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On Corndogs, Controversies, and Expecations

A look at QB1 and why fans expect more in a “down” season.

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this game I considered penning some thoughts on the evolution of the quarterback situation in Stillwater, OK. Instead, I decided to consume one more game of the Corndog Experience with the expectation hoping having literally no idea whether or not I would gain any more clarity on the situation.

The first drive did nothing, but the second time around this happened:

Followed immediately by this:

It was just two throws, but they may have also been the best two throws of the season to that point.

Cornelius followed that up with a very nice first half in general and temporarily stemmed the tide of doubt. As Phillip alluded to, if he had been subbed out then this discussion would be a lot simpler. But then two picks happened and the doubters drank it in as fuel for the #putsomeoneelsein machine.

I admit that around the time of Spring football I both hoped and expected one of the new guys to take the top spot in the QB room. But somewhere between reports of Cornelius looking good in camp and Sanders and Brown enrolling late I accepted that Cornelius would be the starter.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe there’s a lot of fans like me that just accepted that he was the starter without really believing he was the guy. Maybe fans have trouble getting excited about a career backup.

But then if all this is the case, how do we reconcile high fan expectations with the question marks coming into the year? Why am I waxing poetic on QB1 for a team picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll? How did we go from flirting with thoughts of bowl eligibility to panicking about the viability of a top-25-Total QBR Taylor Cornelius?

For me, my opinion on the situation diverges from a large portion of the fanbase right after the point of acceptance. After I accepted the fact, I went on to embrace it as the best opportunity for the 2018 Cowboys to succeed. That’s where I’m at right now. It’s not a hill I’ll die on, and it’s an ongoing evaluation, but it’s where I’m at.

‘Those stats are inflated!’

Sure, but that’s why I pulled Total QBR, which adjusts for strength of opponent.

‘Yeah, but the eye test!’

You’re not wrong, he’s made some bad throws, missed open receivers, held the ball too long at times, and tucked the ball too fast at others.

But he’s also made some great throws and generally commands the offense with aplomb.

‘He’s no Mason Rudolph!’

First, *eyeroll .gif*. It may be a little unfair to compare the guy who’s been a backup for 4 years to the most decorated QB in school history (IN HIS FIRST MEANINGFUL GAME ACTION SINCE HIGH SCHOOL!!).

Second, do we need him to be? We’ve grown accustomed to machine-like precision on the deep ball, but is that what makes the 2018 Cowboys successful? I think with the weapons at RB and some creativity, this offense has the chance to grind out some wins in a style that foils previous years. You want to be able to mix in a deep ball so we can drool over ability of Tyron and Tylan to keep the defense on their heels and open up the box, but it doesn’t have to be the feature it has been in the recent past.

Third, this looked at least a little familiar, right?

This all leads into my biggest concern. (In)consistency. If we ignore the second quarter in the first game, and the third quarter in the second, we’ve exhausted this topic. We’re writing about how excited we are about the start of the Cornelius era in Stillwater, OK. But that’s not how this works.

Corndawg’s arm has a second gear that can raise eyebrows and squeeze throws into tight windows:

But it’s the times he takes something (see: way too much) off that has fans concerned:

Aside from the staunchest of Cornelius haters, all of us Cowboy fans were hoping he would have come out of the gates flawless. Literally no drop-off from the top passing offense in the country from a year ago. But this was never realistic.

The reality is that Gundy has created a Top-25 beast of a program that stands defiant to low expectations. The reality for this year is a good, but different team. How good, and how different, is yet to be determined. For now, a lot of that seems to rest on Cornelius’ shoulders. And to that end we’ll find out a lot more this week against a massive increase in competition level.

Whether you’re rooting for his success, or his successor, this week we really start to learn how much the fates of Cornelius and the Cowboys are intertwined.

Is it Saturday yet?