Lance Dunbar was stressing all day about getting on the field in the preseason finale for the Dallas Cowboys.
When the undrafted rookie running back from North Texas got his chance, he gave Cowboys coaches plenty to consider when putting their final roster together.
Dunbar ran 15 times for 105 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown after halftime when he made several defenders miss, and the Cowboys wrapped up their preseason with a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night.
”I know it was a big day. It was all or nothing for me today. I did what I could do. Hopefully it’s enough,” Dunbar said. ”I was so tired (after the TD) I didn’t remember to look at the replay at first. … It was my first touchdown and it’s like a dream come true.”
Orie Lemon returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown for the Cowboys and Phillip Tanner, who started at tailback with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones sitting out, had a 1-yard score while carrying nine times for 48 yards.
A week before playing in the NFL’s kickoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys (3-1) kept quarterback Tony Romo and their front-line starters standing on the sideline.
The Cowboys said after the game that former Pro Bowl cornerback Mike Jenkins, who missed the entire offseason and preseason recovering from shoulder surgery, passed his physical earlier Wednesday. That means Jenkins could practice Saturday and possibly play against the Giants.
Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the first-round draft pick from Texas A&M already tabbed the Dolphins starter, was 5-of-7 passing for 35 yards playing the first two series. Miami led 3-0 when he was done.
”It was frustrating at times, but I think we got better every week,” Tannehill said when asked to evaluate his preseason. ”It was a matter of not making the same mistake twice, and I think we did that as an offense. … We just have to put it all together.”
Miami (0-4) finished its preseason winless under new coach Joe Philbin. The season opener is Sept. 9 at Houston.
Another former Texas A&M quarterback, Stephen McGee, possibly took his last snaps for the Cowboys after going 9 of 18 for 124 yards in the first half.
Two years ago in another preseason finale against the Dolphins, McGee passed for 304 yards while going all the way in the victory that probably assured him the spot as the team’s third quarterback that season. The fourth-round pick in 2009 has played in only three regular-season games with one start.
With Kyle Orton signed during the offseason to be Romo’s backup, Dallas likely will carry only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster that has to be set by Friday evening. Plus, McGee is no longer eligible for the practice squad like Rudy Carpenter (4 of 10 for 48 yards) would be.
Even though they were playing at home again only four days after a win over the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys had already turned their attention to the Giants.
When they get to their Valley Ranch practice facility Thursday, it will be essentially a Monday of game week.
Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin didn’t play in the preseason because of hamstring issues, and receiver Dez Bryant was held out for the second straight game because of right knee tendinitis. Both are expected to be ready for the Giants, though Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen) is less certain for the unprecedented Wednesday night opener.
Lamar Miller had 17 carries for 60 yards for the Dolphins. His 1-yard TD capped a 14-play, 89-yard drive that took exactly half of the third quarter to complete.
Dan Bailey kicked three field goals for the Cowboys while Dan Carpenter had field goals of 21 and 53 yards for Miami less than 2 minutes apart late in the first quarter.
”We moved the ball early, we’ve just got to capitalize when you’re down in the red zone,” Tannehill said. ”You can’t stall out on the 3 yard line. … We realize we’ve got a long way to go and have a lot of work to do, but we’re excited about the opportunities that we have.”
After Carpenter’s shorter kick, Teddy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Cowboys 33. That’s when Matt Moore took over for Tannehill.
Moore was only 4 of 12, including the pass over the middle early in the second quarter that Lemon picked off and took into the end zone for a 10-6 lead.
The Cowboys had two big passing plays to set up Tanner’s 1-yard score. McGee threw deep to Andre Holmes for 32 yards, then scrambled and was side-stepping the sideline when he threw 36 yards to Tim Benford.
Dallas cornerback Lionel Smith sustained a concussion, and offensive lineman Daniel Loper tweaked a hamstring. Derrick Dockery started at left guard, and got in a few plays before leaving to catch a flight to Washington D.C. to attend a family funeral.