma State remains an unanswered question, transitioning from the oldest quarterback in college football (Brandon Weeden) to a true freshman. Now, OSU has changed again with another freshman, Walsh, at quarterback.
Lunt won the job in the summer, but Walsh preformed well in the victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, throwing for 347 yards and running for another 73. Walsh has six touchdown passes and just one interception in three games.
"We really like what he did and how he handled himself," Gundy said Monday. "We went from freshman to freshman. That was a scenario different from any I've been in before. Bringing one guy along and then bringing another guy in and bringing him along. Neither of them had any experience. I think he's doing very well. Is there a learning curve that has to take place? Yes."
Lunt was expected to have his cast removed this week and could possibly return to practice as soon as Thursday. If that happens, he could be ready to play. More information on the injury is expected to come when Gundy releases the team's injury report.
More than likely, Walsh will start, but here's the problem: Say Walsh does well and beats Texas. What then? Makes sense Walsh should take over and be the starter. After all, Gundy and his staff don't have a lot of empirical data to draw on from Lunt. While, undoubtedly he's the top choice for the Cowboys, he isn't a long-term starter, and they haven't gone "all-in" with him.
Walsh isn't the exact opposite of Lunt, but he is markedly different. Lunt is the pure passer. Walsh is the runner who throws well, but near as well as Lunt. This OSU team is designed to succeed the same way it did last year — by throwing the ball. Gundy has recruited to it, the Cowboys practice with that philosophy, and the system is designed to throw. Walsh changes all that.
A successful Saturday against Texas could mean a quarterback controversy.
"It would be very difficult," OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said on what it would be like to prepare for Walsh. "J.W. does throw the ball better than people think. You have to prepare for the vertical passing game and the quarterback run game. A lot of things that you do defensively are much tougher when the opposing quarterback is an athlete. You have to be careful with zone blitzes and things where nobody is assigned to the quarterback."
And you have to be careful from the Cowboy side, too. A running quarterback is in a lot more danger, whether it's protecting the ball or staying healthy.
However, all that is in the future. For now, regardless of which quarterback shows up or suits up, OSU is going to have to figure out its defense. The Cowboys shut out Savannah State then gave up 59 to Arizona in a 21-point loss. OSU has also created just three turnovers in three games against two teams that aren't exactly powerhouses.
"We just need to keep preparing and playing fundamental defense," safety Daytawion Lowe said. "We don't need to make changes. We just need to do what the coaches tell us to do and do our jobs."
Meanwhile, it's not as if Texas is that easy to figure either. The Longhorns are ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll but their 3-0 record isn't very inspiring, having beaten Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss. Texas gave up 31 points to Ole Miss and 17 to Wyoming.
"Texas is a good team," OSU's Caleb Lavey said. "They won't lie down. They've got talent, so we have to out-fight them and give our best effort every play. You can't take a play off with a team like Texas because they're capable of breaking a big play every time."
Now, if we only knew who was going to be making the plays for OSU.