State of the Cowboys: Week 4

After each game, this feature will analyze several aspects of the Oklahoma State football team. Each category will either rise (+1), fall (-1) or stay even (0). Each change is based on the Cowboys performance last week. The count began after the Cowboys' loss against Arizona -- that calibrated the chart (considering we didn't learn much from the Savannah State blowout).

The Cowboys' dropped their Big 12 opener with a 41-36 loss against Texas at Boone Pickens Stadium. The defeat puts the Cowboys' progress into perspective as they face another bye week.

In what might have been J.W. Walsh's last week as a starter, he was solid. He was far from the reason why the Cowboys' lost on Saturday. That becomes even more impressive when considering the Longhorns have one of the Big 12's top defenses. Walsh finished 18-for-27 passing for 301 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Walsh also gained 71 yards on the ground. If Wes Lunt is healthy, he will be the starter against Kansas. Add that to having probably the best backup in the Big 12, and this unit is on the rise.

GROUND GAME: Rising (+2)
Joseph Randle was scary good on Saturday. Against two NFL-caliber defensive ends (Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor), Randle rushed for 199 yards on 25 carries for two touchdowns. Randle established himself as the top running back in the Big 12 on Saturday. One downside, Jeremy Smith left the game early with an injury. But still, Randle's explosive play means this unit is on the rise, and clearly the strength of the OSU offense.

AIR GAME: Even (+1)
Walsh spread it around on Saturday, with seven different receivers catching passes. Tracy Moore hauled in six catches for 93 yards to lead the Cowboys. Josh Stewart and John Goodlett both recorded touchdowns. The Cowboys are still lacking a dominant No. 1 wideout, but with a strong running game, that might not be so essential. A solid outing for this unit, but not enough to make its stock rise this week. They've been great thus far.

FRONT SEVEN: Rising (+1)
It's a little tough to gauge this group after the loss. On one hand, UT quarterback David Ash faced little pressure all night, allowing him to carve up the OSU secondary. But the Cowboys limited the Longhorns to 136 rushing yards on 42 carries. Clearly, the Cowboys' plan was to stop the run and force Ash to make tough throws against an athletic OSU secondary. That plan backfired, but the blame doesn't rest on the front seven. They did their job well, so they're on the rise this week.

SECONDARY: Falling (0)
Without question, this was the weakest unit of the Cowboys this week. David Ash completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. His one interception was grabbed by linebacker Tyler Johnson. Longhorn receivers consistently won jump balls and found open seams because of busted OSU coverage. The leaders of the secondary – Brodrick Brown, Justin Gilbert and Daytawion Lowe – were supposed to be the team's strength. So far, they've been one of its biggest weaknesses.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Falling (-1)
For the second-straight year against the Longhorns, OSU allowed a kick return for a touchdown. This time, it was a 100-yard dash from D.J. Monroe. Add a missed field goal from Quinn Sharp in the second quarter (although it was from 53 yards), and it was a bad week for the Cowboys' special teams.

OVERALL: Falling (0)
Without Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon leading the charge, this Cowboys' team is still trying to find its identity. They took a step forward in that regard Saturday night with the explosion of Joseph Randle and the wakeup call given to the OSU secondary. The bye week comes at a good time, as Wes Lunt gets extra time to rehab and the Cowboys face an underwhelming Kansas team next. That will give OSU time to correct mistakes and move forward. But now with a .500 record, the Cowboys are falling.

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