There’s a lot to talk about after the Cowboys’ heart-breaker in Waco so let’s get to it.
First things first...
Oh, the fumbles. The Cowboys have somehow managed to stay in the top three in the conference in turnover margin (0.25) thanks to their defense’s affinity for “taking it back”. The Cowboys are No. 2 in the Big 12 in forced fumbles with four (No. 1 is Baylor. They lead the Cowboys by three. Ouch.) and they are one off of the lead with three interceptions.
Unfortunately, nine takeaways looks worse when you have eight “giveaways”. Only Kansas (11) has coughed up more turnovers than Oklahoma State.
Bottom line: If the Cowboys don’t turn the ball over, they’re most likely 4-0. (Yes, I’m bringing up that interception in the end zone, Mr. Rudolph).
Speaking of the junior QB...
How we look at Mason Rudolph
Let me lay out the most unlikely example of a “bounce-back game”.
You throw for a school-record 540 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and follow it up with around half the yards, no touchdowns and a pick. The second one is the bounce-back game. Make sense?
This two-game sampling is really a curious thing to examine. All we heard (and said) about Mason Rudolph’s career game against Pitt was how inaccurate his throws were and how poor his decision-making was.
Now, after a less than impressive stat line and a loss against Baylor, you can’t find a complaint about the man. I don’t necessarily have a huge problem with it, either.
Defending the Deep Ball
The secondary obviously has some issues. Not “Oklahoma-bad”, but they have not been up to par.
In fact, the Cowboys defense is tied for 66th nationally, having given up 33 passing plays of ten yards or more.
If you look at 20+ yard passing plays, they drop down to 114th, having given up 18.
30+ yard plays? You’ll be sorry you asked. OSU is tied for second-to-last for all FBS teams with 12.
I know you’re going to point out that not everyone has played Baylor. That is a valid point. But not everyone is in the Big 12, where defenses are supposed to be built for that sort of thing.
The Cowboy secondary is relatively young, especially at cornerback. Ashton Lampkin and grad-transfer Lenzy Pipkins are the only seniors. Ramon Richards and transfer Malik Kearse are the only juniors. The rest of the group are either redshirt or true freshmen.
Things can improve. Adjustments can be made. The Cowboys definitely can’t afford any injuries, especially in the back end.
They will need to change if the Cowboys want to compete in the Big 12.