While No. 13 Oklahoma State will have a new starting quarterback in its road opener, the team is hoping for the same outstanding performance from its improved defense.
J.W. Walsh takes over under center and looks to lead the Big 12 favorites to their 14th victory in 15 nonconference games Saturday when they visit Texas-San Antonio for the first time at the Alamodome.
Although senior Clint Chelf has started the last six games for the Cowboys and earned Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP honors last season, Gundy named Walsh the No. 1 quarterback after the sophomore's performance in a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State in last Saturday's opener.
"I think he just brought a spark to our team," said Gundy, whose squad has won 13 of 14 nonleague contests - including the postseason - by an average of 27.5 points. "I felt like there was a lift when he came in, for whatever reason."
Chelf completed 3 of 6 passes for 11 yards in two series before giving way to Walsh, who went 18 for 27 for 135 yards. The 2012 Big 12 offensive freshman of the year also led the team with a career-high 125 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Gundy said he may not continue to have both quarterbacks play now that Walsh has clearly emerged as the top option.
"J.W. is our quarterback now," Gundy said. "Clint could play. I'm not sure we have a time frame for that, I'm not sure we ever will. We're comfortable with the way that J.W. played and we think that he gives us the best opportunity for success."
Between Walsh and running back Jeremy Smith, the Cowboys could have success against a Texas-San Antonio team that allowed 193 yards on 42 carries in a 21-13 victory at New Mexico last Saturday. Smith rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against the Bulldogs.
Oklahoma State, however, may have to get Josh Stewart involved after the star wide receiver had only four catches for 39 yards in the opener. Walsh's only completed pass over 20 yards was to Stewart for 21 late in the first half.
"There's a number of areas as an offense that we need to improve on, and that's one of them," Gundy said.
After allowing an average of 38.2 points in its final five regular-season games last season, Oklahoma State appears to be much improved defensively after finishing with three sacks and two interceptions in Week 1. The Cowboys held Mississippi State to three trips across midfield over the final three quarters.
Senior linebacker Caleb Lavey recorded a game-high 11 tackles en route to Big 12 defensive player of the week honors.
"I really wish we would have held them to zero points, but we really haven't earned any recognition yet," Lavey told the team's official website. "We still have a lot of games ahead of us. We just need to stay level-headed, humble and excited for each game."
Lavey and the defense could be tested by quarterback Eric Soza, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns for the Roadrunners last weekend.
The senior had one of his best performances in the program's only game against a ranked opponent, completing 23 of 41 passes for career highs of 314 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-27 loss at Louisiana Tech on Nov. 3.
"It's going to be a great opportunity," said Soza about facing the Cowboys.
This matchup pits Gundy against former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and current Texas-San Antonio coach Larry Coker. Gundy played quarterback for Coker from 1986-89 at Oklahoma State.
"I think he is a very intelligent coach and he is a great person with great people skills," Gundy said. "As a player, I enjoyed his approach to certain plays. He kept the game simple and as a player I really enjoyed that."