What's the old adage...be careful what you wish for? Oklahoma State fans certainly got a dose of that this last year. When the season started we were all curious to see Daxx Garman and what the "legendary arm" entailed. I as much as anyone else. However, as expected, it was JW Walsh that trotted out on the field against Missouri State. When J.W. Walsh went down with a foot injury however, we ended up getting exactly what we wanted. Little did we know what we were bringing upon ourselves.
Daxx won his first five games but none carried the look of the JW Walsh led team that took the field versus Florida State. All of a sudden 'Run & Gun' had a whole new meaning, and not in a good way. The team went on to lose five straight during the bulk of their schedule. The team looked to be the worst team in the Mike Gundy era. Poor Daxx was not able to cope with the battered (and bad) offensive line and the offense struggled to get first downs, let alone score. The shots that Daxx took behind the line eventually caught up with him. He suffered a concussion against Texas that would keep him out versus Baylor.
To some debate (possibly including a threat to transfer) Mason Rudolph got the start for the Cowboys versus the Bears. Rudolph's performance had many of us incredibly encouraged for the future. I knew with Mason at QB we had a shot in Bedlam, although I was afraid to vocalize it, because I didn't want to get my hopes up, or worse, jinx it. He definitely delivered. No matter what Mason does from now on he will go down as a Bedlam hero for the Cowboys, but I get the feeling this one win won't define his career. You've probably heard it a billion times by now, but the kid truly does have the "It" factor. He's got poise and leadership and all the intangibles you want a QB to have.
They say be careful of what you wish for, but Mason shows us that we should never stop wishing. For the first time since Brandon Weeden, the Pokes have a QB capable to taking them to the next level. Mason played a stellar game in the Cactus Bowl. Dropping dimes and threading the needle. If he can continue to make plays like this (16 seconds in):
So that begs the question, why didn't Mike Gundy play Mason Rudolph from the start? Is it even fair to ask that this year?
Gundy has often been accused of not being good at evaluating QB talent, with stong evidence to back that up. He played Bobby Reid over Zac Robinson, and Clint Chelf last year. Probably the biggest head scratcher though, he had Brandon Weeden as the 3rd (!!!) string QB, behind Alex Cate! Has a another football coach in the country gone to their 3rd string QB more often than Gundy?
Gundy isn't blind though, and he saw the potential in Mason Rudolph. However, he was trying his absolute hardest to not burn his redshirt. I'm sure in his perfect world JW would have stayed healthy all year, and there's something to be said for starting your most experienced QB.
Another factor, Gundy obviously saw the lack of experience on this years team and was trying to get the most out of Mason's four years here at OSU. Nothing wrong with planning for the future, especially when, at that point, Mason was unproven. I'll just add this right here, I honestly don't believe that OSU's record would be THAT much better with Rudolph at QB all year.
However, when Walsh went down, everything changed. Saving the redshirt meant Gundy was willing to give up a whole season to save a year for one quarterback.
As a coach you shouldn't try to secure the future at the sacrifice of the present. Your goal as a coach is to win every game, every year, and to put your team in a position to do that. It's not fair to the fans, the donors, the alumni, the season ticket holders, the players, and most importantly, to your seniors. Asking them to give up their last year in exchange for one kid's four years isn't acceptable. These decisions are much easier with hindsight being 20/20 though, and I certainly don't envy Gundy's position. No matter what the choice, it wasn't fair to someone.
However the biggest take away from all of this is that it also makes one last thing very clear. For all the rumors going around about how Gundy wouldn't be here next season, and he's tired of this school, Gundy's been thinking about the future the whole time.
Oh, and one thing is also for sure, Gundy has found the QB of the future in Mason Rudolph. Go Pokes!