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Receiver Production: Cowboys Lean Heavily on Washington, Ateman to Pull it Out in Lubbock



James Washington was on the field for all 82 offensive snaps Saturday against Texas Tech. He finished Oklahoma State’s 41-34 road win against Texas Tech with 12 targets, nine catches and 127 yards. Mason Rudolph hit Marcell Ateman almost as often and found almost as much production.

The Cowboys had the run game going against the Red Raiders, racking up 221 total rush yards, but they were deadly through the air. Some of Rudolph’s throws were spectacular, but some of the receivers’ snags were simply manly.

Here are some key takeaways from the Cowboys’ win from a receiver’s perspective:


OSU is only two weeks removed from throwing out four 100-yard receivers, but since then, the middle receivers have pulled in just 187 yards combined in a couple of games. After the South Alabama win, Washington told Pistols Firing to expect balance in the Cowboys’ receiver production, but in Big 12 play, Washington and Ateman have accounted for more than two-thirds of the catches and more than 70 percent of the yards. Then again, that makes sense given how good they’ve been.

Tyron Johnson has fallen off in touches since his suspension against Pitt. In two games, he has touched the ball one time for 12 yards outside of kickoff returns. That 44-yard touchdown on the first drive of the season feels like 13 seasons ago.

On the other side of the line, Chris Lacy’s recovering injury is one of the reasons Ateman has hit 100 yards in back-to-back games, but Lacy was back against Tech. He caught only one ball for seven yards on three targets. That should increase as he continues to get healthier.


The receivers’ touches are indicative of how often each one is on the field. As mentioned, Washington was out there for all 82. Ateman was used heavily. And Jalen McCleskey missed only a few.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich went with a heavy dose of Cowboy Back, which meant Dillon Stoner was going to be used sparingly. In fact, Britton Abbott was in on 76 snaps, which was the most this season by far.

The real concern has to be in Tyron. Once considered the Cowboys’ undoubted Newcomer of the Year, Johnson got only two more reps than Tylan Wallace, a freshman. There are no issues leaving the to-be Biletnikoff Award winner on the field, but maybe not every play. Yurcich moved Johnson to the slot, which was a first, but it looked a little uncomfortable at times.

Similarly, Lacy got only 23 snaps. He is still recovering, like I said, but even with oodles of Cowboy Back, Stoner got one more play than Lacy.

The balance seems nonexistent right now, which is ok given the production. If you are Yurcich, you have to ask yourself if you would rather have a tired Washington or some fresher options off the bench

Receiver Reps (approximate)
Washington 82
McCleskey 72
Ateman 56
Stoner 24
Lacy 23
Johnson 6
Wallace 4

Rudolph’s longest completed pass went to the third string Cowboy Back for his first catch of the season, and it gained only 37 yards.

The intermediate passing game was a major concern after the TCU loss. Rudolph and his receivers completed a good deal of passes but not enough. Rudolph’s precision was more “Ackrut” than “Accurate,” and the offense just looked trapped in a box, unable to throw it behind the Frogs’ safeties.

It was a different story in Lubbock. OSU’s short to medium attack was absolutely lethal, and it was clear early. Rudolph hit Washington on six of Rudolph’s 10 first-quarter passes, and none of them were for more than 15 yards.

As further evidence of the Cowboys’s patience against the Red Raiders, only one receiver averaged more than 20 yards per catch, and it was Stoner, whose only catch was good for 21.

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