Grading the Cowboys

Professor Jay isn't like your sweet third-grade teacher. He doesn't constantly sing your praises - even following a 56-3 rout. Find out which positions earned less than satisfactory marks this week. Beware of red Sharpie fumes...

The Cowboys enter the Big 12 portion of their 2003 football season next weekend against nationally ranked Kansas State.  The increasingly difficult schedule due to the perils of Big 12 play and the decreasing margin of error calls for stricter grading in assessing the Cowboy's play.  In sum, the Cowboys enter the make or break portion of the season, and the grading scale reflects the change in complexity.


Quarterback:  After utterly dominating SMU with a spectacular aerial display last week, the OSU offense sputtered and stammered its way through the first quarter in disappointing fashion.  Josh Fields failed to display the accuracy he achieved against the Mustangs, and threw too many questionable passes for this point in the season.  The Cowboy offense depends on Fields' ability to avoid interceptions, and enable the talented receiving corps assault opposing team's defenses.  The Cowboy's tallied 56 points against a drastically inferior opponent, yet Fields appeared less than sharp, and delivered a mediocre passing effort.    


Overall Grade:  C+ ...  Fields' threw the football average at best, and tossed another interception.


Running Backs:  From this point forward in the season, fumbles count as a full letter-grade decrease.  Tatum Bell offers the Cowboys a tremendous game-breaking threat on each carry; however, his inability to consistently secure the football costs the squad dearly as Bell's talents remain neutralized as he stands on the sideline.  Bell spent the rest of the evening collecting splinters and considering turnover avoidance.


Vernand Morency proved he possess as much ability as any back on the squad in Bell's absence.  Miles cited Morency's progress over the past two weeks, stating the sophomore tailbacks improved work habits.  Morency displayed slick cutback ability, and home-run speed as he ran roughshod over the Cajun defense.  Morency capitalized on Bell's mishap, and maximized his opportunity to gain additional playing time.  No one questioned Morency's vast giftedness; however, continued advancement in practice habits and off-the-field conduct factor in his contributions on Saturdays.


Five different ball carriers toted the pigskin for the Pokes Saturday night, as Greg Jones, Seymore Shaw and Greg Gold also registered carries and logged substantial yardage.  Gold flashed a glimpse of potential future greatness in ripping off a dandy 51-yard scamper before scoring his first collegiate touchdown.  


Overall Grade:  B ... Bell's fumble adds reason for worry, Morency's big night and additions from Gold and Jones bolster this grade in Bell's absence.


Wide Receivers:  The Cowboys continue to search for and develop a consistent receiving threat opposite of Rashaun Woods, and saw visible signs of this effort Saturday night as D'Juan Woods led OSU in the receiving department.  Limited by Fields' less than spectacular performance, D'Juan Woods emerged as the Pokes only consistent target throughout the evening, showing encouraging improvement, and steady, consistent hands.  D'Juan scored his first career touchdown at OSU.  Rashaun Woods caught a mere two passes on the night, inching closer to the NCAA record of 300 career grabs.  Kenneth Williams also expressed some playmaking ability in his first career start, hauling in 3 passes for 40 yards. 


Overall Grade:  A-


Tight Ends:  A relative non-factor in the contest and generally uninvolved in the passing game, the tight ends blocked consistently on the run, and Charlie Johnson snagged a touchdown reception on his only catch of the evening.  Some of the evening's better news appeared in the form of Billy Bajema's return to the offense.   


Overall Grade:  B 


Offensive Line:  The OSU offensive line turned in another workmanlike performance...solid, yet unspectacular.  Ben Buie struggled throughout the contest with his sore back, and Matt Hardison failed to finish the game as he concluded the evening over on the sideline on crutches.  Corey Hilliard started for the first time at right tackle, and Doug Koenig replace Hardison at left tackle.  Caleb Noble, the Cowboy's Mr. Versatility on the offensive front, filled in for Chris Akin as Akin slid over to center to compensate for Buie.  The second offensive line unit paved the way for Greg Gold's dramatic runs as the second offensive unit accounted for a touchdown. 


Overall Grade:  B+


Defensive Line:  For the fifth consecutive game, Greg Richmond and Antonio Smith spearheaded the Cowboy defensive attack.  The OSU defense seemingly banks on the intimidating, relentless, full-throttle play of the two senior defensive ends.  Richmond recorded three tackles for losses, including two sacks.  The defensive tackle rotation provided adequate run-stoppage, and pressure on passes.  Next week offers a truer gauge of the defensive front's development.      


Overall Grade:  B


Linebackers:  The Cowboys suffered a critical loss at linebacker Saturday night as sophomore Lawrence Pinson endured an unspecified leg-injury.  Pinson, a blossoming superstar, counts as the second major blow to the defensive unit the week as the Poke defense also lost senior ringleader Elbert Craig to a knee injury in practice.  True freshman and ultra-talented Victor DeGrate filled in admirably for Pinson, as he begins his campaign to fill the void Pinson leaves at the Mike position.  DeGrate; Paul Duren and Padgitte McGee quietly continue to play the role as the backbone of the defense.


Overall Grade:  B+ ...  Ouch!  The Cowboys lose a vital component to its stingy defensive unit; however, the remaining crew provides steady, consistent play.   


Defensive Secondary:  Robert Jones fell asleep on the first play of the game, and allowed ULL to connect on a long pass play, however, the rapidly improving junior college transfer at cornerback rebounded nicely to pick off another pass, and lead the squad in total tackles.  Darrent Williams continues in his bid to rank as one of the top corners in the Big 12.  The Cowboy defensive coaches toyed with a number of different options among the safety positions in an effort to find an adequate replacement for the loss of senior Elbert Craig.  Jamar Ransom, Vernon Grant and Jon Holland played the majority of snaps as Freddie Sinclair, Fath' Carter and Thomas Wright saw playing time as well. 


Overall Grade:  B- ... The Cowboy defense limited the Cajuns to a mere 3 points, however, permitted 347 yards of offense, including 275 yards through the air.


Special Teams:  WOW!!!  Darrent Williams likes to run his mouth, yet backs his chatter with electrifying performances.  Williams' punt returning efforts unleashes a potent weapon, and yet another scoring option for the Cowboys.  Williams split time with Gabe Lindsay in the returning chores, yet still managed to take not one, but two returns to the house, energizing his teammates and breaking the contest wide open.   


Overall Grade:  A++ ... (Highest Grade Possible, reserved for record breaking, or near record-breaking performances such as D Will's tonight). 



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