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November 5, 2012The wackiest part of last night's game was the leading passer for Oklahoma State when it was all said and done.
A decision that happened 191 days ago set up the storyline, and with how this season has been going it was bound to happen eventually.
Just a few months before April 26th, junior OSU quarterback Clint Chelf had been the backup to NFL first-round pick Brandon Weeden and was expecting to take over at the signal-caller position once the 2012 season kicked off and Weeden had moved on, but April 26th came and messed up his plans.
That day, coach Mike Gundy named Wes Lunt the starter and buried Chelf in the third-string spot behind the freshman and J.W. Walsh. Vowing not to give up fighting, the junior shed his ego and kept working hard.
Lunt went down against Louisiana, and Walsh went in. A few games later, Walsh suffered a season-ending injury against Iowa State, but Lunt was healthy enough to return for the next game. The dizzying quarterback carousel had seemed to finally come to an end until Saturday night, when Lunt dropped back and threw just as he received a lick from a Kansas State defender. He quickly rose, jogged back to the line of scrimmage, and threw an interception on the next play.
The turnover was devastating to the team, as the clock was ticking closer and closer to an eventual 44-30 loss, but what was even more of a punch in the gut was what the broadcast showed after the play. A dazed Lunt sat on the sideline, dry-heaving and sitting surrounded by trainers. He was escorted to the locker room, and would not return to the sideline.
Chelf, 191 days past the decision that all but ended any hopes of a starter role for him, was thrust on to the field trailing the second-ranked team in the nation.
"It's a credit to him," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "How he's improved from the spring and being told he was number 3 until now is remarkable. He's worked his butt off."
Chelf finished the game as Oklahoma State's leading passer, edging out the freshman who beat him out so long ago by completing 16 of his 27 passes for 233 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on the last drive of the game.
"To Clint's defense, he would say how much he's improved," Monken said. "Obviously, you don't have a chance to really see it because you've already made your decision."
"You decide who you're going forward with, and at some point he wasn't getting hardly any reps. Forget even the 2's, which he wasn't."
Not only did Chelf give the team a chance to win the game despite a season-high five turnovers committed, but he looked good doing it. Last season his balls looked floated, lacking the zip and velocity that Weeden had on his passes.
Last night, he had that velocity, topping it off with obvious confidence and composure as he stood before 50,000 screaming Wildcat fans and eleven KSU defenders.
Moving forward, not much is known about the quarterback position that we've gotten so used to dealing with this season. Gundy said after the game that he would not talk about Lunt's injury, which most believe was some sort of concussion, which leaves the possibility of Chelf starting against West Virginia as a very real one.
"Now he gets the opportunity, unfortunately with the circumstances, to show (his hard work)" Monken said "I'm happy for him. This has nothing to do with me, I'll be coaching another twenty years, but I'm really happy for the young man because it's a guy who's worked so hard and just wants an opportunity. I thought he did an admirable job."
As far as who enters the game if something were to happen to Chelf, the next name on the roster is Jase Chilcoat, who was in the Boone Pickens Stadium press box calling the game for a class when Lunt's first injury occurred against Louisiana on September 15th.
After Chilcoat? Well, that isn't quite as clear.
"We may have to go back to the intramural field and find another guy for the next guy," Monken laughed. "Find out who Jase thought was the next-best guy in the league."