Randle, Smith Run Over Wildcats

The two games in the post-Kendall Hunter era have gone without a hitch, in fact, some Cowboys would consider what they've seen to be an improvement.

Sophomore Joseph Randle continued his impressive start to the 2011 campaign with 15 carries for 124 yards and two scores and also chipped in nine receptions for 99 yards in the passing game. Randle was one receiving yard away from being the first Cowboy in school history to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game.

And, even though he's played in one more game than nearly everyone else in the country, he leads the NCAA in rushing with 250 yards and four touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry.

"He is a great player. That's the case. It's really nothing more than just letting him go," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "It's his second year in this offense and I know we've changed some things but he's very comfortable. He's just a really good football player so we would expect him to have great nights. He's had two tremendous weeks.

"He's a good player, he wants to be a good player and he works at it. We just have to do enough (as an offense) to allow him to do that in space and have success."

And while Randle does succeed in space, what separates him from last season is his ability to create that space on his own.

On the Cowboys' opening drive, he followed a lead block by fullback Kye Staley and the instant Staley made contact with the middle linebacker, Randle bolted through the heart of the Wildcat defense for a 41-yard gain to set up the game's opening score — a 1-yard dive by Randle.

While that 41-yard run might have been his most impressive play of the night, his longest came out of the passing game. On third-and-six, Weeden dumped the ball over the line to Randle, who scampered 63 yards to the Arizona 6.

Even though Randle's running has improved noticeably, his threat as a receiver is what sets him apart.

"That just opens up the game so much more, you can put him out there (at receiver) and have him run routes and catch the ball like he does, overall it opens up the game," receiver Justin Blackmon said. "You have to guard him like he's a receiver when he's out split wide and you have to watch him running from the backfield, too."

In addition to showcasing increased field vision, fast decision making and refined skills as both a receiver and runner, Randle tapped into a power running style seldom seen from him as a freshman when he bulldozed a UA defender on his second touchdown run.

"They was talkin' a lot of noise out there," Randle said. "At one point they was talkin' a lot of noise, they had written in some paper that they wanted a street fight. Coach Gundy kinda got us fired up before the game and that's what we was looking forward to having."

Randle's success on Thursday night was impressive in its own right, but add in Jeremy Smith's contributions — 11 carries for 65 yards and a score — and quarterback Brandon Weeden said it was a performance unlike anything he's ever seen.

"I told Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle, and I'm not trying to jump on the bandwagon, but that was the most impressive running performance of any tandem of running backs I've ever seen. From my view, guys, it was unbelievable," Weeden said. "Watching those guys on third-and-one, third-and-two, just pounding it and knowing they were going to get the first down, making guys miss and go. I mean, that was the difference in the ball game without a doubt."

Weeden continued by explaining why he was so taken aback by the Cowboy backs.

"Last year, we didn't have that ability to pound it in there and know we were going to get one to two yards," Weeden said. "It just opens up so many things, you can (give them the ball), you can play action, it just opens up your entire playbook. My hat is off to those guys, they busted their butts tonight and it was extremely impressive."

As impressive as it was, Weeden said it hasn't come as a surprise based on what he saw from the two during the summer and fall camp, and Weeden said he doesn't expect to see their impact taper off anytime soon.

"Those two guys are great guys; they don't say much, they're pretty quiet, but they are two of the hardest working guys we have in the entire locker room," Weeden said. "They had to answer the question, ‘Who's going to fill Kendall Hunter's shoes?' That's not easy to do, I didn't know if anybody could do it, but they've taken on that role and, man, it's made our offense so much better."

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