John E. Hoover: Return of former assistants provide inspiration in OSU victory over West Virginia
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, November 11, 2012
11/11/12 at 7:12 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Former assistants inspire Cowboys
STILLWATER - Echoes of Dana Holgorsen's short time at Oklahoma State rang through Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night. Same with Joe DeForest's extended tenure at OSU.
With their former coaches now wearing West Virginia apparel, the Cowboys got unexpected productivity out of both their passing game and their special teams, beating the Mountaineers 55-34.
Holgorsen now calls plays for WVU, but much of the system he installed during his 10-month stint in Stillwater remains in place. Just ask Holgorsen about Clint Chelf, O-State's third-string quarterback who made play after play with the game on the line.
"He's made some strides and gotten a lot better as a quarterback," Holgorsen said. "... He came into this game with a lot on his shoulders and made some plays."
And DeForest now is the Mountaineers' defensive coordinator, but the same Cowboys who have struggled all season without his special teams expertise rose up and delivered three game-changing plays - almost as if in DeForest's honor.
When Holgorsen helped devise schemes for Mike Leach at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders ran one quarterback after another into the starting lineup and assaulted the record books no matter who took snaps. They became known as "system quarterbacks" - guys who were going to put up huge numbers not because of their own individual talents, but because of the system in which they played.
Chelf is the third Cowboy quarterback this season with a big statistical day and a Big 12 Conference victory - he was 22-of-31 for 292 yards with four touchdowns, and OSU improved to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in Big 12 play - but he's not a "system quarterback."
"The 'system quarterback' with us now is not the Leach deal," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "It's completely different than them. Our guys have to make play-action passes, they have to do things that you do in the NFL. Mike's fantastic at what he does, but it's not to do that. So the system's changed."
Gundy said probably 50 percent of the OSU offense today can be traced back to Holgorsen's 2010 tenure. The rest has Todd Monken's stamp on it.
"You get good at what you practice," Monken said. "So we throw it a lot at practice. We'd better be damn good at throwing it. If we're not, then we're wasting all of our time.
"I think the system does help in that regard, when you throw it a lot."
Wes Lunt, a true freshman, threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns in his first full start. After coming back from injury, he threw for 324 yards and a TD.
While Lunt was out, J.W. Walsh, a redshirt freshman, passed for 347, 301, 255 and 415 yards in his four starts, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Chelf, a third-year sophomore, was just a mop-up guy for Brandon Weeden but is the only one of the three to have worked with Holgorsen.
Neither played much before this year, and all three have thrived.
"They don't just pay you when you have Weeden and (Justin) Blackmon," Monken said. "They pay you to figure things out."
Said Chelf, "I think in college, you try to go out and recruit guys that fit your system. Once you have that, you can do a lot of things. I don't feel like every quarterback can run this system, and there's other system I don't think we could run. I don't really pay attention to the label."
Gundy said the idea Saturday, not knowing how Chelf would react in his first start, was to protect him with a simplified and safe game plan.
But that changed in the third quarter.
On his previous two series, Chelf threw too high to a covered receiver and watched as the interception was run back to the OSU 1, then he inexplicably ran out of bounds for a 3-yard loss on third down instead of throwing the football away.
West Virginia had pulled to within 41-34 and was building momentum.
But on his next possession, Chelf completed 5-of-7 passes for 78 yards, including a gutsy 36-yard strike to Austin Hays down the left sideline.
"One thing that's consistent with when Dana was here, the quarterback has to run the show," Gundy said. "If he can't, then we're in trouble.
"And he did. He made plays."
Now, special teams.
The Cowboys won this game by 21 points, and they got 17 from three huge special teams plays: a 96-yard kickoff return from Justin Gilbert, an oddly bounding Quinn Sharp kickoff that was covered by the Cowboys, and a rain-making punt from Sharp that bounced into a West Virginia player and was again covered by OSU.
Transitioning from DeForest's special teams excellence, the Cowboys haven't been particularly good this year. So Gundy said changes, both strategic and personnel, were made throughout the special teams units after last week's disastrous performance at Kansas State.
Still, Gilbert said, everyone knew all too well that DeForest was in the house. They knew he would be preoccupied by calling defensive signals, but they also wanted to impress their old coach.
"It was kind of a little bit of both," Gilbert said. "It was great to go against some coaches that we knew and try to make plays and not let them win in our house."
And no doubt, both Holgorsen and DeForest will take just a little bit of pride in the legacies they left behind.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and OSU coach Mike Gundy chat before the game Saturday. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World