Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich told us the other day that the offense is far from the finished product and there is a lot of work to do. He especially wants to get better at securing the football and even referenced center Brad Lundblade's save late in the game in recovering an offensive fumble at a time when the Cowboys needed to make every possession count.
Wednesday, we had the chance to speak to both of the Cowboys coordinators as well as head coach Mike Gundy, and while midseason was brought up in terms similar to midterm there were no letter grades being passed out or being volunteered in the conversation.
The Cowboys record is 4-2, by all rights should be 5-1, but it also could be 2-4 as the Pittsburgh and Iowa State games were close calls. Let's just stick with 4-2.
On the defensive side, coordinator Glenn Spencer is not as much a big picture guy as he is a game-by-game, even possession-by-possession, kind of guy.
"It's just game by game. Every game, I pick out some things we have done well and some things we have done poor," Spencer answered when given our midseason and midterm scenario. "Obviously, the things we have done poor have produced big gains and points. It is a game by game deal. I think if we get some of those things corrected, we have a big ceiling that we are not close to reaching yet."
But the last quarter they played of the first half of the season may have been a look at the high side of the ceiling that Spencer talks about.
"We have had some good quarters this year, not just that one," he said. "We have yet to put together a whole game, which is what we need to do. To answer the bell, we had to do some things to win that game. We had to produce, we had to get the ball back. That was a lot of possessions for us, 17 possessions. So they answered the bell a lot of those possessions, in a critical time."
Okay, I can do letter grades and will along with a quick explanation.
Offense (Overall): B
The yardage output and points is excellent. I'd still like to see more in the run game and I value the run offense tremendously as those are more controlling yards than the passing variety. Turnovers haven't been awful. I agree with Yurcich in that it has been good but can be better.
Yes, I know that the Central Michigan game and first three quarters of the Iowa State game were bad, but everything else has been awesome. Mason Rudolph is tough, he makes good decisions, and he can throw the long ball.
Justice Hill has been really good, but everybody else ranks from spotty to disappointing. Rennie Childs needs better vision. I hope that Chris Carson can show more explosion when he gets back and healthy. Barry J. Sanders needs to get to the line and into the second level before making moves, that is unless he has a defender right on him in the backfield. Based on his fourth quarter run vs. Iowa State, Jeff Carr needs more carries.
Get them the ball more as they were in witness protection the first couple of games. The blocking has been okay, but it can all get better.
James Washington and company have been catching big passes and with Chris Lacy leading the way they have been making big blocks. Jalen McCleskey is developing into a star.
They have been much better as of late as the Texas game really brought the grade up. The Baylor game was solid as well. They need to get back to the previous level before the injury to Larry Williams. Hate to point it out but there was a reason Williams was starting. Everybody may need to pick up their game to make up for that injury.
Defense (Overall): C
Play has been inconsistent with some good and some bad. The bad was evident and helped cause both losses. The fourth quarter versus Iowa State makes you wonder why they can't play at that level more often.
This group has played well with solid pressure on the quarterback and no just awful games against the run. I think even though he may not be as disciplined that D.Q. Osborne needs to play more. They need to get healthier at defensive end.
Chad Whitener has been good and steady with Jordan Burton and Devante Averette playing well in spots and missing assignments in some key situations. You have to give Averette and Burton this, and that is that they are both ball hawkers and can get their hands on the football. The backups have been the same, spot on at times and off at others.
Way too inconsistent, especially at corner. I was banking on better play at the corners and it hasn't happened. Don't get me wrong I wouldn't trade any of them and I believe they can play at a higher level and I hope to see it in the second half of the season.
Special Teams: A
I won't break it down individually, but Zach Sinor has been fantastic at punter. Ben Grogan has been solid. The return teams have been okay, not spectacular. The PAT/FG block unit is maybe the best in the country. Kickoff and punt cover units have been better than recent years.