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The Raiders Are Nothing to Fear : Pro football: Running of Emmitt Smith eases the Cowboys' worries as NFC East leaders roll to 28-13 victory before 91,505.

October 26, 1992|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dallas Cowboys were worried Sunday.

And understandably so.

In the Raiders, they were facing a team that hadn't given up a touchdown in 10 quarters, nor a single point in six quarters.

In the Coliseum, they were facing a potentially hostile crowd of 91,505.

In the critical eye of the media, they were facing another acid test in their bid to prove they are really the Super Bowl team their coach claims they are.

Their quarterback, Troy Aikman, was facing a local crowd for the first time since he starred at UCLA.

And running back Emmitt Smith was facing his first game ever in this town.

"We were worried to no end coming into this football game," Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson said, "because of the way they (the Raiders) played the last three weeks."

Not to worry.

The Cowboys passed every test, soothed every nerve and answered every doubt by beating the Raiders on Sunday, 28-13, to maintain the top spot in the NFC East with a 6-1 record.

The Raiders' winning streak ended at three games, dropping them to 3-5.

The Cowboys aren't yet ready to be fitted for their Super Bowl rings, but they showed they have the balance required of a championship contender, a solid defense and an efficient quarterback.

But, most of all, they have Smith.

At only 5 feet 9, the third-year running back can be tough to spot among his larger peers.

But he was easy to see Sunday. He kept showing up all alone in the end zone, leaving behind bewildered tacklers grasping at thin air.

Smith, who came into the game as the NFC's leading rusher with 581 yards, added another 152 in 29 carries, scoring three touchdowns.

When the game was over, another Smith, Raider defensive lineman Anthony Smith, a star in his own right a week earlier when he had four sacks, could only marvel at the visiting Smith after spending a futile afternoon trying to find him.

Never mind tackle him.

"Their offensive linemen just draw you into a big, old clump," Anthony Smith said. "And then, he'll break out. It's amazing.

"When you play a back like him, you have to play sound defense. By that, I mean if you're supposed to be in a gap, you have to stay in that gap. Because the way he cuts and slashes, he's awesome."

Emmitt Smith's first touchdown Sunday kept the Cowboys close after the Raiders showed the day's first offensive spark with a game-opening, 11-play, 83-yard drive capped by Marcus Allen's one-yard run.

But right then and there, the Raiders learned this was not to be their day.

When holder Jeff Gossett couldn't get a handle on the snap for the extra-point attempt, kicker Jeff Jaeger picked up the loose ball.

Then what?

"I heard Goose (Gossett) yelling for the ball," Jaeger said. "I didn't even see where he was, but I just threw it."

Gossett took the lateral from Jaeger and faded back to the 25-yard line, ad-libbing as he went.

From there, he spotted tight end Ethan Horton open in the left corner of the end zone and lofted a high pass.

Horton got his hands on it, but, as he did so, three Cowboys got their hands on him, knocking the ball loose.

That left the Raiders with a 6-0 lead.

When the Cowboys subsequently put together an impressive drive of their own, 80 yards in 14 plays ending with a six-yard run by Smith, they were able to take a 7-6 lead on Lin Elliott's successful conversion kick.

That's the way the score remained until the third quarter, when Raider quarterback Todd Marinovich, hampered all day by Dallas' defense, made a rare breakthrough, hitting Willie Gault on a 31-yard touchdown pass.

That was about a quarter of Marinovich's total yardage production for the day. He finished with only eight completions in 23 attempts for 117 yards.

Still, the Raiders had a 13-7 lead after the Gault catch.

But Aikman answered quickly and effectively, connecting with Alvin Harper on a 52-yard pass play on Dallas' second play from scrimmage.

The Cowboys drove to the Raider four-yard line, then did the smartest thing they could think of: They gave the ball to Smith.

Taking the ball up the middle, he ran into middle linebacker Riki Ellison, who came hurtling at Smith.

And off of him.

Smith kept his balance as Ellison lost his, kept going even after Eddie Anderson and Ronnie Lott had attached themselves to his legs and dragged the two Raiders with him as he fell into the end zone.

Smith wasn't done yet.

Holding a 14-13 lead, Dallas put together another drive during the fourth quarter.

This one appeared to stall at the Raider 19-yard line, where Dallas faced a third and 12.

A sure passing situation?

Not with Smith in the backfield.

Aikman handed off to his running back on a draw play that gained 13 yards, keeping the Cowboys in the saddle.

The crushing blow came on a second-and-goal at the Raider six. Smith was stopped for no gain, but the Raiders were whistled for too many men on the field.

That moved the ball to the three. This time, with the Raiders biting on every move Smith made, Aikman faked to his running back, kept the ball and bootlegged around the right side into the end zone untouched.

With the game out of reach, Smith added a 26-yard scoring run. "That last touchdown was sweet, real sweet," Smith said.

It was not such a sweet day for the Raiders. They had only 165 yards in total offense, compared with the Cowboys' 369. The Raiders were most ineffective on the ground, gaining less than half of Smith's total with 71 yards.

With this game, the Raiders' season is half over. The question is, at 3-5, is it all over?

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