John E. Hoover: Lunt shows strength after slow start
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 6:17 AM
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For more OSU stories.Original Print Headline: Lunt shows strength after slow start
STILLWATER - Despite early evidence to the contrary, Wes Lunt is just fine.
In Saturday afternoon's 36-14 victory over TCU, Oklahoma State's freshman quarterback was coming off a knee injury at less than 100 percent.
Predictably, he struggled - at least initially. So did the Cowboys.
But after a mostly rotten first half, Lunt showed poise and resolve, courage and leadership in directing two third-quarter touchdown drives that put OSU in control of the game.
"He settled in," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. "And we settled in and made some plays."
Lunt completed 18-of-33 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown. But Monken and head coach Mike Gundy said they had no idea what to expect of Lunt - and why should they?
Lunt missed OSU's last 3 1/2 games. He had played less than six quarters of college football. He faced a strong Horned Frog defense. And he did arrive from high school just a few months ago.
"It's not always easy when you're young to go back and play after you've had an injury," Gundy said.
Lunt connected on just 7-of-16 throws in the first half, with most of his incompletions either sailing way over his target or one-hopping the turf well in front of his receiver. His first throw, a short toss to the right, sailed high and was deflected to a TCU defender who returned it 11 yards for a touchdown.
"Some of the throws were just errant," Gundy said. "Maybe for no rhyme or reason."
But in the second half, on the Cowboys' three decisive possessions that turned a 14-9 deficit into a 26-14 lead, Lunt hit 9-of-13 passes.
In the first half, OSU converted just 1-of-9 third down plays. In the second half, the Cowboys were 4-of-7.
One thing that seemed to help Lunt: a TCU defender delivered a hard helmet-to-helmet hit, complete with a double-uppercut to the chin, as he released one of his third-quarter passes.
"He was tentative some, from what I see," Gundy said. "When he got hit a few times, he's kind of like, '(It's) not that bad.' Kind of like Rocky against Apollo Creed."
As Lunt regained his mechanics and started to get in a rhythm, it appeared the coaching staff was willing to work within Lunt's limitations. During the three scoring drives, Lunt completed two screens, two dump-offs, two hitches, a short slant, a short seam and a short cross for a touchdown. None of the throws traveled much more than 10 yards in the air.
But Gundy said Lunt wasn't so limited. All the short throws, it turns out, were more a product of TCU's defensive alignment.
"They were playing a lot of deeper throws and stuff, so the ball has to get dumped off," Gundy said.
But even Lunt's short throws early on were scattershot.
The problem was obvious: Lunt was hesitant to finish his motion by stepping forward onto his left leg. That's the leg that sustained a dislocated kneecap on Sept. 15, and Saturday against TCU, he wore a bulky brace.
"In the first half, he didn't step up," Gundy said. "He was just kind of slinging it on the ground. ... There were about three or four plays in the first half he should have stepped up and made a throw. We talked about that. We had concerns about that all week, whether he would do it."
Lunt's hesitancy disrupted his mechanics, and that resulted in balls all over the place. Gundy said it was more mental than physical.
"There's some of that," Monken said. "Some of it is, 'Hey, you've gotta be a man and step up.' "
Lunt spent three games inactive as redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh took over the offense.
But when Walsh unexpectedly went out with his own knee injury last week, Lunt was thrust back in the mix even though he wasn't completely ready.
"If we had quarterbacks healthy," Gundy said, "I thought he was still a couple weeks away from just ... being normal."
Gundy and Monken said Lunt's knee isn't a problem. Neither is a sprained ankle, for that matter. That's good news for the 5-2 Cowboys (3-1 Big 12), who next week face a seemingly insurmountable task at Kansas State (8-0, 5-0).
"He played one game (at Arizona)," Monken said. "Savannah State didn't matter. He got hurt in the other one (against Louisiana).
"I really thought he played his butt off for a guy that hadn't played and we throw him out there and said, 'Here you go, let's do it.' "
OSU QB Wes Lunt throws during the Cowboys game against TCU at Boone Pickens Stadium, in Stillwater. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World