Unfortunately, J.W. Walsh has been through this before.
It’s not the Oklahoma State quarterback’s first time on a undefeated team struck by tragedy in the midst of a campaign they hope ends in a championship.
One week after Oklahoma State’s homecoming festivities were marred by a motorist crashing into a crowd at the homecoming parade killing four people and injuring dozens, the Cowboy football team heads to Texas Tech on Saturday aiming to help its community heal after the calamity.
“We’re going to be resilient,” senior receiver David Glidden said. “The more success we can bring around here, help the out in the community and show everybody we’re going to keep fighting [the better].“
Walsh, a fifth-year senior quarterback, knows from experience it is going to take focus to move forward.
“We still have to do our job,” Walsh said. “Right now, for us, part of the job description is trying to help out people who are hurting from this situation and one way we can do that is continue to win on Saturdays and bring a little joy, as much as we can, into this situation. And to do that we have to get to work. This football season, this football team ... it’s a lot bigger than us now.”
There are similarities to 2011 when four people, including women’s basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna, were killed in a plane crash one day before an undefeated Cowboys squad lost to Iowa State, derailing its national championship dreams. After the initial shock, that season became bigger than the 2011 Cowboys football team that went on to win the school’s first-ever Big 12 title and the Fiesta Bowl over an Andrew Luck-led Stanford.
“It was evident,” Walsh said of the desire of that 2011 team to succeed for the entire community. “That year we were on the road at Iowa State and we let it slip away. That day was tough ... but from that day on, you watched the Oklahoma game and that bowl game, you could tell.”
In the grand scheme of things, football doesn’t really matter and the families of the victims will always remain on their minds, but one way to help the community is to keep piling up wins.
“It puts things in perspective, those people where there to cheer on OSU,” said Walsh, who was among a contingent of football and soccer players who visited victims this week. “I don’t know that it [being there] was just for the football team but for Oklahoma State. And we wear Oklahoma State on our chest and we represent them on Saturdays. So we need to do our best to represent them and remember them as best we can.”
— Larry Reece (@cowboyvoice) October 26, 2015
Keeping the train on the track to a Big 12 title won’t be easy.
Starting with the road trip to Texas Tech, the Cowboys face the nation’s sixth-toughest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s FPI. Its five remaining opponents -- including Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma who are 21-1 combined -- have won 28 total games. Its previous seven opponents have won 14 combined games this season.
“We just have to keep playing the ball we’re playing, try to stay healthy and continue to get better,” Walsh said. “This road we have in November is tough but it’s also going to be a lot of fun. We play these games pretty much in a row. I don’t think our football team would have it another way.”