Cowboys co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer considered the game that was (or wasn't) Savannah State, then spun ahead to the quickly changing landscape that awaits, beginning with Saturday's trip to Arizona.
“This week, we're getting off the dirt and getting on the highway,” Spencer said.
Are the Cowboys up to speed? Do we even know?
That's the unresolved reality that comes with facing overmatched and overwhelmed foes like Savannah State. There's no tangible measuring stick by which to gauge progress.
So here's what we learned — and didn't learn — from OSU's opener:
Learned: He was accurate, as advertised, completing all 11 passes he threw for OSU's first “perfect game” by a quarterback. He appeared calm and confident, too, not at all like some raw rookie.
To Be Determined: Lunt's accuracy was at least partially tied to a safe passing approach based largely on short to intermediate throws, with just one pass attempted downfield. How will he be when more variety is needed to move the chains? Lunt was never pressured or hurried Saturday, making it easy to remain calm. So his test under such scenarios is yet to come.
Learned: Much preseason curiosity centered on the search for replacement receivers. The buzz about OSU's promising youngsters seemed spot on, especially in the case of unheralded freshman Austin Hays, who led all receivers with eight catches and 77 yards, with a score. Each of the Cowboys' three TD passes were caught by first-year players, and six receivers overall posted their first career catch. Veteran Isaiah Anderson caught four quick passes for 63 yards before exiting early, confirming hopes about a breakout from him.
TBD: The Cowboys kept things simple, not getting too complicated with routes and assignments. So there's still much to be gleaned when the kids get stressed and stretched in the playbook. More of an issue is the ongoing saga of Tracy Moore, who sat — again — under suspension, casting more concern on whether he'll ever stray far from the doghouse.
Learned: Even with three new starters and mass substitutions, the OSU front played crisp and clean, paving the way for the running game to romp and keeping the quarterbacks comfortable throughout. Evan Epstein, in his debut as a starter at center, never showed up — which is a good thing.
TBD: Well, it was supposed to be easy, with the Tigers' defensive front four averaging 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. “The competition is not what we're accustomed to,” Mike Gundy said. “And we should have run the ball well.”
Pace Of Play
Learned: Offensive tempo had been a hot August topic, with Lunt and the new receivers pressing to replicate the pace established by Brandon Weeden and Co. Looked pretty adjusted in the early going, with the offense zipping through plays and touchdown drives that lasted 1:30,: 15, 1:06,: 55 and 1:15 to start the game. Defensively, the Cowboys swarmed to the ball and closed quickly on open space. “I hope that holds true throughout the season,” Gundy said.
TBD: The Tigers' defensive approach — little resistance — made it easy for Lunt to get the ball out quickly. How quick will the reads and adjustments come when the defensive looks become more complex?
Learned: A shutout and a virtual stonewalling, even with a “bunch of Rudys” on the field much of the fourth quarter, well, that's impressive. No major busts. No receivers running free. It's what you'd have wanted to see in an opener against anyone.
TBD: Spencer said it: off the dirt and onto the highway. Arizona sped to 624 total yards, running and passing (although not scoring) at will, in its 24-17 overtime win over Toledo. So a truer test is coming Saturday.