Grading the Cowboys

Jay seems to think most of the Cowboys were at the top-of-the-class Saturday. He gives stellar marks to the OSU special teams unit, who with a successful fake field goal, helped JoeDeforest and Les Miles prove that Bob Stoops isn't the only coach in Oklahoma with tricks up his sleeves...

Quarterback:  Josh Fields steadily and effectively operated the OSU offense against the Wildcats.  Fields failed to produce gaudy passing numbers, however, threw crisp passes to connect with receivers on key downs and situations throughout the contest.  The offensive line provided Fields plenty of time to progress through reads, which the junior quarterback executed with a high degree of precision as, on more than one occasion, Fields found and delivered passes to the second and third receiving options.  Fields pitched an excellent deep pass to a wide-open Billy Bajema to push the Pokes to a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.  In the third quarter, Fields rolled out to his right, noticed D'Juan Woods covered up on the outside, and Bajema blanketed on an out pattern, and found Gabe Lindsay dragging across the back of the end zone and tossed a perfect pass to the senior flanker for a touchdown.   


Overall Grade:  B+ ...Fields played an unspectacular, yet solid and efficient game, hitting receivers in timely spots with a fair degree of accuracy and zip on his passes.  One turnover detracts from the overall grade as Fields continues to progress to the exacting form and precision in which he concluded last season. 


Running Backs:  Tatum Bell returned to his starting position at tailback for the Cowboys following a one-game benching for fumbling, and responded with a huge, 143-yard, two-touchdown performance.  The recently resurrected Vernand Morency provided a solid change of pace and energy for the OSU offense by tacking on another 41 yards to the ground assault.  OSU's ability to rush the football against K-State enabled the Pokes to command the flow of the football game, and ultimately count a long way toward victory against the Wildcats.  Bell's whopping 5.1 yards per carry allowed the Cowboys to continue drives, and eventually milk the clock to end the game.  Tatum demonstrated from early in the contest his newfound dedication to ball security, frequently rushing with both arms wrapped securely around the pigskin.  Fullback Shawn Willis continues to improve as a blocker in the backfield on both the pass and the run, and earn the praise of his head coach following the contest.


Overall Grade:  A ... 187 yards rushing, excellent blocking, and NO FUMBLES!!!  


Wide Receivers:  Although he frequently drew double-coverage and tough, physical bump-and-run defense from Wildcat cornerbacks, Rashaun Woods still managed six catches for 118 yards, including a dramatic 49-yard catch and run in between two KSU defenders.  Once again, the attention garnered by Woods provided exceptional value to the OSU offense as it opened numerous additional options in the Mike Gundy playbook.  Woods lured a host of K-State defenders late in the second quarter that left Billy Bajema wide open for a long touchdown reception.  Fields found Gabe Lindsay for three receptions all of which occurred in crucial situations.  Lindsay continues to make plays under pressure, catching balls twice for third down conversions, and one for a touchdown with Fields scrambling to find an open receiver.  D'Juan Woods appeared shaky at the games outset as he dropped a pass early, but the younger Woods blocked effectively throughout the game, and rebounded later with a nice reception to convert a third down for the Pokes.


Overall Grade:  A- ...Rashaun Woods adds unspeakable value to the OSU offense even on plays not designed to get the ball to him.  Woods' presence opens up the running game, as well as free up other receivers.  OSU maximized the attention given to Woods with both the run and the pass.


Tight Ends:  Billy Bajema hauled in the lone pass thrown his direction on a masterfully designed play that took advantage of extra attention given to Rashaun Woods.  Bajema bobbled the pass, however, he managed to reel the ball in and give the Pokes a valuable score to take the lead before heading to the locker room for halftime.  Additionally, Bajema, Charlie Johnson and Jesse Jackson combined with the offensive line to produce a brilliant effort blocking for the OSU offense. 


Overall Grade:  A ...Drop that pass, Billy Bajema, and you might be looking at an F!!!  Way to hang on!!! 


Offensive Line:  The Cowboy O-Linemen turned in a tremendous blocking performance against K-State in spearheading the OSU offensive attack.  The big men in the trenches provided excellent pocket protection for Josh Fields, allowing the Wildcat's vaunted and nationally ranked pass rush only two sacks.  In the second half when the game dictated, the Pokes rushed the football to kill the clock and ice the game, the linemen continued to produce a forceful surge to create gaps and holes for Cowboy ball carriers.  The O-Line's stellar play takes on added significance when considering the fact that two starting linemen, Ben Buie and Matt Hardison sat out due to injuries.  Doug Koenig, Caleb Noble, Chris Akin, Sam Mayes and Corey Hilliard formed the O-Line unit that led the Pokes on offense as the extra repetition for a variety of linemen in previous contests pays off in a big win against Kansas State.


Overall Grade:  A ...Allowing only two sacks against a defense that rampaged the Cowboy offense a year ago in addition to the solid run blocking earns the OSU offensive line a top grade this Saturday.   


Defensive Line:  Greg Richmond played his best game of the season, if not his OSU career as the senior defensive end relentlessly and tenaciously attacked the KSU offense play after play.  Richmond tallied three tackles for losses, including one of the Cowboy's three sacks of KSU quarterback Ell Roberson, and led all Cowboy defenders with eight tackles.  Fellow senior Khreem Smith joined Richmond in, arguably, his top performance in orange and black.  Smith recorded two tackles for losses and added another sack.  In the first half, Smith shunned two defenders in a tremendous display of strength, and corralled Roberson for a loss in a crucial point of the early stages of the game.  The entire Cowboy defensive front performed admirably against the Wildcats' option attack.  


Overall Grade:  A-     


Linebackers:  Paul Duren wasted little time making his presence known in the contest as he and Pagitte McGee and Victor DeGrate quickly filled in the void left by Lawrence Pinson with solid play against the K-State option attack.  Duren and defensive ends Richmond and Khreem Smith set the tone for the defense early in the contest with sure tackling and physical play against the ‘Cats.  Duren totaled six tackles to lead the three-headed Linebacking corps, and showed he possesses the speed and playmaking ability to continue to provide the backbone of the OSU defensive scheme.  Additionally, Duren provided exceptional leadership on the field necessitated by the many newcomers in the defensive rotation.  Duren ensure DeGrate and the youngsters along the defensive front line up in the appropriate positions.


The lone shortcoming of the linebackers occurred in the soft coverage of the Wildcat tight ends that resulted in a handful of drive-saving first downs against the Pokes.


Overall Grade:  B.  Continued improvement against the pass needed, however, impeccable run stopping provided by the three-man Linebacking unit.   


Defensive Secondary:  Darrent Williams' once again ignited the entire Cowboy squad with his tantalizing 63-yard interception return for a touchdown as he dramatically altered the momentum of the contest on one singular play.  Williams continues to elevate himself as one of the top playmakers in the Big 12 conference, and teams with fellow cornerback Robert Jones as potentially one of the top duos in OSU history.  Williams added another interception, and broke up a third pass to riddle Roberson in the passing game.  Jones added a third interception with fantastic coverage on Jason Terry as Roberson attempted to hook up with Terry on a long streak pattern. 


Jon Holland continues to anchor the Cowboy defense from his free safety position with his bone rattling hitting style, and sure tackling in the open field.  Senior Freddie Sinclair, filling in for Elbert Craig at Weak Safety, successfully sacked Roberson on a well-timed safety blitz.


Overall Grade:  A+ ...Williams potentially earns Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors as the speedy secondary effectively contains the K-State option attack. 


Special Teams:  Few kickers possess the athletic ability of Cowboy senior Luke Phillips, a former soccer star in high school.  Miles and crew concoct one of the all-time, zany trick plays at holder Sky Rylant option pitches over his SHOULDER to a streaking Phillips, who picks up a first down to set up a crucial score.  Are you kidding me?!?  Phillips blazes 11 yards, and later booms a 50-yard field goal.  Exceptional kick-off and punt returns set the Pokes up with superior field position, and Cole Farden boots nearly every kick-off through the end zone.  Additionally, Farden launches punts with regularity as the Cowboy special teams dominate K-State. 


Overall Grade:  A+


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