Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

College Sports

Skelton, other rookies aid win over Dallas

Forget the completion rate — 11 for 25 for 183 yards — John Skelton is 2-1 as an NFL starting quarterback.

He was chief among a host of rookies who played big roles in Arizona's 27-26 Christmas night victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

The 6-foot-6 quarterback from El Paso, Texas, via Fordham in the Bronx, completed three crucial passes on the final drive that ended with Jay Feely's winning 48-yard field goal with 5 seconds to go.

The biggest play came on fourth-and-15, when he hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 26-yard gain. It was Fitzgerald's only catch of the night, ending his streak of 97 straight games with multiple receptions, fourth longest in NFL history.

"I've got to give Larry a lot of credit for just hanging in there," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That was obviously one of the biggest plays of the year on fourth-and-15 and we throw it to Larry and he makes the play."

Skelton said he could see Fitzgerald's frustration growing as the game went on.

"You see the guy, been around him, you know," Skelton said. "But he didn't get down on himself or the team."

The fourth-and-long conversion was followed by a 6-yard pass to Tim Hightower, then a 19-yard completion to Max Komar put the team well within Feely's range.

Komar, an undrafted rookie from Idaho, had not caught a pass since the season opener and had not played in a game since Oct. 24. Komar was inactive for three games, then was released on Nov. 20, only to be re-signed three days later. He was inactive the past four games before Sunday night.

Rookie Andre Roberts might be the most improved player on the team since training camp. The third-round selection from The Citadel caught a 74-yard pass from Skelton for a touchdown that put Arizona up 21-3 in the second quarter. Roberts also is the punt returner and filled in for injured LaRod Stephens-Howling returning kickoffs.

Roberts was wide open on the play, even though Dallas' Mike Jenkins committed a pass interference penalty when he briefly grabbed Roberts as the speedy receiver flashed by.

Skelton got his first career touchdown pass and Roberts his second. Roberts had nine catches for 110 yards, season and career highs.

Roberts had an ugly training camp and early season, but he has been coming on strong.

"That comes with experience," Roberts said. "I think a lot of young guys, even John (Skelton) and Max Komar, we have just seen a lot. Coming out of college it's definitely not the same, but I think we credit it to experience."

Rookies have been impressive on defense, too, albeit with less fanfare.

First-round draft pick Dan Williams of Illinois, who at nose tackle plays one of the least glamorous position in the NFL, plugs the middle with increased efficiency to allow others to make plays.

Second-round selection Daryl Washington of TCU has started all season. He and fellow inside linebacker Paris Lenin had a team-high eight tackles against Dallas. Washington had a tackle for loss, quarterback hit and forced fumble.

Fourth-round selection O'Brien Schofield from Illinois had significant action with starting outside linebacker Joey Porter out with a triceps injury. Schofield got his first NFL sack, bringing down Stephen McGee to force a punt after Dallas had driven to midfield early in the fourth quarter.

That Schofield is playing at all is remarkable. He injured a knee practicing for the Senior Bowl, missing all summer workouts and training camp. He returned much earlier than expected to play on Oct. 31.

The youngsters' showing creates a bit of optimism in a miserable 5-10 season.

"In a game like this," Whisenhunt said, "that's really exciting to see those guys get this experience and play well."