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OSU football finals-week report card: Fiesta Bowl-bound Cowboys get high marks

OSU FOOTBALL — For a team sitting 11-1 and headed to the Fiesta Bowl early next month, there were plenty of high grades to be given.
BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, gmizell@opubco.com Published: December 17, 2011
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Oklahoma State has wrapped up finals week, which means it's time to give some grades out to the Cowboy football team that put together the best regular season in school history.

OSU can still capture a program-best 12th win with a Fiesta Bowl victory against Stanford. But for now, let's look at that game as extra credit.

QUARTERBACKS: A

There are plenty of reasons why Brandon Weeden was a serious Heisman contender late in the season and will go down as the best quarterback in OSU history.

Weeden was the orchestrator of the Cowboys' high-powered offense, finishing third in the nation with 360.67 passing yards per game while tossing 34 touchdowns. He became the school's all-time leading passer and set a single-game record for passing yards — twice.

Weeden was particularly sensational during the decisive third quarter of the Texas A&M game, on the two late touchdown drives in OSU's dramatic victory over Kansas State and while facing heavy wind in the Cowboys' drubbing of Texas Tech.

Additionally, Weeden's calm and confident demeanor clearly rubbed off on his teammates, making him the perfect leader for the Cowboys.

Backup Clint Chelf got some snaps during blowouts and performed well, completing 20 of 30 passes for 307 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

RUNNING BACKS: A-

The Cowboys averaged 5.44 yards per carry in their first season without Kendall Hunter.

Other than his mysterious fumble problems in the Texas Tech and Iowa State games, Joseph Randle showed he is one of the conference's best young stars, racking up 23 rushing touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards. He also caught 38 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns.

Jeremy Smith started the season as the Cowboys' goal-line back but proved he could also be a home-run threat. True freshman Herschel Sims gained 244 yards on just 31 carries in late playing time.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A

The receivers certainly did their part in making OSU the second-best passing offense in the nation (386.25 yards per game).

Justin Blackmon was a beast again, capturing his second consecutive Biletnikoff Award after compiling 113 catches for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.

But Weeden had plenty of other weapons to distribute the ball to.

The sure-handed Josh Cooper continued to be one of the most valuable yet sometimes overlooked Cowboy, and Tracy Moore emerged as a solid option at the other inside receiver spot. Youngsters Michael Harrison and Josh Stewart each showed flashes that they will be special players by the time their OSU careers are over.

Even without Hubert Anyiam (broken foot) for the last half of the season, the OSU receiving corps was as deep and talented as advertised.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A

This was regarded as a major strength coming into the season, and that held true, despite a season-ending knee injury to starter Jonathan Rush in the Texas A&M game.

The Cowboys allowed just 11 sacks — one came when Weeden stepped out of the back of the end zone against Texas — and the line often opened huge holes for Randle and Smith, particularly against Texas and Missouri.

Tackle Levy Adcock was named a first-team All-American by multiple organizations, and center Grant Garner is regarded as the Cowboys' most important player — at any position — by many teammates and coaches.

The offensive line's worst performance of the season came against Iowa State. It's no coincidence that game was the Cowboys' only loss.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B

OSU struggled to stop the run at times, most notably when facing Texas' Malcolm Brown and Kansas State's Collin Klein, but this group was solid overall.

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