LOS ANGELES – It must be something about Cowboys rookie quarterbacks and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
One year after Dak Prescott's coming out party in a preseason loss to the Rams, it was hard not to think about it when Cooper Rush took the field in the same situation.
Alright, maybe it's not the same situation. Prescott is now firmly entrenched as the Cowboys' starter – so much so that he didn't even play on Saturday night. And Kellen Moore, whose injury opened the door for Prescott last summer, is in command of the backup job.
But still, after watching Moore and the first-team offense sputter to 69 first-half passing yards, it felt like a revelation to watch the undrafted rookie take the field in the third quarter.
"I thought he did great. He's gotten better every day for us," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "He shows me a lot of poise – we use that word a lot about quarterbacks, but that's a key thing to have when you're a young guy."
It might be an overused word, but "poise" fits well for Rush, who completed his first eight passes of the night. He found short passes over the middle, he found Brian Brown down the sideline and he found Noah Brown for a long gainer through the teeth of the Rams defense.
But of course, the highlight that will run on TV for the rest of the week is the throw that capped off the Cowboys' only touchdown of the night – when Rush floated a dime down the seam to Rico Gathers for a 25-yard touchdown.
"If anything, just put the ball in the air – he's going to go get it," Rush said.
All told, Rush completed 9-of-11 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. It might not be a harbinger of things to come, as was the case with Prescott last summer. But it certainly was fun to watch.
"Cooper does a nice job when he goes in there. He understands what we're asking him to do, makes good decisions and made some good throws tonight."
It was quite a juxtaposition with the rest of the night. Penalties and missed throws stalled the Cowboys in the first half, which saw Moore under center all the way up until the intermission. The offense converted just 3-of-15 third downs, and Gathers' touchdown was the one time they so much as sniffed the end zone.
"Obviously, we didn't move the ball very well early on in the game," Garrett said. "Everybody has a piece of that. I think as much as anything else we couldn't run the ball that effectively. Didn't control the line of scrimmage like we normally like to and play that style of football."
Luke McCown followed up Rush's third quarter, and the struggles continued. McCown entered in the fourth quarter and lead drives of three plays, five plays, three plays and six plays – one of which ended when he lost a fumble.
All told, the Cowboys finished with 28 yards, and their bid at a game-winning touchdown drive fell woefully short. With three more preseason games to play, though, Linehan said improvement is a matter of persistence
"I wouldn't use the word frustrating, it's just that you've got to be patient through the preseason," he said. "Sometimes you're going to have a good outing. The biggest thing is you don't want to be putting the ball in the other team's hands. I like that all of them are for the most part protecting the ball. That's going to be a key for us."