Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar 

For The Record

While chomping down on my crunchy cereal Monday morning watching ESPN, I became very interested in a poll the sports network was conducting asking whether the Dallas Cowboys are really good this season or is their 3-1 record some kind of a “mirage.”

I was shocked to learn the results of that informal poll that revealed 51 per cent of those who participated believe the Cowboys’ early success was some kind of a mirage.

I guess the same can be said about our other Lone Star State’s franchise, the Houston Texans, who also stand at 3-1 for the season.

Both the Cowboys and the Texans have key players out of their starting lineups due to injuries—with fragile Dallas quarterback Tony Romo recovering from another back problem along with his favorite target, wide receiver Dez Bryant, who can’t even run on his leg because of a hairline fracture of a bone in his right knee.

The Texans are no better off with three-time Most Valuable Player J.J. Watt out for the season, having another surgery after re-injuring his back.

I’d have to say both teams are doing fine without their star players—so far. And the reason both franchises are plodding along without a hitch is because of talented new players that were obtained either in the free-agent marketplace or via the draft.

Regardless, these new faces are contributing greatly to the early-season success of both the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.

Houston owner Bob McNair spent buckets of money obtaining quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller last winter as free agents.

But the decision that’s reaping the most dividends is when the Texans used their No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft to grab Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller V. (I can see why he uses the V after his name, because opposing defensive coordinators are reaching for a fifth of something after Fuller burns his defense).

Fuller stepped into the Texans’ starting lineup and became Osweiler’s favorite target as opposing teams concentrate on double-teaming the other wide receiver De-Andre Hopkins.

Special Teams coach Larry Izzo asked Fuller to return a punt for the first time in his pro career and the talented rookie obliged by racing 67 yards virtually untouched for what proved to be the winning touchdown.

And while opposing defenses are concentrating on stopping the passing game, Miller is averaging between four and five yards per carry rushing the football.

Watt’s absence Sunday wasn’t as sorely missed as first anticipated, but the revamped defense got the job done against one of the NFL’s weaker teams.

But the Texans should have their hands full when they travel to Minnesota Sunday to face the 4-0 Vikings.

The Cowboys’ saving grace right now appears to be their rookies—quarterback Dak Prescott, who took over the starting reins when Romo went down during the preseason and powerful running back Ezekiel Elliott, who seems to get better when he nears 20 carries in a game.

Prescott made the transition from quarterbacking Mississippi State to the
Cowboys as smooth as silk and looks like a 10-year veteran under the center. He holds the amazing distinction of throwing his first 134 NFL passes without an interception which has to be some kind of a rookie record.

The win wasn’t the prettiest one for the Cowboys this year, but the way Prescott didn’t panic when San Francisco jumped out to an early 14-0 lead was impressive. The Pokes stuck to their game plan and before long Prescott connected on a pair of touchdown passes to tie the game at 14-all by halftime.

Elliott took over the second half, rushing for 96 of his game-high 138 yards after the intermission. His one-yard scoring plunge late in the third period put the Cowboys ahead for good.

Brice Butler filled in adequately for the injured Dez Bryant, catching the touchdown pass from Prescott in the second quarter to tie the score and adding four more catches for 41 yards.

The Cowboys return home Sunday for a game against the 2-2 Cincinnati Bengals, which the early Las Vegas line has the Pokes favored by a scant one point.

KWICKIES…The 162-game regular major league baseball season ended Sunday for Houston Astros fans with the team doing better than it was supposed to with an 84-78 final record. In fact they probably did phenomenally well considering that more than half of the starting lineup didn’t hit their weight. The good players were really good but the majority of position players were subpar. Two of the best starting pitchers went down with season-ending injuries. As they used to say at this time after every season in Brooklyn—Wait ‘Til Next Year!!!

And while on the subject of the Astros, one real bright spot was that second baseman Jose Altuve easily won the American League batting championship for the second time in three years. The diminutive star posted a final batting average of .338, nearly 20 points higher than the next-highest average.

The Lamar Cardinal football team finally played two good halves of Southland Conference football, resulting in their first league win of the season and evening their SLC record at 1-1. The Big Red travels to meet winless Abilene Christian Saturday.

There’s been quite a shake-up in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Collegiate Football Poll with Alabama and Ohio State maintaining their hold on the first two top spots. Clemson, with its impressive win over Louisville Saturday night, moved up two spots to No. 3, Michigan is still No. 4, Washington hurdled five places to No. 5, Houston stays at No. 6, Louisville dropped four to No. 7, the Texas Aggies came up one spot to No. 8, Tennessee moved up two to No. 9 and Miami jumped four places to No. 10, while Baylor stayed at No. 14. New to the poll this week are No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 21 Colorado, No. 22 West Virginia and No. 25 Virginia Tech.

The New England Patriots suffered their first shutout loss ever at Gillette Stadium– after moving there in 2002–when the Buffalo Bills whitewashed them 16-0 Sunday. The Pats were last blanked at home 6-0 by the New York Jets in 1993 at Foxboro Stadium.

JUST BETWEEN US…Congrats are in order for Orange native Earl Thomas who registered his first interception of the season Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks re-bounded from a 14-10 halftime deficit to beat the New York Jets 27-17 at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. It was the first time the Seahawks won up there since beating Denver in the Super Bowl in 2014.