STILLWATER — Brandon Weeden used words like stupid and dumb.
Todd Monken went with catastrophic.
Listen to the Cowboys talk Saturday night, and you'd have thought they'd lost their opener. Hear the frustration in their voices, and you'd have thought they had a terrible day instead of one of the best performances in school history.
But on a night that Oklahoma State defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 61-34, it was evident that the Cowboys need to be better.
More precisely — and somewhat shockingly — Weeden needs to be better.
So good a season ago, the Cowboy quarterback threw three interceptions for just the second time in his career. The only other time came against Oklahoma. You can understand three picks against the Sooners, a powerhouse program. But against the Ragin' Cajuns?
“You can't turn it over three times,” said Monken, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator. “You can't throw two touchdowns on interceptions. You can't do that.”
Yep, to make matters worse, two of those interceptions were returned for scores.
“Unfortunately,” Monken said, “that's what clouds my mind right now.”
He's not the only one.
“Up and down, that's probably the best way to describe it,” Weeden said of his performance on a day that he threw for 388 yards and the Cowboys had 666 yards of offense, the ninth-highest in school history. “I did some good things, threw some good balls. Obviously, the third interception was stupid.”
Weeden credited Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley with a great play on the first interception, a pick that went for a touchdown. Bentley got him again on the second interception on a play when Weeden never even saw him.
Bentley, by the way, is a senior who'll probably get a shot at playing in the NFL.
The Cowboys knew how good he was.
“The sad part is, we're like, ‘OK, we're not going to throw his way and let him change the game,'” Monken said, “and damn it if we didn't throw a couple times over there and he picked off a couple passes.”
Those two interceptions were frustrating to Weeden, but they didn't miff him the way his third interception did.
He was angry at himself.
“That was just dumb,” he said. “That was one of those ones you want to just have a string on the ball so you can pull it back so you can tuck it up and take a sack. I hate taking sacks, but I'd rather take a sack than doing something stupid.”
But that's what he did. Louisiana-Lafayette brought a blitz forcing Weeden to step up in the pocket, but when the pressure still got to him, he tried to make a play anyway.
He was hit. The ball floated.
“What it stems from is I'm so dadgum competitive, I want to make a play all the time and you can't do that,” Weeden said. “Sometimes you've got to swallow the pill and move onto the next play.”
Monken said, “You want to be aggressive. You want to take shots. But you can't do that. You just can't.
“If it's a bad call, Brandon's got to make it better. You can't turn a poor call into a catastrophic call.”
By the way, the fact that the Cowboys are being so tough on themselves is a good thing. They are the ones who started talking about championship. Do that, and you raise the bar. Do that, and you elevate the expectations.
Do that, and you make three-interception performances by your quarterback unacceptable.
If the Cowboys truly want to contend for championships — there's no reason they shouldn't expect that with the talent they have — Weeden must be better.
Yes, it was the opening game of the season. Sure, it was the first game with Monken. But if you want to be a championship-caliber team, you have to be on top of your game all the time. One slip-up can cost you dearly with the system that exists in college football.
Weeden knows that. He's a smart guy. He's a savvy player. Truth be told, a game like Saturday might be a good thing, reminding even the most veteran of Cowboys that the target is bigger, the expectation higher as a top-10 team.
“Live and learn,” Weeden said. “I'll watch the tape and get better.”
If OSU wants to contend for a championship, you know he must.
If Weeden's past successes tell us anything, you know he will.