The Cowboys finished their season by thumping Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, 58-14. It’s been a wild season filled with ups and downs. It’s time to figure out where the Cowboys stand at seasons end, compared to how they started – a 59-38 loss to Arizona – and every game along the way.
QUARTERBACK: Rising (+3)
Clint Chelf isn’t guaranteed the starting job when Mike Gundy makes his choice this Spring, but Chelf didn’t hurt his chances on Tuesday. Other than some overthrown deep balls, Chelf was nearly flawless at the position: 17-22, 197 yards and three touchdowns. Even the backups got time late, and produced. J.W. Walsh: 5-7, 86 yards and two touchdowns. Wes Lunt: 1-3, 12 yards. At the end of the day, five different Cowboys threw a pass on Saturday. Three of them could start for Texas. And one will lead the Cowboys next season. This group is in good shape, barring some tough decisions next year by the OSU coaching staff.
GROUND GAME: Falling (+4)
If this was Joseph Randle’s final game playing for OSU, it was a lackluster one: 17 carries, 66 yards. It’s not that Randle played poorly; it was more a product of Purdue’s run-stop-first defensive strategy, and the blowout score. But still, it’s hard to imagine that Randle didn’t break the century mark in yardage, especially when the Cowboys had such a big lead late. But Gundy kept airing it out at times. Throughout the season, Randle has lived up to the hype. His NFL future can start now, if he so chooses. With backup Jeremy Randle’s health improving, the Cowboys will be set at this position next season, no matter what.
AIR GAME: Rising (+2)
No established number-one target at receiver? No problem. At least, not against this Purdue defense. Five different Cowboys caught touchdown passes on Tuesday. Isaiah Anderson and Josh Stewart shared most of the load, each hauling in five passes. Stewart will enter next fall as the top wideout in this system, as he should, but there are still questions about this group. Will Tracy Moore regain his health and finally live up to expectations? Will a freshman phenom step to the plate (possibly Laquon Treadwell, if he chooses OSU)? Stay tuned.
FRONT SEVEN: Rising (+4)
Things came full circle on Tuesday for this group. Calvin Barnett, Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year, was spectacular – batting a pass that led to a Shamiel Gary interception and terrorizing Robert Marve all game long. But he also had a personal foul penalty. He’s got a chance to do special things next season, if he keeps his head in check. The linebackers also had an extremely productive day. Tyler Johnson recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles. Caleb Lavey added another sack. The Cowboys will need to replace some senior leadership in the linebacking corps, but they look strong entering next season.
SECONDARY: Rising (+1)
Without a doubt, this has been the most disappointing position group this fall for the Cowboys. But on Tuesday, they made a memorable exit to the season. Justin Gilbert forced a fumble, Brodrick Brown recovered it. Shamiel Gary and Andrae May each recorded interceptions. Robert Marve did throw two touchdown passes, but that was in slop time. It’s hard to say how this group will respond next season, especially with the loss of Brown, who will most likely try to make it in an NFL camp. Gilbert will play a huge roll in this group’s rejuvenation next season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Rising (+2)
It looks like the Cowboys might have found their answer at punt returner next season. Josh Stewart nearly took one for a touchdown, eventually getting tackled deep in Boilermaker territory after a 64-yard return. But the real story on Tuesday was Quinn Sharp. He went 3-for-3 on field goals to finish his OSU career 50-58, 151-152 on extra points to total 301 points. That’s fourth most in school history. He’ll be tough to replace next season.
OVERALL: Rising (+2)
To be honest, anything less than a blowout victory would have been disappointing for the Cowboys. So by demolishing Purdue, OSU did what it should have. The Boilermakers might win one conference game, had they played in the Big 12. As a whole, this season was mildly successful considering the injuries to the quarterback corps and the lackluster play of the defense. Had it not been for a fumble/not fumble in the Texas game or a tackle in the OU matchup, the storylines of this season could have been completely different. A “+2” from the Arizona game to now is pretty accurate. Not the most memorable season in Stillwater, but special all the same.