Grading the Cowboys

Once again, Jay takes the Cowboys to school based on their performance Saturday night against the Bears. See who graded out high, and who received the red ink!

Quarterback: For the third consecutive week, Josh Fields struggled to consistently throw an effective pass. Fields misfired on several occasions, leaving receivers wide-open in space, and therefore blowing opportunities to crush SMS early. Aside from the initial drive, the offense sputtered early, punting on three of its ensuing five drives, with a fumble on the initial play of one possession, and a field goal consisting of the other two drives. Fields finished the contest completing 14 out of 26 passes for 153 yards and a quick touchdown strike to Rashaun Woods, however, threw two interceptions, with one interception on arguably one of the worst on-field decisions of his career as the junior quarterback alley-ooped a ball up field while an SMS defender forced him out of bounds.

Fields possesses tremendous field leadership, and the unique quality of performing under sizable duress, however, the Oklahoma State passing game suffered in the first three contests, in a large part due to Fields' inaccuracies in passing the ball. Fields' struggles hindered the opportunity to allow the younger quarterbacks a chance to try their hand, as the first offensive unit continued to work out their wrinkles.

Overall Grade: D

Running Backs: The Cowboys continue to develop an imposing ground attack as both Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw eclipsed the 100-yard mark. The electric Bell, quietly piecing together a spectacular senior season, raced to the end zone four times, carrying the Oklahoma State offense. In gaining 143 yards on 21 carries, Bell averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry.

Seymore Shaw entered the contest, and added to Bell's heroics, bulldozing his way to 107 yards on 10 carries, including a 53-yard touchdown ramble in which Shaw ran through the arms of several defenders in route to the east end zone.

Shawn Willis displayed his distinctive pass-catching ability, and his punishing running style with the football, however, diminished the total score of the running back position due to his untimely fumble in the second quarter. Turnovers proved the Cowboys bane in losses against big-time opponents such as UCLA and Nebraska earlier this season; most top level opponents, particularly the ones remaining on OSU's schedule, possess the ability to capitalize on such errors, limiting the Cowboy's ability to reach their season's goals.

Willis faces a particularly un-enjoyable week of practice…just ask Tatum Bell.

Overall Grade: B+

Wide Receivers: Wide open all evening long, the Cowboy receivers endured a frustrating evening as they witnesses Fields struggles with timing and rhythm first hand. SMS employed a delicately soft zone-defense, leaving the middle of the field and flats barren throughout the contest, mostly in fear of Rashaun Woods. The Cowboys attempted to involve receivers other than the senior All-American in the ongoing effort to develop additional threats to take the pressure off of Rashaun. Additionally, it valued the Cowboy coaching staff and offensive unit little to overwork the elder Woods against a vastly mismatched SMS defense.

D'Juan Woods displayed the athleticism and sticky hands many Cowboy fans anticipated seeing. D'Juan reeled in 4 catches, matching big brother in receptions, and exhibited a strong running ability after the catch. D'Juan missed a key block on Coach Gundy's favorite screen play, the lateral swing pass to the flanker, allowing the SMS defenders to clobber Gabe Lindsay, disallowing a big gain from the diminutive yet explosive Lindsay.

Due to Fields' rough night passing the football, only a few receivers registered receptions. Rashaun Woods completed the evening with four grabs for 71 yards; including a 38-yard touchdown reception on a post pattern similar to the play Rashaun smoked the OU secondary on last November.

Rashaun Woods, D'Juan Woods, Gabe Lindsay played the bulk of the game, while Tommy Devereaux, Kenneth Williams and Chay Nease rounded out the receiving corps later in the contest.

Overall Grade: A-

Tight Ends: Largely uninvolved in the passing game, mostly because of the offense's ability to muster points in a vanilla fashion running the football. The tight end position serves as a valuable commodity in the overall offensive scheme at Oklahoma State, however, the offensive coaching staff continues to mask the full usage of the position, saving a majority of its elements for tighter contests. No tight ends caught passes on Saturday, however, the entire group blocked efficiently in the running game. Billy Bajema, Charlie Johnson and Jesse Jackson, as usual, handled the duties at tight end, while true freshman Tremayne Standberry debuted at the position.

Overall Grade: B

Offensive Line: For the second straight week, the Oklahoma State offense steamrolled its way to an exceptional performance in the ground game. Fans recognized Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw for their explosive touchdown runs; however, much of the credit for Bell and Shaw's rushing outburst belongs to the offensive line. While competition for starting roles along many of the positions on the offensive front wages on, the Cowboy "Big Men" up front consistently improve from week to week, blasting huge running lanes for the backs in addition to progressing in pass blocking skills. SMS only hurried Fields on one occasion, and failed to sack him during the contest. Additionally, the Cowboy offensive line minimized all holding and offsides penalties throughout the contest.

Matt Hardison and Doug Koenig continue to duel each other for the starting left tackle position, while Caleb Noble and Corey Hilliard continue to express their capabilities as top flight back-ups at the guard and right tackle positions, respectively. Chris Akin, Ben Buie and Sam Mayes continue as the starting guard-center-guard combination, while Kellen Davis maintains his starting right tackle slot ahead of Hilliard.

Overall Grade: B+

Defensive Line: Once again the tandem of "Scooby" and "Black" terrorized an opponent's offensive game plan as the dynamic duo suffocated the SMS quarterbacks and running backs all evening. Antonio Smith (Scooby) and Greg Richmond (Black) each earned quarterback sacks against SMS, and each logged a tackle for a loss. Sophomore safety Jamar Ransom added to the sack party, giving the Cowboy defense three sacks on the evening.

Overall, the Cowboy defense allowed just 219 yards of total offense for the Bears, including a mere 102 yards on the ground. The Cowboys held the Bears to a low number of 2.2 yards per carry on the ground.

The interior of the Cowboy defense shows from time to time a susceptibility to the "up the gut" rushing attack, however consistent improvement steadily bears itself out.

Several additional players continue to get looks at both of the defensive tackle positions, as well as at the back-up defensive end positions. For the second straight week, freshman Marque Fountain rotated at defensive end with the first unit, playing ahead of his touted classmates. Darnell Smith and Jerry Don Bray saw action at the end position later in the contest, while Efe Mowarin, Mike Williams, Xavier Lawson-Kennedy and Brad Girtman tried their hand at tackle, backing-up starters Clay Coe and Kyle Hix. Richmond led all linemen with six tackles. Hix joined nine other Cowboys with a tackle for a loss, and Coe recorded one quarterback hurry.

Overall Grade: B+

Linebackers: The OSU Linebacking corps turned in their second straight solid, yet unspectacular performance. Lawrence Pinson began the game with a bang, rocketing into the SMS backfield to corral the Bear's tailback for a one-yard loss. Pinson tallied three tackles on the evening, while co-starter Padgitte McGee added five tackles, including one tackle for loss. Paul Duren added three tackles, while freshman Victor DeGrate, playing for the second straight week, added two tackles in his back-up role to Pinson.

The Cowboy Linebacking group continues to prove a solid back-bone to the defense, portraying the abilities to fill running lanes for stops, drop into coverage, and bring speed and force in blitzing situations.

Overall Grade: B

Defensive Secondary: The Cowboy secondary continues its campaign to prove itself the most improved area on the football team. Backs represented five of the top six athletes on the defensive stat sheet for tackles. In addition, the secondary recorded five tackles for losses, two interceptions, and one pass broken up. Starting cornerbacks Darrent Williams and Robert Jones thieved Bear passes, while Jones' pick ended SMS' only serious touchdown threat of the contest. Williams led all Cowboys with seven tackles, followed by Jones, sophomore safety Jamar Ransom, and junior safety Jon Holland who totaled six. Williams, Jones, Ransom, and seniors Elbert Craig and Fath' Carter logged the tackles for losses.

The safety blitz continues to provide the Cowboys a vastly effective means to assault and opponents passing attack. Junior college transfer Jamie Thompson started for the first time at the strong-safety position, unseating Fath' Carter, and provided effective support in both the run and the pass. Darrent Williams, Robert Jones, Vernon Grant and Daniel McLemore continue to rotate at the cornerback slot, while a myriad of talented athletes see time at the safety positions, affording the Cowboy defensive staff a variety of weapons for different situations.

Jon Holland left the game with a minor injury, however, Chase Holland and true Freshman Jeremy Nethon played valuable snaps in Jon Holland's stead.

Head Coach Les Miles cited the playmaking ability of the secondary, "I think our speed in our secondary is pretty good. I think we have four corners and a safety that will play the pass pretty well. After you limit the opponent on the ground, and force them into the air, it makes it easier for the secondary to play the pass, and the secondary played well."

Overall Grade: A-

Special Teams: Punt-returners Gabe Lindsay and Darrent Williams continue to provide both valuable field position to the OSU offense, and edge-of-the-seat excitement for Cowboy fans with their thrilling return capabilities. Both performers possess the ability to force the first two defenders to miss them, the number one key to setting up a successful return. Lindsay utilizes exceptionally quick feet, unparalled balance, and seemingly 360-degree vision to motor down the field. Williams' possesses greater foot speed than Lindsay, threatening to outrun any defender in pursuit. In addition, D-Will changes direction, instantly hitting top-speed with little effort.

Both athletes ripped off impressive returns on Saturday, nearly breaking long runs on each attempt. Williams scooted 31 yards for his longest return of the contest.

Cole Farden continues to give the Cowboys tremendous advantage in the kicking-game, blasting nearly every kick-off out of the end zone, and accurately placing punts to turn the field around for the Cowboy defense.

Luke Phillips continues the great play from the specialist, quietly converting PAT after PAT, and drilling the occasional field goal.

Overall Grade: A

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