By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Much is made of matchups in advance of any football game, so much in college football to fill the airwaves of maybe five or six ESPN/Fox stations for 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Yet, in the end, you have a pretty good chance of picking the winner if you can figure out who will be the better quarterback on that day.
See, the game has evolved to such a point that the quarterback is to a football game what the pitcher is to a baseball game and the point guard is to a basketball team.
He is the heart and the soul of the team.
Which brings us to today’s noon game at Milan Puskar Stadium between West Virginia University’s 2-2 Mountaineers, who will be starting their third quarterback of the season in Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, in for an injured Ford Childress, and Oklahoma State’s No. 11 Cowboys, led by their dual threat sophomore J.W. Walsh.
In a way it puts WVU coach Dana Holgorsen in a ticklish situation, for not only did he recruit Trickett to West Virginia only to largely sit him through four indistinguished offensive performances, but, during his one season as offensive coordinator at OSU before coming to Morgantown, he was the driving force behind recruiting Walsh.
It is not easy to see why Holgorsen was drawn to Walsh, who was sometimes looked upon as a mystery in Stillwater, for he was not the prototype quarterback to run the Holgorsen offense. Even to this day they were wondering what he saw in the quarterback he never got to coach.
So, as coach was about to meet protégé for the first time in a game, the question had to be asked … and Holgorsen was ready with an explanation.
“He’s a winner,” Holgorsen answered, when asked. “He falls in the long line of Texas high school coaches’ kids. His dad is the head coach at Denton-Guyer and has won a lot of football games there. He’s won before J.W. was their quarterback, and he’s won since J.W. has left.
“Texas high school football is good. Being a coaches’ kid, watching him win games with the intangibles he has, you can see that on the sidelines and in practice. You can take those guys and make their skills better, and obviously they have.”
Walsh’s dad, John, is sort of a legendary coach in the Dallas area, and when he was coming out of high school he was a top-rated recruit, but most saw him going somewhere where they were looking for a dual-threat QB along the lines of Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, who also came out at the same time.
But Holgorsen had fallen in love.
“We knew about J.W., but Dana kind of pushed the issue with him, and his relationship with Coach Walsh was really good,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said. “(Holgorsen) was the one that pushed the envelope early.
“From there, when we saw his tape and his history of being a winner, it didn’t really take much to convince us to bring him in.”
Walsh’s freshman year got cut short due to a rather nasty injury, a broken knee, but it couldn’t drive him out of the Iowa State game in which he suffered the injury, playing through to the end … a sign that he not only is a winner but a tough winner.
In fact, he missed only three games, although he wasn’t a full-time player through the final four games of the season.
Bouncing back this year, though, he has shown off all his skills, rushing for 125 yards in the Mississippi State opener and throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns against Texas-San Antonio.
Walsh actually is probably more of a problem because of his running skills than his passing skills. He leads OSU in rushing with 60 yards a game and is especially elusive near the goal line, giving the Cowboys an option that must be accounted for, narrowing the defensive options.
It’s a big part of why they have 15 touchdowns out of 15 trips into the red zone, making them the nation’s best team in that department.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.