Cowboys Use Huge Second Half From Weeden to Beat Aggies

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The term “tale of two halves” gets bandied about a lot in the college football world. Ranked teams don’t give enough credit to an upstart bunch from a tiny school, and then all of a sudden they find themselves down at the half and are shocked back into playing like they’re capable of.

Obviously the “upstart” tag could hardly be applied to the number 8 team in the country, but the Texas A&M Aggies came out Saturday afternoon and punched the Oklahoma State Cowboys right in the mouth. On only the fourth play from scrimmage of the game, Aggie QB Ryan Tannehill took advantage of overzealous Cowboy defensive lineman and busted a 65 yard touchdown run up the middle to give his team the early 7-0 advantage. The Aggies rode that momentum all the way through the first half, scoring another touchdown thanks to a great catch by Jeff Fuller, and at the end of 30 minutes A&M had a 20-3 lead, and “The 12th man” at Kyle Field was up for grabs. Things were looking bleak for the Cowboys, but things turned around quickly.

Thanks to 47 completions for 437 yards by Cowboy QB Brandon Weeden, including nearly 300 in the second half, Oklahoma State came roaring back and took a 24-20 lead after the third quarter. The 21 unanswered points scored by OSU matched the same feat that they pulled off against the Aggies last season, when they were trailing big at the half in Stillwater. Texas A&M enabled the surge in a big way, going from the crisp and well-oiled machine that racked up 301 first half yards to a bumbling bunch of goofs who turned the ball over three times in 15 minutes. It was a huge reversal of fortune that caught many by surprise, and it didn’t end with that. Oklahoma State added two more field goals in the fourth, and they ended up winning 30-29 to escape College Station in what could be their final game against the Aggies.

There is only one question that can really be asked in a situation like this: what on Earth got into the Cowboys? They looked like a dejected team after the first half, but they came out of the tunnel and immediately went to work on torturing the Aggie defense en route to a huge comeback. With that being said, what were the key factors for both teams, and what storylines from this game will be the most critical going forward? Here are five items that should be spotlighted in the aftermath of this thriller in College Station:

Justin Blackmon Inexplicably Goes DeSean Jackson on Us

Late in the third quarter, with momentum completely swung back around to the Oklahoma State side of the ledger, the Cowboys were driving again to try to put a final dagger into the Aggie effort. Weeden completed a pass to OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who had an unimpeded path to the end zone when he did something incredibly odd. Instead of just tucking the ball under his arm and scoring, it appeared that he was trying to the ball in front of him, possibly to celebrate the touchdown, but it came loose and went through the end zone, giving Texas A&M the ball again and giving them second life.The play was reminiscent of DeSean Jackson’s play against the Dallas Cowboys a few years back, when he flipped the ball behind him before he crossed the goal line.

This is but one of many examples of “premature jocularity” (a phrase coined by Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick), and Blackmon will certainly get a talking to by the Cowboys’ coaching staff, but the end result of the play could have been a lot worse if the Aggies had come back to win.

In his defense, Blackmon did catch 11 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Ryan Tannehill: What Went Wrong?

Tannehill had that great touchdown scamper and pass to Jeff Fuller in the first half of Saturday’s game, but he quickly lost his composure as the Aggies’ offensive line started to let all sorts of pressure get at their quarterback, and he responded by throwing two interceptions and looked demoralized at the end of the disastrous third quarter.

So what exactly went wrong for Tannehill? Did he try to force the ball into places he shouldn’t have in an effort to stem the tide of the Cowboys’ comeback? Did his pass protection break down with a frequency that inevitably led him to turn the ball over? Of course, it was both of those things, but it seemed as though the Aggies got away from the mix of run and pass that had gotten them to the point where they were up 20-3, and they only managed 15 yards rushing in the second half.

Even with the significant drop off in protection and change in game plan, Tannehill still managed to throw for 309 yards, and he looked pretty solid against a good Cowboy defense. The three interceptions he threw would point to him having a bad game, but the reality is that he was a victim of circumstances that were not entirely within his control.

An Improved Offensive Balance in the Second Half Propels Cowboys to Victory

In the first half of the game, Oklahoma State only managed 32 yards on the ground as their offense struggled to get going against an aggressive Aggies’ defense. The A&M secondary proved to be adept at making life difficult for Weeden, as he did manage 153 yards but no touchdowns. He was also sacked several times, and the nation’s leading passer was rendered ineffective.

In the second half, however, the Cowboys used a lot more of their run game to allow Weeden more time to pass. On the first drive, they mixed plays up beautifully, and after an excellent catch and run by WR Josh Stewart, RB Jeremy Smith punched the ball into the end zone to get the scoring started.

In the end, Weeden passed for nearly 300 yards in the second half, and it was all thanks to the Cowboys re-establishing their run game.

What Positives Can A&M Take From This Loss?

Even though the Aggies turned the ball over four times in the second half, there were some real positives that they can take out of this game:

-They rushed for 162 yards, which normally would have been good enough to get Tannenhill all the space he needed to throw the ball, but aside from that, Christine Michael and the other backs did a solid job of moving the ball and eating clock for the Aggies.

-While receiver Jeff Fuller gets most of the headlines for A&M in the wideout department, WR Ryan Swope had a tremendous game on Saturday, catching seven passes for 105 yards. He enabled Fuller to get open a lot of the time by occupying the OSU secondary, and if he can continue to do that going forward, the Aggies offense will have more good days than bad in the future.

-The Aggies were nearly down and out at the end of the third quarter, but even though the momentum was not on their side, the Aggies did manage to score with a little more than two minutes to go, and they did get one final possession to try to tie the game up before the end of regulation. This unwillingness to give up will serve them well in Big 12 play, and it will hopefully be an attitude that they will carry with them if and when they move to the SEC next season.

C0wboys Put Up Big Effort In Support of Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer

The win was a bittersweet one for the Cowboys, as it came a week after personal tragedy affected one of the key members of the team’s coaching staff.

During last week’s weather lengthened game against Tulsa, OSU co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was given word that his wife, who had received a heart transplant a year and a half ago, had passed away. The team attended a visitation for her on Tuesday, and head coach Mike Gundy went to her funeral service in Georgia on Wednesday.

In another touching display of affection for their coach, the players, led by Markelle Martin, had special decals made up with the initials “AS” on them, and Spencer only agreed to the tribute because it was his players who were advocating the stickers. The tributes were touching, as was the story told on the broadcast, and the fact that the Cowboys won with Spencer in the booth and his sons in the stands was especially great.

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