After narrowly escaping a disastrous start to the 2011 season the Cowboys have a chance to build on their late game momentum against another FCS foe in Texas State. The offense showed great promise last Saturday under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, while the defense put in a mighty disappointing performance. Another winnable FCS game is just what the doctor ordered for the Cowboys as they continue to develop their young QB and they can figure out just what they are doing on defense (was that a 3-4, a 4-3 or a 3-3-5?). In an overview of the two teams it appears that the Cowboys should have what it takes to jump to 2-0 in 2011, as they hold the edge against the Bobcats in most of the in-game scenarios.
When the Cowboys Run:
The triple threat from the running back position proved successful in the first game and all three backs posted very comparable numbers (Miller: 59 yards; Alexander: 30 yards, 1 TD; Muhammad: 37 yards), however it is hard to imagine that the team will use the three backs evenly throughout the season. Brett Smith also showed himself capable of making plays with the ball in his hands as he picked up 44 yards on the ground (66 without including sacks). The Cowboy offensive line appeared to create a better initial push than at any time last season, but the Pokes still looked unsure of their ability to run in short yardage situations. The Cowboys should be able to generate success on the ground against their second FCS opponent, as Texas State gave up 157 rush yards to Texas Tech a week ago.
When the Cowboys Pass:
Brett Smith looked great in his Cowboy debut, as did entirety of the young receiving corps. Smith connected on 27 of his 41passes for 294 yards while racking up 3 touchdowns including the game winner with just 22 seconds remaining. Smith’s lone interception came on his first pass of the night on a ball that clearly slipped out of his hands. The receivers, lead by Robert Herron (7 catches, 104 yards and 2 TD) and Mazi Ogbonna (6 catches, 42 yards and 1 TD), had a solid night and provided every indication that the unit is more capable than it was a year ago. Mr. consistent, Chris McNeill, also made an impact and brought down what may have been the biggest catch of the night on the 4th and 11 pass from Smith that set up the go ahead touchdown on the final drive. The Cowboys also utilized all of their running backs in the passing game as the unit gained over 100 yards through the air providing an added dimension to Dave Christensen’s spread offense. Texas State on the other hand gave up 348 yards through the air to the Red Raiders last weekend.
When the Bobcats Run:
It was a little presumptuous last week to assume that the Cowboys would fair better than their FCS opponent across the board and Weber State held a decided advantage when running and throwing against the Cowboy defense. This week the Cowboys will be going up against a pistol offense that uses an option style running attack. The Bobcats racked up 256 yards a week ago, while the Cowboy defense allowed 227 yards on the ground against Weber State. The defense had, by any other name, a poor game last week. However, if you want to look for a silver lining, the undersized Cowboy defense always seems to post good outings against option teams (a la Air Force). The Cowboys should post a better performance against the run having one game under their belt, but there is no way that they can be seen to have an advantage in this department.
When the Bobcats Pass:
The Bobcats showed virtually no ability to move the ball through the air last weekend and are undecided on who will be playing quarterback this weekend; Shaun Rutherford started last weekend but was relieved by Tyler Arndt after a bevy of turnovers stung the Bobcats. Their problems should provide a boost to a young Cowboy secondary that struggled to defend the pass a week ago. While the Cowboys gave up 314 yards through the air to the Wildcats, the Bobcats could only muster only 75 yards through the air against the Red Raiders. This week the Cowboy Safeties will be in charge of run support and will play assignment football leaving the two corners on their own much of the time. This bodes well for the Cowboys as Tashaun Gibson and Marqueston Huff are both capable of handling one on one matchups despite their rough outing a week ago. The simplistic passing offense associated with option football will definitely give the edge to the Cowboys when the Bobcats throw.
Neither the Cowboys nor the Bobcats made any real noise in the special teams department last weekend. The Cowboys had a solid showing in the punting game with Austin McCoy averaging 44.7 yards per punt and Stewart Williams was a perfect 5-5 on extra point attempts (the Cowboys did not attempt any field goals). The Bobcats punter average 57.3 yards on 3 punts and they used their quarterback to punt twice (most likely for quick kicks). The Bobcats were 1-1 on extra points and Will Johnson made his only field goal attempt from 40 yards. Both teams failed to impress in the return game while both managed kickoff coverage fairly well. The only notable special teams event between the two teams was the extra point block by the Cowboys’ Mike Purcell. With the little information available in this early season, special teams appears to be a push.
Dennis Franchione is something of a journeyman within the college coaching ranks making FBS head coaching stops at New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M while posting a 107-82 record over that time. He managed two conference titles in the WAC with TCU and pulled New Mexico off of the door mat which it had been clinging to for years. Franchione has been out of coaching since 2007 and this is his first season with the Bobcats. Given his long career and vast experience as a coach, Franchione gets the nod over Dave Christensen in this contest. It is worth noting, however, that Franchione is a bit of a fallen star, but at the same time Dave Christensen still has much to prove in his young coaching career.
Chris: The offense nailed my prediction of 35 points a week ago, but the defensive performance was offensive and killed my spread. This week the Cowboys will continue their offensive tirade and the defense will come around as they always do when facing the option. The early season momentum combined with a little cool Wyoming weather and everybody’s favorite – elevation will let the Cowboys pull away in the second half.
Cowboys 40 – Bobcats 24
Chad: The Pokes picked up a lot of momentum on offense with their come from behind win and the defense will be looking to prove they aren’t nearly as bas as they showed on film versus Weber State. With those two factors in mind there is no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys will win. Look for the offense to move the ball and stay balanced against an over matched Texas State defense. The defense should be improved going against a team running the pistol that will call for a more assignment based defense that should limit the confusion we saw last week.
Cowboys 38 - Bobcats 17
Topics: Air Force, Alvester Alexander, Brandon Miller, Brett Smith, Chris McNeill, Cowboys, Dave Christensen, Dennis Franchione, Football, Ghaali Muhammad, Gregg Brandon, Marqueston Huff, Mazi Ogbonna, New Mexico, Robert Herron, Shaun Rutherford, Stewart Williams, Tashaun Gibson, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tyler Arndt, Weber State, Wyoming