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Game Recap: Will Grier shines in 31-16 win


While the NFL was still buzzing about the Dallas Cowboys big move the day before, there was, of course, one last preseason game to account for.

And leading the charge for the home team in this exhibition finale against the Las Vegas Raiders was quarterback Will Grier, who was in the somewhat awkward position of playing the entire game behind center despite knowing he wasn't a part of the team's plans in 2023. With Trey Lance now on board via a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, Grier was in fact trying out for the other 31 teams.

Needless to say, the tape was good. With Dak Prescott calling the plays, Grier rose to the occasion and simply had an outstanding game in leading the Cowboys to a 31-16 victory. In producing four of the team's touchdowns, he completed 82.9 percent of his passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns with a 122.0 passer rating. Grier also scrambled for 53 yards while adding two more scores on the ground.

Not surprisingly, none of the starters played and several of the second-stringers took a seat in this one as well. That left the outcome primarily in the hands of those on the bottom end of the depth chart who were battling for the final roster spots or a job on the practice squad.

Perhaps the biggest standout among this group was running back Hunter Luepke. The undrafted rookie made his case by rushing for 58 yards while also hauling in five passes for 60 yards more. That was second on the Cowboys to only wideout Tyron Johnson, who earned 90 receiving yards on five catches.

Defensively, the Cowboys surrendered just one touchdown while allowing the Raiders to convert only 22 percent of their third-down attempts. Cornerback Josh Butler, who starred in the USFL last spring, led the club with six tackles and two pass breakups while linebacker Devin Harper added five takedowns himself.

In all, the Cowboys outgained the Raiders, 457 to 321, and dominated the time of possession, 35:40 to 24:20.

First Quarter

Grier certainly came to play as on the Cowboys' first drive of the game he marched the offense 75 yards across the goal line on 11 plays. The quarterback completed 4 of 5 attempts for 44 yards, which included a nifty scramble out of the pocket and throw on the run for a 16-yard completion on third-and-7. Grier then fittingly got the scoring honors, taking it himself around the right end for the touchdown and an early Dallas lead.

After Harper provided a 2-yard tackle for loss on a third-and-1, forcing a punt, the Cowboys went on the move again. But when Grier missed a wide open Johnson in the end zone, Dallas eventually gave rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey a shot at a 59-yard field goal. While his attempt had the distance, the kick hooked wide left, no good.

Second Quarter

Given good field position following the missed field goal, the Raiders headed back the other way to get on the board less than a minute into the second quarter. Las Vegas needed 10 plays to travel just 26 yards with the Dallas defense limiting the visitors to a 44-yard field goal.

The two sides then spent their time trading touchdowns before the half. Luepke helped the Cowboys' cause on the team's next series with three runs for 13 yards, a nice blitz pickup and an 8-yard reception. That was one of seven completions during the possession for Grier, the last of which was a 9-yard toss to rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker for the touchdown.

But Las Vegas came right back, needing only six plays to travel 75 yards to the end zone. Completions of 15, 11 and 13 yards eventually led to Damien Williams rushing the last 24 yards for the score.

No worries. With plenty of time left in the half, fans were treated to the Grier and Luepke show. Three of the last four plays of the drive saw the quarterback connect with the young rusher on catch and runs of 10, 29 and finally 15 yards, Luepke barreling down the left sideline and diving to pay dirt for the touchdown.

Derek Carlson, the Raiders' Pro Bowl kicker, split the uprights on a 62-yarder as time expired in the half, but Dallas still went into the break with a 21-13 advantage.

Third Quarter

The offenses continued to keep the scoreboard busy in the third frame, beginning with the Raiders. Carlson picked up right where he left off with another long field goal, this one from 50 yards.

Dallas, though, was just fine trading three points for seven. Grier kept up the pace with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that saw him at one point complete a dump-off pass left-handed. The Cowboys did go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Raiders' 11-yard line, and Malik Davis picked up 4 yards to set up first-and-goal. That left it to Grier, who two snaps later scrambled up the middle for another score.

Fourth Quarter

The Dallas defense came up big when Myles Brooks broke up a pass when the Raiders went for it on fourth-and-2 at the Cowboys' 10-yard line. With that, Grier and company were back in business, moving into enemy territory yet again. When the drive stalled, however, out came Aubrey for another try at a 59-yard field goal. This time he was true, his attempt slipping just inside the upright for the lengthy three points and a 31-16 lead.

With the outcome decided, there was nothing left to do but play out the clock. The Cowboys finished the preseason with a 1-2 record and now prepare for Tuesday, when the team must make final cuts to their 53-man roster.

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