Grading The Cowboys

Man, was that fun. It's okay to admit it. We all know that Missouri State is no great shakes, and by the way, good luck to Terry Allen and his program the rest of the way. Allen is a classy coach and I feel he will do a tremendous job in the future in Springfield. His team was outmanned and it showed. Credit has to go to the Cowboys for doing what they were expected to do -- win convincingly.

It wasn't completely clean, but with the first team units in there it was solid. That said, here is how we graded out the position groups for the Cowboys in week one starting with special teams in honor of their starting the landslide 52-10 win.

Special Teams: A
Perrish Cox goes out and returns the opening kickoff 96 yards on his first collegiate touch of the ball, his first collegiate play. In all, Cox had 189 yards in returns (averaging 34.0 yards on punt returns, 96 yards on his only kickoff return, and 21 yards on his interception). Tommy Devereaux averaged 37.5 yards on two punt returns. Jason Ricks hit all seven PATs, and after missing a 42-yard field goal try nailed a 53-yarder, a nice comeback night for the special teams captain. Matt Fodge had a 72-yard punt, a career best to go with a 48-yard punt and a 38-yard boot, an average of 52.7-yards per punt. He also made an acrobatic save on Zach Allen's first punt snap, but Allen handling both chores for the first time settled down and was perfect on all other placement and punt snaps. Bruce Redden was just as impressive on kickoffs with five touchbacks on nine kickoffs.

Quarterbacks: B
Bobby Reid gave himself a C+, which is good that he feels there is that much improvement to make. But Reid engineered the offense well with drives of 63, 99, 42, 72, and 8 yards for touchdowns before retiring. He ran the ball when needed and if not for drops would have been 12 of 17 passing. No interceptions and four touchdowns is a winning ratio. Zac Robinson got lots of snaps in the second half. He made mistakes, but still guided the offense on a 70-yard scoring drive and was 4-of-7 passing for 49 yards. His play was as much about quantity as quality as he needed experience.

Running Backs: A
The only knock was Keith Toston's lone fumble and the only Cowboy turnover. Mike Hamilton showed he is improved. He is stronger, quicker, and his vision was outstanding as he waited on runs to develop. He may not be the flashiest runner to come down the Cowboy trail, but he is extremely consistent and productive. You will take 16 carries for 155 yards in one half anytime. Toston, is his first collegiate action, scored twice and showed promise. His fumble will be something the coaches can coach him up on. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield as well. Julius Crosslin is money in short yardage and goal line, his fourth down carry and conversion in the first half was a power running piece of beauty. Calvin Roberts did well. John Johnson caught a touchdown pass, and the other fullback, walk-on Jeremiah Burton was blowing up defenders with his blocks.

Wide Receivers: B-
Big plays, seven chunk plays in all, were nice, very nice. However, there were too many drops. Against better competition those plays will have to be made. Adarius Bowman is the difference maker everybody thought he would be. D'Juan Woods struggled with a couple of drops, but was typical fabulous Woods brother on the 72-yard touchdown that he took away from the corner and sprinted clear for the score. He and Reid just missed on a couple of other long tries. Another regret was seeing the ball in the hands of more players. We expect Ricky Price to be more involved and badly wanted a catch for Anthony Parks.

Tight Ends: B
Excellent blocking all night long and a key catch by Brandon Pettigrew and a career long catch of 23 yards by Justin Waller. They will have more involvement in the passing game, but the blocking again was solid.

Offensive Line: A
The competition will get better, but Saturday night was excellent. Brady Bond showed everybody why he climbed up the depth chart and became the final answer on the offensive line. You don't produce the way the Cowboys did without excellent run blocking and protection. Reid scrambled a couple of times and was caught on a zone read by a blitz for what was technically a sack. That happens, but this was a very solid first outing that the line will build on and a lot of young players, including freshman Russell Okung, got valuable experience in the second half.

Defensive Line: C+
There was plenty of solid play, but not much spectacular play out of the most veteran unit on the squad. Starting tackles Ryan McBean and Larry Brown combined for 1.5 tackles although granted one (Brown) was for a two-yard loss. The Missouri State quarterbacks were too comfortable throwing the ball unless the Cowboys blitzed. Freshman Derek Burton was outstanding in the second half with four tackles and one for a loss. On the whole it was okay, but this group, tackles and ends, are expected to be better.

Linebackers: B
A really strong first effort from a position that is inexperienced. The elder statesmen of the unit Rodrick Johnson, Marcus Brown and Jeremy Nethon were very good combining for 14.5 tackles. Johnson had the only sack of the night. Chris Collins was very good and also blocked a punt to start the second half setting up the put away touchdown. They surely had some busts, but they were as promised, quick, athletic, and made plays.

Secondary: B-
First, too many coverage busts and wide open receivers, but those can be corrected. What was good to see were all the receivers that were hit and hit hard while trying to make receptions. This group with their speed really breaks on the ball and with their attitude punished receivers trying to make catches. Jacob Lacey, Martel Van Zant and Perrish Cox were solid and will improve. Andre Sexton didn't get the big hit he craves, but he did strike the quarterback on a blitz forcing the lone interception in the game. Donovan Woods was solid, and again, all the younger players getting experience in the second half is a huge plus for down the line.

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