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Cooper Rush more than fills the void in win over Vikings, 20-16

By Dwain Price
NDG Sports

Those who rushed to judge the Dallas Cowboys based solely on the health of quarterback Dak Prescott apparently never heard of the team’s backup quarterback, Cooper Rush.
Not only did Rush make a grand entrance on the Sunday Night Football stage this past Sunday when the Cowboys played the Minnesota Vikings on the road. But he also proved that he can adequately run a football team when given the chance.

In his first-ever NFL start, Rush completed 24 of 40 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to a miraculous 20-16 victory over the highly-touted Vikings. That includes throwing a game-winning touchdown to Amari Cooper – the infamous Cooper-to-Cooper connection – from five yards out with just 51 seconds remaining in the game.

Rush became the first quarterback ever to pass for at least 300 yards and also throw the game-winning touchdown with under a minute left in the game in his first start in NFL history. He also showed that he was certainly poised and ready for a moment like this.
“You definitely dream about them, and (the final result was) just as good as the dream,” Rush said. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to share that with everyone and be able to win like that.

“You always want to win, and it’s really fun when you win like that.”


Cooper Rush (Chris Hunkeler / Wikimedia)

For the Cowboys it was a blast to win like that when they decided before kickoff that they needed to take the cautious approach and rest Prescott’s strained right calf at least another week. The gamble paid off handsomely as the Cowboys improved to 6-1 while winning their sixth straight game.

“I was glad everybody got to see that, because that’s Cooper Rush,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think that’s the real strength of him. He plays the quarterback position like a seasoned veteran that’s played 10-12 years in the league. That’s the man I get to see every day.

“He’s very steady, very intelligent. He’s a great teammate in the quarterback room, the way he conducts himself, and I think that reflected in how he played (Sunday). He was ready to go and that’s what the backup has to do is go in there every week and prepare, because he’s one play away from getting in there, and I think his performance reflected that.”

The Cowboys trailed the Vikings, 16-13, after Minnesota’s Greg Joseph booted a 24-yard field goal with just 2:51 left in the game. But that was more than enough time for Rush, who guided the Cowboys on a picture-perfect eight-play, 75-yard drive for the winning TD.
“I felt like I belonged out there,” said Rush, who is in his fifth season out of Central Michigan. “You’re in the huddle, breaking the huddle, getting to the line and going through the processes.

“It didn’t feel overwhelming at all. I haven’t played a lot, but being around the NFL, you’re practicing against those guys every day and our defense is pretty good. It never felt too big.”

Rush fired a 73-yard touchdown to Cedric Wilson that tied the game at 10-10 early in the third quarter. He just seemed so composed all day, even shrugging off an interception he threw in the first quarter.

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“We knew we wanted to be balanced, and I can’t say enough about Cooper being ready, number one, to jump in there and go, and he was productive,” McCarthy said. “He did an excellent job in command of the offense.

“I thought (offensive coordinator) Kellen (Moore) did a really good job of just kind of taking what they were giving us. I have a lot of respect for (Vikings coach) Mike Zimmer in just the way he’s always coached and what his defense has tried to dictate where the ball goes, and I think Cooper did a great job of distributing the football. We knew it was going to be tough coming in here. It always is and I’m proud of our football team.”

Prescott was so proud of Cooper’s performance that cameras caught him chasing down Cooper after the game in the tunnel leading to the Cowboys’ locker room and giving him a big hug.

“You look at two guys you want to show examples and symbols of good teammates, look at Cooper Rush and Dak Prescott,” McCarthy said. “That’s a great picture of it.”

And in the Cowboys’ case, the picture of Rush leading them to victory in a game they had no business winning is worth several thousand words. Then again, Rush proved that the Cowboys offense is in very capable hands if something happens to Prescott down the road.
“Cooper’s the same guy every day,” McCarthy said. “He’s very conscientious of his opportunities, whether it’s in practice or whether in a blitz drill. He’s outstanding in the classroom.

“There were never a, ‘We can’t run this or we can’t run that.’ We still played with quarterback movement and action passing in a normal down and distance. I thought once he got settled in, he ran the offense and handled the adjustments throughout the game.”

As to whether or not Prescott will play Sunday at noon when the Cowboys host the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium, that’s still up in the air. But at least the Cowboys know they have a backup quarterback they can depend on.

Rush is just happy he was able to perform some the same magic Prescott has been doing on a regular basis, and also bring so much joy to Cowboys’ fans across the country.

“It was obviously special,” Rush said. “A lot of games when it’s the other way around and (Prescott is) making plays at the end, and I get to watch those.

“It’s fun for me to get a chance to do it and have his full support.”

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