So put yourself in Stewart’s shoes, and the shoes of his teammates, when Monken held a team meeting on Dec. 9.
“It was our day off, he called a meeting, so we knew something was up,” OSU quarterback Clint Chelf said. “He just told us straight up.”
Monken broke the news one day before it was released to the media – he was accepting the head coaching position at Southern Miss. The Cowboys would be without their offensive coordinator for the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1.
Chelf: “We know what kind of business it is. The best move for his family was for him to go take a head coaching job and further his career. We all kind of understood that. We all know he’s a great coach and that he’ll do well down there.
“That’s what coach Monken told us – if we didn’t score any points and didn’t win games, he wouldn’t be looking for other head coaching jobs, he would probably get fired. He was very grateful for that, and we were really grateful to have him.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh: “He always told us, if anything ever happened, we as a team would be the first to know. He did that and he handled it really well. He’s a great coach and we’re all better players because of him.”
Surprise was quickly replaced by sadness, which was replaced even quicker by motivation. Yes, the Cowboys will be without their offensive guru when they line up against Purude on Tuesday, but that hasn’t affected their confidence one bit.
“I would say it’s offensive coordinator by committee deal,” Chelf said. “We’re all just kind of chipping in and the coaches are finalizing our game plan … they’re all good, capable coaches of calling our game. I think we’ll have a good game plan.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Chelf feels any more pressure to perform well.
“I’d feel that anyway, even if coach Monken was here,” Chelf said. “There’s a lot of stuff put on the quarterback, so that’s really not going to change.”
Walsh said Monken’s absence is felt, but like Chelf, believes the Cowboys have the right pieces in place to be successful on Tuesday.
“It’s definitely different at practice,” Walsh said. “You can just feel it that you don’t have coach Monken out there to be as vocal as many other the other coaches. But practice has still been great, we’ve been executing the plays.”
Stewart, one of the most outspoken supporters of Monken, is also one of the most confident without him.
“We have a lot of good coaches, so once Monken left, we never really had our heads down,” Stewart said. “For a while there, Monken wasn’t doing much because it was all of us. We knew his stuff, so he would fix a chip here and there. Other than that, our offense speaks for itself. We all know it.”