We are two games into the 2014 season and J.W. Walsh has now had significant playing time in 14 games over the past three seasons. Since his first game, Oklahoma State has seen seven quarterback changes either due to injury or on field performance.
Out of those seven, Walsh was dropped three times.
The first time, the Pokes were playing Iowa State in 2012. Walsh was playing well, tossing for over 400 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for a touchdown. There weren't any issues regarding his performance. The game was a couple of weeks after the Cowboys had taken Texas down to the wire and Walsh became "the guy" at quarterback after a stellar performance. Walsh was playing well against the Cyclones and the Pokes were winning. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, Walsh suffered an injury to his right knee that would take him out of action for three weeks. It didn't seem long, but it was long enough for Clint Chelf to come in and plant the seeds for the Choo-Choo movement. The Cowboys had their new guy, and everyone was behind him.
The next time Walsh was benched, it was a performance problem. In the season opener, J.W. had taken Chelf's starting job and it appeared as if everyone was going all in on him. But midway through the season, the Cowboys were playing TCU, a game where Walsh threw two interceptions without a touchdown and the Cowboy offense was struggling. To offer a change in pace, Clint Chelf entered the game and eventually won the starting job and the favor of Cowboy fans everywhere. He would take the Pokes to a 10-3 record and within one minute of their 2nd Big 12 Championship in three years.
Entering the 2014 season, we were pretty sure Walsh would start, but because of Gundy's games with the media, nothing could ever be confirmed. Gundy talked about having a three quarterback offense that would rotate based on the defenses they faced. He even went as far to say that Daxx Garman could get up to fifteen snaps against Florida State in the season opener. But no matter what Gundy said, Walsh was the likely starter. After all, why would you start someone who has never played a collegiate game? Walsh had experience.
When the Florida State game rolled around, Walsh threw for 203 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as well as getting two touchdowns on the ground. A good performance on paper, but Walsh also lost a crucial fumble late in the fourth quarter that cost the Cowboys a chance at winning the game. Either way, Walsh went out and balled with the defending champions.
On Saturday, the Cowboys played Missouri State. Expecting a blowout, many anticipated Daxx Garman getting some snaps later in the game, you know, after Walsh and the offense had secured a win. Then things went south. Early in the game, Walsh injured his foot on a quarterback draw and was immediately taken to the locker room.
Now before I move on and tell you about how amazing Daxx is and how he's going to run for president and cure cancer, let me address the most important issue here.
Walsh is injured for the second time in his career. This time, it's sounding like a broken foot that will bench him for 4-8 weeks, and that's without surgery. If surgery is needed, Walsh would likely miss the entire season. This is all rumor of course, but where there is smoke, there is fire.
Even with the injury, there is a silver lining in all of this. When running quarterbacks get injured, it makes way for the pocket passers.
It's a cold Thursday night in the heart of November. The Cowboys are down to an inferior Colorado squad and Zac Robinson is nowhere in sight. He had to miss the game because of an injury. Backup quarterback, Alex Cate, is having a horrible game. He's unable to complete passes - to the team in orange at least. Halftime rolls in and the Pokes trail 14-10. As a pocket passer, the rocket-armed Brandon Weeden came into the game and brought the Cowboys back. OkIahoma State wins and I believe we all know the rest.
For Oklahoma State to compete at its highest level, it needs a pocket passer at the helm because
1. It keeps them healthy, and
2. It opens up the playbook.
Walsh's injury should come as no surprise. You can't have him running the ball into a swarm of linebackers over and over again and expect him to come out unscathed. If a quarterback remains in the pocket, the worst that happens is a sack where more often than not, the QB expects it and willingly goes down. Running quarterbacks get hurt. We've seen this with J.W. Walsh, and we've seen it with Zac Robinson.
Now, flash forward.
Walsh is taken to the locker room. Gone. As the next drive begins, Daxx Garman steps onto the field to play football for the first time in 58 months.
We expected Garman to see the field, but not under these circumstances.
For someone who hadn't played in five years, Garman delivered. He threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. His throws weren't dink and dunk passes either, he had several deep strikes, including this 87 yard beauty.
You are never getting this from Walsh. Ever.
Even if Walsh stepped into this throw, I wouldn't have confidence that he could make it. The fact that Daxx can thread the needle on a throw like this made on the run, off his back foot, and across his body, says a lot about his arm strength and overall capability.
He wasn't a one hit wonder either. He went on to complete multiple deep throws, a threat that the Cowboys never had with Walsh at the helm.
This brings us to the second reason that Daxx is our guy. He has an innate ability to stretch the field. Everything that runs vertical is possible with him. This not only helps the passing game, but the running game as well.
With Walsh, or any running quarterback, the defense is more likely to place more of their players in an area called the box. The box is an area on the defensive side that extends about 5 yards deep and from tackle to tackle or tight end. When a team puts more players in the box, it's wanting to stop the run. This is what opposing defenses are doing when Walsh is at quarterback. He doesn't provide a deep threat, so the opposition is more willing to play in the box and have fewer players covering receivers. This is obviously harmful to the running game. No matter the talent involved, it's going to be harder to run through eight men than six.
So now that the defense has adjusted to the personnel, they are going to stop just about any run between the tackles. Your best bet to get around them is to get to the outside and break up the field OR pass the ball. With Walsh in, you aren't burning them deep, or even mid range if it's on the opposite hash. Now, your only options are
1. Run a bubble screen, or
2. Attempt short passes and hope that he is accurate, or
3. Run a QB draw and risk Walsh getting injured or fumbling the ball in a cartwheel.
It is possible, however,that this is not the most efficient way to win games. Now we'll take a look at the offense with a passing threat.
Garman has proven that he has arm strength, and as a direct cause, defenses are not playing as many players in the box. They are more focused on covering any passes down the field. Now, your options are endless. You can run the ball between the tackles, a safe bet considering your offensive line can cover their defensive line by simply outnumbering them. Go for a jet sweep on the outside and get a sure gain with the Freek's speed.
Now that you're running the ball so much, the defense is desperate to stop it, so they put more players in the box. This is when it's time to exploit their weakness of having only three men in their secondary. Throw the ball down the field and burn them. After a few plays of heavy pass, the defense retreats to pass coverage, making way for the run. With a throwing quarterback, an offense is able to force the defense into guessing and playing catch-up, allowing both the running and passing game to function properly and most importantly, it allows the ball to be put in the hands of play makers in space.
Sure, Daxx Garman's first game after a long hiatus happened to be against a sub par Missouri State, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of Weeden-ish things.
Don't get me wrong, Garman isn't perfect, but he allows the offense to do more. He could have made better decisions with the ball, but cut him some slack, he hasn't played in five years.
The talent is there. All Gundy needs to do is give the green light and with Walsh's injury, he doesn't really have a choice.
The Daxx Garman era at Oklahoma State has officially begun and I'm going ALL IN.
Ride or die. Go Pokes!