Keep tabs every week to see where the Cowboys have improved and declined throughout the season.
The count begins after the Cowboys' 59-38 loss against Arizona on Saturday night in Tucson. (The game against Savannah State didn't tell us a whole lot.) This game calibrates the chart. Despite some impressive and disappointing performances, it's the base from where the Cowboys go from here on out. So let's get started.
Wes Lunt didn't lead the Cowboys to a victory in his first road start and he threw 3 interceptions – but he's far from the reason OSU lost. The freshman looked poised and in control for the majority of the game and two of his interceptions were the result of tipped passes. He was far from perfect, but solidified he was the right choice as starter. He finished the night 36/58 for 440 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Lunt set the Big 12 freshman record for passing yardage in his first start.
GROUND GAME: (Even)
The one-two punch of Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith were nearly flawless on Saturday night – minus a costly fumble from Randle in the first quarter. Randle finished with 23 carries and 123 yards. Smith had eight carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. Arizona's defense was not its team strength, but you can't ask for much more. If they Randle-Smith can combine for nearly 200 yards of production every game, the Cowboys' offense will be extremely potent.
AIR GAME: (Even)
Hello, Tracy Moore. It's nice to have you back. Moore, who hasn't played since Bedlam of last year because of multiple disciplinary issues, exploded in his return against Arizona (8 receptions, 106 yards and four touchdowns). The same can't be said about the rest of the Cowboys' receiving corps. Freshman tight end Blake Jackson's stat line was impressive (six receptions for 105 yards), but that doesn't take in account his three dropped passes, including an easy touchdown. A number of other starters also had key drops. No matter how well Lunt plays, it won't matter much if the Cowboys' are approaching double-digit drops the rest of the season.
FRONT SEVEN: (Even)
In an area where the Cowboys' have struggled mightily the past few years, the defensive line was both great and terrible Saturday night. Great: They sacked Matt Scott four times. Terrible: They allowed 180 yards and four touchdowns. And defensive tackle Calvin Barnett racked up the penalty yardage (45 in total). The Cowboys need to keep the quarterback pressure up and bottle up the run if they don't want to be in shootouts every weekend.
Soft coverage led to big yardage for Wildcat quarterback Matt Scott (28/41, 320 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions). The combination of Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert had been hyped as one of the best defensive back combinations in the Big 12. They looked far from it on Saturday night. And while the Cowboys' didn't expect to completely shut down Scott, they at least expected to do what they do best – create turnovers. That didn't happen.
SPECIAL TEAMS: (Even)
As usual, kicker Quinn Sharp was solid, hitting his one 25-yard field goal and sending his kickoffs through the Wildcats' end zone. But the Cowboys were sloppy in other areas. The Cowboy return men made questionable return decisions at times. And the coverage team was given a fair-catch interference call in first half, despite a TV replay that proved otherwise. A decent start for this unit, but plenty of room for improvement.
An incredibly disappointing start for the Cowboys. To make it worse, it was a product of their own mistakes. The Cowboys set the program record for penalties – 15 for 157 yards. OSU considered quarterback to be its biggest question mark entering the game, but Lunt is far from its biggest worries entering next week against Louisiana. They'll look to bounce back against the mid-major before the Cowboys welcome Texas to Boone Pickens Stadium on Sept. 29.