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Three Storylines: Week 4

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NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s look at three talking points for the Cowboys as they look forward to their conference opener.

Mike Gundy’s thoughts on Mason Rudolph’s game

Pitt v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of dialogue about Mason Rudolph’s accuracy this week. We all watched the game. There were several overthrown passes, mostly coming at inopportune times. Which I guess would be the case for any overthrown pass.

But what did Mike Gundy think about Rudolph’s career game? Here’s a quote from his post game press conference.

“Unlike last week you know where I said the quarterback had struggled, he played pretty good today. He missed a few throws. I think he missed maybe three. But overall his accuracy was tremendous today on deep balls and then we felt like Washington and Seales and Lacy and McCleskey had to go get the ball and make plays based on the coverage that Pitt’s going to use, Coach Narduzzi and that philosophy from Michigan State.”

Interesting. If I may, let’s dig into this a bit. Is there something to those “overthrown” passes? Gundy said they felt like the receivers would have to “go get the ball and make plays” based on the defense Pitt played.

Is he saying that those were all correctly over thrown? I seem to remember more than three or four that looked like a he expected James Washington to be wearing rocket shoes.

The Cowboys were a mismatch for Pitt’s secondary. Is it actually possible that Mason Rudolph was instructed to lob soft marshmallow blimps across the middle for tallest guy who wanted to reach for it?

No. I’m not buying it. I think Mike Gundy has a reason for what he says. After the CMU loss, Gundy talked about Rudolph pressing some. He also said that they wanted Rudolph to know they were confident in him.

Uh oh. Confidence issues? Is this an indication of some big problem with Rudolph’s psyche?

No. He’s just a human 21-year old kid who is under a different kind of pressure than most people will ever know. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Believe it or not, Mike Gundy has learned how to deal with his quarterbacks over the years. Okay, he’s better. Besides, how was he supposed to trash a guy for a record-setting performance? Right, guys?

Cleaning up mistakes

Southeast Louisiana v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

The game on Saturday was a lot of things, but no one will accuse it of being pretty.

Mason Rudolph fumbled twice, once into the end zone. (You got this, bud.) Ben Grogan missed a field goal. There was a blocked punt and and kickoff that went out of bounds. Let’s not forget sweep, after reverse, after “where did he go?” from Pitt’s creative running game.

While Pittsburgh was more than a formidable foe, conference play starts in Waco this week and it’s the Cowboys first game on the road. They can’t afford to continue flirting with disaster if they want to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive.

Last year, we saw the Cowboys benefit from several last-minute plays and luck, coming out on top time after time. We’ve learned already that 2016 will not be so kind.

The Cowboys will have to clean up some of these mishaps or there will be a certain segment of society, clad in orange, maniacally calling for all kinds of people’s jobs.

The Running Back rotation

Pitt v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

When it was announced pregame that Chris Carson was out due to injury, most assumed that Justice Hill would get the nod. If not Hill, than possibly Barry J. Sanders would finally get a chance to get into a rhythm. Nope. Jeff Carr?

The last person I actually expected to start was Rennie Childs. And he just came out and had a career game. 101 yards and four touchdowns on 10+ per attempt.

“We ran for four touchdowns.”

While Childs had a big game, the Cowboys as a whole only averaged 3.13 yards per carry. In fact, in the first three games of the season the have failed to reach 4.0 per carry in any single game.

Any illusions that the Cowboys were going to “figure out the running game” this season seem unlikely to come to fruition. But if they can use their passing attack to stretch out the defense and decide who they’re best running back option is, there still can be progress.

Mike Gundy believes the offensive line is closer to being able to make strides in the running game. I guess we will see. The Cowboys travel to Baylor for their road and conference opener against a Baylor Bear defense that while depleted in depth still has some players on defense.

Note: Chris Carson will be out for a few weeks per Dave Hunziker. (Credit to Pistols Firing Blog). So, it’s going to come down to Rennie Childs, Justice Hill, Barry J. Sanders and Jeff Carr. Yep, that’s all.

We can assume the depth chart will probably descend in that order, at least for this weekend. Of course, we were wrong on Saturday.