By now, we have all heard different reports on the knee injury suffered by former Guyer and current Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh on Saturday.
In that game, the redshirt freshman threw for 415 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another, against one of the Big 12′s top defensive units in Iowa State in a 31-10 win in Stillwater. He had that game with an extremely bare cupboard of receivers at his disposal, as the Cowboys have been devastated by injuries offensively recently, including one of their best wideouts, Tracy Moore.
Walsh improved to 2-1 as a starter, if you don’t count his offensive workshop he put on against Louisiana-Lafayette after starter Wes Lunt was injured six plays into the game.
During his weekly teleconference with local media, OSU head coach Mike Gundy waited about five minutes before dropping the bombshell that Walsh would miss the season, causing some on the call to chuckle and think Gundy was joking with them. He wasn’t.
On Sunday night, after hearing the news, I called J.W.’s father, and Guyer head coach John Walsh, who said the injury was more of the 3-5 week category, with five weeks being the absolute worst-case scenario. He had just gotten off the phone with the orthopedic doctor when he told me that.
There are a few strange things about this, most notably the word that true freshman Wes Lunt will likely return for Saturday’s big matchup against TCU. In fact, depending on who you read/talk to, Lunt has been ready to play for a week or two now. The conventional thought is that the OSU coaching staff maybe didn’t want to bring back a true freshman who hadn’t played in a month against a stout defense in Iowa State. But then Walsh had his best game yet. He’s now the 14th-ranked passer in college football and has three conference games under his belt in which he could very well be 3-0 as his starting debut came in a last-minute shootout loss to Texas.
You have to wonder if Walsh hadn’t taken the job “until further notice” from Lunt. There had been chatter about trying to apply for a medical redshirt for Lunt and going with Walsh for the rest of this season. John Walsh said the QB controversy talk has been overblown by outsiders, and that both have proven they’re deserving and capable of getting regular playing time.
But again, you sure do have to wonder. After all, Walsh completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,467 yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 254 yards and three touchdowns. And he had his best game on essentially one leg as he suffered a fracture to his knee within the game’s “first 10 to 20 plays” according to Gundy.
For his performance, Walsh has received all kinds of praise. He got a “helmet sticker” on ESPN’s late-night roundup show on Saturday night, was lauded for his toughness by countless folks on Twitter, and even got some love from his head coach, who isn’t quick to praise freshmen.
“I can only say that it was a pretty amazing performance,” Gundy told local media in his weekly teleconference on Sunday. “I would hate to use that term for a guy or a player on my team that’s only a freshman, but for him to finish the game the way he did and run the football and never say a word was really a terrific performance.”
If the worst-case scenario comes true and Walsh misses five games, that would put him back for the regular-season finale at Baylor and its porous defense and then a possible bowl game, which the Cowboys seem fairly likely to earn at this point.
Whatever happens, Walsh has made quite the impression in his brief starting run, and he’s earned more playing time, either at Oklahoma State or somewhere else.
UPDATED (4:33 p.m.) with quotes from Walsh’s coaches and teammates:
OSU head coach Mike Gundy
“I’m very proud of what J.W. has given our football team. I’m disappointed, for him, that he can’t continue to play. He competed on about 70 plays, give or take a few, after the injury. The guy has a very high tolerance of pain. I’m reading a book about Navy SEALs and what they go through to be a SEAL and how much pain they have to endure to continue to move forward. That’s what it reminded me of. I’m not trying to make him out to be something he isn’t, but people need to realize that the guys who play this game put their body on the line every Saturday and we as coaches and fans need to respect that. We have guys who play with pain, but he gets more attention because he’s the quarterback. What he was able to do Saturday after he sustained the injury is pretty impressive. That’s a credit to who he is and what he stands for.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken
“I’m not a medical person, but like we’ve done with all of our guys who have been injured, we’ll go week-to-week and if and when he’s ready to play, we’ll assess it then. I know he’s a tough guy, mentally and physically, and it hurts him to be out, but it’s a speed bump.”
Offensive lineman Lane Taylor
“It says a lot about him. I already knew he was a pretty savvy guy. I didn’t even know he was hurt until yesterday. It shocked me when I found out. I saw him icing his knee, and I asked him if he was alright, and he was like ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ I didn’t know it was that serious. It shows how tough he is.”
Running back Joseph Randle
“I was surprised, I had no clue he was hurt in the game. He showed some signs but nothing that showed injury. You have to give him props for playing with an injury that basically ended his season. He played three quarters with it and that shows you what kind of guy he is.”