STILLWATER — It's finals week at Oklahoma State, which makes it the perfect time to give the Cowboys their report card.
OSU finished tied for third in the Big 12 and with a 7-5 record. There's one more contest to go, sure, but bowl games are, more or less, regarded as extra credit.
Here's how the Cowboys grade out by position:
True freshman Wes Lunt began the season as the starter, but injuries forced J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf into that role. By the end of the season, Chelf was the starter and Lunt was the third-teamer.
And all three quarterbacks, for the most part, kept the Cowboy offense rolling. Each passed for more than 1,000 yards — the first time that's happened in Big 12 history — and played a part in directing a high-powered attack that ranked seventh in the nation in passing (333.42 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (44.67 points per game).
Additionally, by the end of the season, we had seen a real glimpse of the special run-throw package for Walsh that was mostly used in goal-line and short-yardage situations. He tallied four rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown in OSU's final three games after recovering from what was originally identified as a season-ending injury.
One key area of concern for the quarterbacks? The pick-six. The Cowboys threw four of them — three by Lunt and one by Chelf.
Running backs: A-
Joseph Randle put together another excellent season for the Cowboys, rushing for 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns and adding 28 catches for 224 yards. He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by both The Associated Press and the league's coaches.
But perhaps even more important than Randle's stats was the fact that he was such a dependable force for an offense that was banged up at several positions for much of the season.
Injuries limited Jeremy Smith for a good portion of the Big 12 schedule, but he compiled 331 yards and seven touchdowns. Sophomore Desmond Roland also got in the mix at times, finishing with 250 yards and four scores.
Another position that was hampered by injuries — most notably a season-ender to Tracy Moore — but still got solid production.
Josh Stewart became a go-to target because of his versatility and ability to make plays in space after the catch. He finished with 96 receptions for 1,154 yards and seven touchdowns.
No other receiver displayed the same consistency, but veterans Charlie Moore (500 yards, five touchdowns) and Isaiah Anderson (329 yards, three touchdowns) and true freshman Austin Hays (369 yards, two touchdowns) each had their moments. The big-bodied Blake Jackson (565 yards, two touchdowns) could have been an even more dangerous weapon if he could have consistently held onto the football.
Offensive line: A
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline continues to be one of the more underrated assistant coaches in all of college football.
The Cowboys lost three starters from last season's unit, and projected starting left tackle Michael Bowie just before fall camp began, yet still tied for eighth nationally in sacks allowed (10) and helped OSU rush for more than 215 yards per game.
Defensive line: B
Calvin Barnett, who was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, and James Castleman gave the Cowboys arguably their best defensive tackle combination in a decade. They consistently plugged the interior, which helped OSU rank third in the Big 12 in rushing defense (140.6 yards allowed per game).
Nigel Nicholas, Cooper Bassett, Ryan Robinson and Tyler Johnson all contributed at defensive end, but did not possess the consistent pass rush or threat to make a big play that Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones brought to the position a season ago.
OSU ranked fifth in the Big 12 in sacks.
Other than a subpar performance against the pass at Arizona, this position group was solid all season.
Caleb Lavey brought a steady presence in the middle with 51 tackles, while Alex Elkins led the team with 73 stops and Shaun Lewis continued to fill the defensive stat line (56 tackles, four quarterback hurries, four pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery).
Linebacker also proved to be a position of depth, as Lyndell Johnson, Ryan Simmons and Joe Mitchell all displayed valuable speed and athletic ability.
The back end of the Cowboy defense was, by far, the group that was the most disappointing this season.
Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, who were touted before 2012 as perhaps the best duo in the Big 12, combined for zero interceptions during the regular season after each tallied five a year ago. And they consistently struggled in pass coverage, getting beat early in the season by the deep ball and then leaving too much cushion for receivers to make the catch down the stretch.
Additionally, another season-ending Achilles injury to Devin Hedgepeth was a blow to the depth at that position, throwing true freshmen Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin into immediate playing time.
Daytawion Lowe has developed into a physical player at free safety, recording 68 tackles, one sack, four pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Shamiel Gary had numerous problems in pass coverage early on, but improved as the season went along. Zack Craig also had a knack for the big play.
Special teams: C+
Kicking and punting master Quinn Sharp gets an A+, as he led the nation in field goals (2.08 per game), ranked first among kickers in scoring (11.67 points per game) and was named the Big 12 co-Special Teams Player of the Year.
The Cowboys also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including one by Gilbert that was an electrifying display of speed.
So why the low grade?
OSU allowed three returns for touchdowns, two on kickoffs against Texas and Kansas State and one on a punt against Oklahoma. All three plays drastically swung momentum and were a big factor in each loss.