Grading the Cowboys

While most professors give away science fair awards and penmanship ribbons, Jay writes a letter of recommendation to the Heisman Memorial Trophy Committee on behalf of one of OSU's best football students...

Quarterback:  Pinpoint accuracy, exact timing and  deadly precision typify Josh Fields' day against the Aggies.  Fields, who turned in his best performance of the season last week, bested himself this Saturday with a masterful command of the OSU offense.  The Cowboys continually flexed their muscle against A&M in the ground game, and strategically set up and implemented the passing attack.  Additionally, Fields appeared to enjoy himself more so than any other contest this year, regularly "chatting" with and carrying on dialogue with his opponents.  Fields entered the locker room at halftime registering a razor sharp 12-of-16 (75 percent) for 127 yards and a touchdown.  Following up in the second half, and, with the game in the balance, Fields finished the day with an impressive 16-of-24 (64 percent) for 208 yards and two touchdowns to that No. 82.  Fields mechanics continue to progress into top form, as well as his decision-making ability.  As teams continue to double Rashaun Woods, Fields ability to find second and third receivers determines the ultimate success of this football team. 


Overall Grade:  A


Running Back:  On a popular sports network's post game-day wrap-up show, two of the analysts confirmed a growing truth concerning Tatum Bell.  For Each week the senior tailback from DeSoto destroys a defense with his lightening speed and cunning ball-carrying ability, Bell rises up the national rushing charts and commands the attention of, yes, even the Heisman Trophy voters.  Bell gained a decisive 196 yards on 29 carries for a ridiculous 6.8yards per carry average, and continues to set individual, single-season, single-game, career, and OSU rushing records with each carry.  Twice on fourth down, Bell overwhelmed the A&M defense with crushing touchdown runs of 40 and 26 yards.  Bell showed a lack on focus on one singular play as he coughed up the football, but proved he earned the confidence of the coaching staff as the offensive decision makers inserted him on the very next series.  Ladies and Gentlemen, consider Tatum Bell active in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy.      


Overall Grade:  B+ ... Fumbles still count as a letter grade, mind you!    


Wide Receivers:  In the exact fashion of every other week this season, Rashaun Woods, by merely appearing in a football uniform and donning his No. 82 jersey at Kyle Field, devastated the A&M defense.  This week, the senior All-American paved the way for a solid performance by his younger brother, D'Juan Woods, who hauled in several Josh Fields passes on key third down conversion attempts.  In fact, D'Juan's six receptions stand as his personal single-game best.  In addition, Rashaun maximized each receiving opportunity, scorching the Tech secondary for 109 yards and two touchdowns on FOUR catches.  Over the last two or three weeks, D'Juan continues to blossom into the second receiver opposite of Rashaun, needed by the Cowboys to capitalize on single coverage, and, at times against A&M, no coverage at all due to the attention given big brother.  D'Juan a pass late in the contest that ended a Cowboy drive, however, with the game securely in hand, the minor miscue proved minimal. 


Overall Grade:  A


Tight Ends:  See Offensive Line.  Unnecessary in the passing game this week as Fields utilized additional wide receivers (namely D'Juan Woods) in progressing the offense.  EXPECT increased use of the Tight End in key future games. 

Overall Grade:  N/A


Offensive Line:  We now consider Shawn Willis a sixth offensive lineman.  Conjuring memories of Cowboy great Garrett Limbrick, Willis developed into a dominating blocking force over the course of this season.  You remember Limbrick, don't you?  The bowlegged fullback on the legendary '88 squad joined the famed war-pigs in busting open holes for Mr. You-Know-Who in route to a season words fail to describe.  This offensive line, similar to last season's, continues to gel as a unit, and spearheads one of the Nation's deadliest and most balanced attacks.  The Cowboys possess the ability to rush at will, and without disguise, and continue to allow Fields plenty of time to find open receivers.  A slip of focus from time to time leads to a sack or hurry, however, the O-Line unit gives the Cowboys the opportunity to score on each and every possession.  Scouts, coaches and analysts label freshman right tackle Corey Hilliard  a future All-American.  Willis brings every ounce of strength and girth from his 250-pound frame in walloping defenders attempting to tackle Bell or Fields.  The power-sweep that includes a pulling guard and Willis forming a convoy for Bell continues to become a key play in the Cowboy's offensive arsenal.


Overall Grade:  A


Defensive Line:  The cream rises to the top in Big 12 play, and Saturday's contest found none other than true freshman Brad Girtman in the starting defensive front, playing along side Cowboy veterans Clay Coe, Greg Richmond and Antonio Smith.  Later in the game, the defensive staff utilized Efe Mowarin and fellow true freshman Xavier Lawson-Kennedy at the tackle slots to give Girtman and Coe valuable rest.  Khreem Smith and Marque Fountain rotated with Antonio Smith and Greg Richmond at the end position.  The Cowboy defensive brain trust continues to implement the defensive front of Coe, Richmond and both of the Smiths on passing downs, maximizing athletic ability and speed against the aerial assault of opposing teams. 


Against the Aggies, the Cowboy's found "stacking" defensive ends on the same side an effective means to slow A&M's attack, and limit quarterback Reggie McNeal's ability to beat the Pokes with his legs, or on a roll-out pass.  The defensive alignment resulted from superior scouting and game planning during the week.  Richmond and Fountain each logged sacks in the matchup.


A&M tailback Courtney Lewis rushed for a huge chunk of yardage against the Pokes, due to a combination of poor tackling by the Cowboys, and Lewis' tremendous ability.  Each unit assumes a degree of responsibility for Lewis' big day, however, the entire defensive squad earns credit for making big plays again in key situations, and limited the Aggies to a mere 10 points on the scoreboard.   


Overall Grade:  B ...  Held the Aggies to 10 points, but overall improvement in tackling imperative by next week.


Linebackers:  Pagitte McGee earns my Defensive Player of the Game award, as the sophomore linebacker complied his greatest performance to date in a Cowboy uniform.  McGee took major steps toward fulfilling his vast ability.  McGee tallied two important tackles for losses, which aided in ending A&M drives.  McGee finished with seven tackles, tying fellow backer Paul Duren and End Greg Richmond.  The trio ranked second on the squad in tackles behind Defensive Backs Vernon Grant and Jon Holland, who totaled eight tackles apiece.  On the negative side, the linebackers allowed an occasional pass over the middle, and showed some weakness in the running game up the middle.  Normally strength of the unit, poor tackling accounted for the sub par performance more than positioning.    


Overall Grade:  B-  ...  Tackle that man!!  McGee saves the B.


Defensive Backs:  Ah, the inconsistent and highly criticized secondary.  The Poke defensive backs failed to earn the full trust of the Cowboy faithful again this week as erratic play and mental lapses limited their opportunity to clamp down on an opponent's passing game.  Darrent Williams led the way in the "Jeckel and Hyde" category with a dazzling interception, followed by allowing A&M's longest passing play of the game.  Let's try to break this down.  When attentive, Williams and Jones seem to form an effective duo on the perimeter.  Both lead the team in interceptions, and PBUs.  Jon Holland plays an exceptionally effective Free Safety.  Since filling in for Elbert Craig, Jamar Ransom improved each game in both the run and the pass.  Ransom brings a physical presence when he tackles.  Vernon Grant acts as a spark plug in the secondary with quick striking blitzes, and usually sure-tackling.  Focus presents itself as a problem from time to time as athleticism, tackling, and playmaking ability prove evident for each member of the secondary.  The unit allows yardage between the 20's, yet stiffens its neck in the red zone.  Busted coverages lead to big plays, however only 10 points appear on the scoreboard for the Aggies.  The jury remains out on this group, however, next week provides the ultimate measuring stick.  


Overall Grade:  C+ ... Grant tackles better than seen this week, and Williams and Jones appeared sleepy at times. 


Special Teams:  A&M entered Saturday's contest boasting one of the Nation's top kick-off return units.  Cole Farden eliminated any opportunity for the Aggie specialists to utilize their talents against the Pokes.  Farden launched nearly every kick-off out of the end zone.  Luke Phillips continues to prove keenly accurate on field goals, and Farden doubles as a highly effective punter.  The Aggies, in return (Ha Ha) limit Lindsay and Darrent Williams opportunities to get loose on punts.   


Overall Grade:  A

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