“We didn't say, ‘Hey, back off of them more,'” Young said.
And Brown admits giving up that much room in between him and the receiver can be frustrating.
“To tell you the truth, we don't like it either,” he said. “But you've got to play within the scheme of the defense. If you're out of position, then you'll really get talked about.”
There are several other factors that have contributed to the Cowboys' regression at cornerback.
Two backups, Devin Hedgepeth and Jonovan Griffin, were lost because of season-ending injuries, forcing true freshmen Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin into immediate playing time. The secondary no longer had safety Markelle Martin, a key leader and consistent performer. And Justin Gilbert was no longer pushed by the practice battles with superstar receiver Justin Blackmon.
More attention — and criticism — also naturally falls to the secondary, because, unlike the defensive line and linebackers, there's no one else to make up for their mistakes. Defensive end Cooper Bassett said his mates up front actually deserve the blame for the abundance of passing yards allowed.
“The reason the ball's getting there is because the defensive line isn't putting pressure on the quarterback,” he said. “We can make our corners look a whole heck of a lot better, if we're getting back to the quarterback and knocking him on his butt or deflecting passes or making him frustrated.”
In the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Purdue won't present a dangerous downfield passing attack. But the Boilermakers have utilized the short pass all season.
That could be dangerous for the Cowboys. Or it could give them a chance to prove they've come up with a better plan to contest those underneath throws.
“That's what we need to do to get better, and we need to do it in the bowl game,” Gundy said. “We've worked on it, we're continuing to work on it. …
“If we were defending those throws better, with everything else we did on defense, we would have been pretty good, now. So that's where we have to improve.”
Staff writer Jenni Carlson contributed to this report.