Walsh, a third-year sophomore from Denton, Texas, came on in relief of senior Clint Chelf as the Cowboys rallied for a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday at the Texas Kickoff Classic in Houston.
Walsh came on in the third series of the game with the Bulldogs leading 3-0 after OSU’s offense had gone three-and-out on its first two possessions with Chelf at quarterback. He played the remainder of the game, directing the Cowboys on three touchdown drives, while throwing for 135 yards on 18-of-27 passing and rushing for 125 yards on 13 carries.
“I think he brought a spark to our team. I had to make that decision, the offensive coaches had to make that decision. I felt like there was lift for whatever reason when he came in. The first time or two we weren’t as successful as we wanted but we had opportunities,” Gundy said of Walsh.
“We’re comfortable with the way J.W. played and we think he gives us the best opportunity now for success.”
The quarterback position was a three-man race beteween Walsh, Chelf and Wes Lunt during the spring. It became a two-man race when Lunt decided to transfer to Illinois over the summer. Chelf had started the final five games of the 2012 season, and was named MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
However, Walsh outperformed the senior during fall drills, and Gundy said that both earned the opportunity to play in the season opener against Mississippi State. But it didn’t take long for Walsh to show he was the most effective as the Cowboys offense soon began marching up and down the field against the Bulldogs.
“I don’t know if it happened because it was me. I think it just slowly started to unfold,” Walsh said Monday while meeting with the media. “Once the game got going everybody kind of got their bearings and everyone started to get in a rhythm themselves. I think once that happened I don’t think it would have mattered who was out there. We’ve got a lot of talented guys around us and if we just get the ball in their hands good things will happen.”
Walsh may have been showing some of the modesty that makes him an effective leader. His 46-yard keeper around the left end set up his 3-yard touchdown run a few plays later that gave the Cowboys a 7-3 lead a few minutes before halftime.
“We needed a big play,” said Walsh. “I don’t think before that we’d had a big play and just a few first downs so we needed something like that to spark us. I think for that to happen was huge for the offense.”
Gundy said the touchdown at the end of the first half and an 11-play, 75-yard drive culminating in Jeremy Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run to open the second half was all that he needed to see.
“We started to see results from what J.W. was giving us. At that point we were playing a team that has the capabilities of beating us. We needed to stay with what we thought gave us the best chance to win the game,” he said.
But Gundy also realizes the hazards of playing a running quarterback. OSU fans remember how Zac Robinson’s record-setting career ended in 2009 when he took a blow in the Texas Tech game which prevented him from being effective the final three games.
“Well, I think anytime your quarterback is running you’re always concerned about (injuries),” Gundy said. “We want J.W. to be aggressive because he likes to play that style of play.
“J.W. is wired different than most of us. It’s not human nature to want to go hit something with your body, and say that’s fun. But there are a small percentage of people that are wired that are OK with that. J.W. is an aggressive-nature style of player. We want him to make good decisions, and I think if you look at the tape (of Saturday’s game) you’ll see there are times he did protect himself different then last year.
“Last year, every time he had the ball he started looking for somebody to run over. This year, in the game the other day, two or three times I saw him step out of bounds or slide after he thought that was the maximum he could get out of that play.”
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