State of the Cowboys: Week 9

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 won convincingly Saturday against Big 12 newcomer West Virginia, 55-34.

QUARTERBACK: Rising (+1)
It's amazing how the Cowboys have challenged basic football ideas this season. Most believe if a team has two quarterbacks that play; it doesn't have one good enough quarterback to play. OSU has three, and they all have shown the ability to be successful starters in the Big 12. On Saturday, it was third-stringer Clint Chelf who went 22-31 for 292 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. At times he relied too much on inside-wide receiver Josh Stewart, but after offensive coordinator Todd Monken opened up the playbook in the second half, Chelf found some deeper routes, including a 48-yard strike to Blake Jackson. A solid performance by Chelf. Who will start next week? No idea.

GROUND GAME: Even (+2)
Joseph Randle failed to reach 100 yards on Saturday, but he reached another mark – 1,000 total rushing yards this season. His 74 yards on 21 carries brought his season total to 1,008. The Doak Walker Award watch list member averages 5.1 yards per carry and 112 per game. On Saturday, he was below average, and the Cowboys totaled only 151 yards rushing. But against a suspect West Virginia secondary, OSU chose to air it out. Not the best rushing performance for the Cowboys, but they continue to be solid.

AIR GAME: Even (+1)
Just as he's done all season long, Josh Stewart was a ball magnet on Saturday. His 13 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns easily led all Cowboy wide receivers and were key to getting the OSU offense jump-started. Considering the Mountaineer defense allowed more than 480 yards a game entering the match up, that was almost expected. But there were some key mistakes from the Cowboys receiving corps. Blake Jackson, just as he has done all season, had a big drop. And when a ball bounced off Charlie Moore's hands, WVU defensive back Terence Garvin intercepted the pass and returned it inside the Cowboys' 5-yard line. The positives and the negatives even out this week.

FRONT SEVEN: Rising (+3)
After struggling to contain Collin Klein last week, the Cowboy front seven was back to its dominant ways on Saturday rushing the quarterback and containing the run. Lyndell Johnson, Ryan Robinson and Zack Craig each recorded sacks and the Cowboys' had 10 tackles for loss. While OSU kept WVU quarterback Geno Smith moving in the pocket, they halted the Mountaineer rushing attack. WVU totaled only 78 yards on the ground.

SECONDARY: Even (+1)
Usually, this would be a certain fall for the Cowboys' secondary. They allowed Geno Smith 364 yards passing and two touchdowns. But throwing the ball is the Mountaineers' bread and butter – it's the only thing they do truly well. OSU was also unable to record an interception. Problem is, Smith has only thrown three all season. Not an impressive job this week from the OSU secondary, but at this point in the season against quality competition, it's expected.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Rising (+1)
For the first time this season, the Cowboys' secondary led the way. Justin Gilbert scored on a 96-yard kickoff return. OSU scored 10 points on WVU miscues in the return game. And Quinn Sharp was near perfect on his kicks and punts. It all equaled 29 special teams points for the Cowboys. The Mountaineers' explosive return man, Tavon Austin, was held to 20 yards on two kick returns and 12 yards on two punt returns. Without a doubt, the Cowboys' special teams was the reason they dominated on Saturday.

OVERALL: Rising (+2)
Simply put, this was a great win against a quality opponent under strange circumstances. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen knew what to expect going against his old offense, and he still couldn't stop it. The Cowboys did all the little things right with a third-string quarterback taking snaps. Now that OSU is bowl eligible, it's time to start boosting their resume as they push for a quality bowl game. It doesn't get much easier next week, as the Cowboys take on Texas Tech for Senior Night at Boone Pickens Stadium.

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