By Wendell Barnhouse
Big 12 Digital Correspondent
There's an old saying around college football that if you've got two quarterbacks, you don't have one quarterback.
Said another way, two healthy quarterbacks of equal ability can often split a team, especially if the backup and the starter don't co-exist peaceably. Plus, if the coaching staff tries to play both quarterbacks, a team's offense can struggle with inconsistency. It's why motor vehicles have one driver and airliners have a pilot and a co-pilot.
Sometimes, old sayings are just that. Old. At least that's the case for Oklahoma State and Texas. Both teams are finding success with a two-quarterback system.
Through seven games, the Cowboys have seven victories. Starting quarterback Mason Rudolph and short-yardage specialist J.W. Walsh have combined to account for 24 touchdowns. Last season, Oklahoma State's QBs accounted for 22 TDs.
"I've never been in a system where we (used) two quarterbacks," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "We're very fortunate that we have two players (who) can compete at a high level and help us win football games."
Walsh, now a senior, was the starter last season before being injured. Rudolph, a sophomore, took over late in the season and helped lead Oklahoma State to a bowl victory. With Rudolph entrenched as the starter this season, Walsh has embraced his role as a specialist. Typically, when the Cowboys get inside the 10-yard line or need to gain a yard or two for a first down, Walsh takes over.
Walsh has been on the field for 45 offensive plays and the Cowboys have gotten 78 points. In Saturday's victory over Kansas, Walsh accounted for five touchdowns. He was 5-of-5 passing for 68 yards and two TDs, and he ran for three scores.
"We have a lot of good packages for me, and the guys around me executed perfectly," Walsh said. "That's just what happens when you're clicking on offense."
A few years ago, Oklahoma had a similar strategy using quarterback Blake Bell – who moved to tight end as a senior – in short yardage. It was referred to as the "Bell Dozer" package of plays. These types of specialized substitutions at quarterback have the need for a snappy name.
So, Texas now has the "18 Wheeler." Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who wears No. 18, has become UT's short-yardage specialist. Swoopes started all but one game last season but lost his starting job to redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard. Similar to Walsh, Swoopes has bought in to a reduced but still important role.
"Tyrone is such a solid person," Texas coach Charlie Strong said. "When we were going to make the change, I sat down with him and I said, 'We're still going to have a package for you. It's not like you're going to go stand over there and hold a clipboard.... I want you to stay engaged. More than anything since you played in all the games, you can help Jerrod.' He's done a great job.
"They know we need both of them to win."
Five to 10 years ago, the so-called "wildcat" play package was in vogue. It involved putting a running back in shotgun formation and receiving a direct snap. Typically, that led to a running play. What Oklahoma State is doing with Walsh and Texas is doing with Swoopes is similar, but having a quarterback taking the shotgun snap in short yardage multiplies the play-calling possibilities.
The Longhorns' clinching touchdown in their upset of Oklahoma came when Swoopes took the shotgun snap, moved to his left but then stopped and looped a touchdown pass to tight end Caleb Bluiett.
"We've got Jerrod who's fast and can do his thing and then we come with the bigger, power runner with Tyrone," Strong said.
Iowa State Goes With Lanning
Moral victories are a myth. Iowa State lost at Baylor Saturday, 45-27, dropping the Cyclones to 2-5. Trailing 35-0, Iowa State outscored the second-ranked Bears 27-10. That. Was. Not. A. Moral. Victory.
But coach Paul Rhoads' team might have found a new direction at quarterback. Sophomore Joel Lanning, who took over for senior starter Sam B. Richardson at Baylor, will make his first start when Texas visits Ames Saturday.
"It was kind of weird," Iowa State offensive lineman Brock Dagel said of Iowa State's 20-10 second half "victory" over Baylor. "It was kind of like a switch turned on. I don't know if that was because Sam came out and Joel came in or not. But things started rolling."
In the 12 offensive drives this season where Lanning was the quarterback for the entire drive, the Cyclones have scored six touchdowns.
"The biggest piece that came out of Saturday's performance was the energy level of our football team - not just our offense but our football team - when he took over," Rhoads said. "It probably wasn't as apparent on television as it was on our sideline and in the stadium and our locker room."
Oklahoma senior linebacker Eric Striker is a leader on and off the field … plus, he's not your typical student-athlete.
TCU'sTrevone Boykin and Josh Doctson form a mutually beneficial match of outstanding quarterback and sure-handed receiver.
David Ubben of Sports On Earth takes a look at Baylor's quarterback situation now that freshman Jarrett Stidham is stepping in for the injured Seth Russell.
John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World writes on why Mike Gundy's handling of Saturday's homecoming tragedy reveals how the Oklahoma State coach has evolved.
Saturday's game in Lubbock will kick off at 2:30 p.m. For Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, that's a familiar time. Each team has had five games slated for the 2:30 p.m. CST television window. "I like playing day games," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "It's easy travel for us. It's not too early and we can get home at a decent time and get started for the next week."
From the Something Has To Give Dept.: When West Virginia faces third-ranked TCU in Fort Worth Thursday night, the Mountaineers will lean on an outstanding defense. West Virginia is ninth nationally in limiting opponents on third-down conversions (28.2 percent). The Frogs, meanwhile, lead FBS, converting 55.8 percent on third down.
Texas Tech ranks No. 125 in run defense in FBS and gave up 405 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and 24 first downs on rushes in Saturday's 63-27 loss to Oklahoma. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs doesn't expect teams to be in a pass first mode against the Red Raiders. "Why would you pass it?" he said. "I would just hand it off every snap, but I've said that all year, until we show we can stop it. We'll keep grinding."
Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh on his teammate Jimmy Bean, a starting defensive end who shies away from media attention:
"I've played football with him since I was in seventh grade and the first sentence I ever heard him speak was when we were roommates freshman year of college. He's very laid-back, he doesn't talk much and he tries to stay out of it as much as he can. He's one of those guys that just doesn't like it, he doesn't like the attention, doesn't like being in the spotlight."
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder on the Wildcat's 0-4 start in Big 12 play:
"Have I been as frustrated before? Perhaps not, but I cannot put a numerical value on it."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen on TCU receiver Josh Doctson:
"Doctson is playing as good as anybody. He reminds me a little bit of Kevin White (former West Virginia wide receiver, a No. 1 NFL Draft pick). He is bursting out onto the scene. He is an under recruited guy making a name for himself. He is developing into a great, physical receiver, and he is establishing that kind of rapport with the quarterback that allows you to have those kind of stats he has."
TCU coach Gary Patterson on the season-ending injury for Baylor quarterback Seth Russell:
"You can have rivalries, but it still comes down to people. You don't wish that on anybody.''
Texas senior cornerback Duke Thomas on the Longhorns' attitude after winning their last two games:
"We got that confidence back, that swagger. It's really about taking that emotion and that pride we played with against OU and keeping it going the rest of the season."