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Cooper Rush feels at home on field despite limited work

Coach Jason Garrett was impressed with how rookie QB Cooper Rush dealt with situational football in the Cowboys' preseason opener. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

OXNARD, Calif. -- Nearly eight months had passed since Cooper Rush played in an actual game. During training camp's seven padded practices, he took more than four team snaps just a couple of times.

But when the Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback took the field for the second half of last week's Hall of Fame Game, he felt as though he'd never left.

"It felt really good to get in a rhythm, just back in the competitive nature of a game, the ups and downs, being able to make plays," Rush said.

Rush's statistics were modest in the Cowboys' 20-18 win. He completed nine of 18 passes for 87 yards and threw a touchdown pass to EZ Nwachukwu, but it was how he handled the entire job that impressed coach Jason Garrett.

"Poised and composed. There were not many game situations that came up that he didn't handle well," Garrett said. "They did a few different things to him defensively and he recognized them, made some big plays. The touchdown was a big play and he really did a nice job in that play, recognizing the Cover 0 blitz and getting it to the right guy. That's really what he's shown us in all the opportunities he's gotten up to this point.”

On fourth-and-3 from the Arizona 14 on his first drive, Rush knew the Cardinals were dialing up a blitz and bringing everybody.

"We made a good line call up front just to slow them down a little bit and EZ made a good read, looked right away and got the touchdown," Rush said. "Guys are coming at you so you don't really think about [the throw]. Once he caught it, I said, 'Turn around and get in the end zone,' and he did."

Rush, a four-year starter at Central Michigan, ran twice for 23 yards, including an 11-yard scramble on a third down to convert a first down. Unsure if he was short of the marker, Rush dove forward, knowing the ball could be marked differently if he slid.

"It was third down and you can't slide on third down if you're close to getting it," Rush said.

Making the 53-man roster remains an uphill climb for Rush, who went undrafted. The Cowboys signed Luke McCown last week, and the veteran is splitting reps with Rush. The Cowboys might not keep a third quarterback behind Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore. The best Rush could do might be to make the practice squad.

"Every time you step on the field you're being evaluated by your own team and by other teams," Rush said. "It's just the nature of the game, but then once you're out there you're just playing. Your instincts come back and all the games you played before come back, the intangibles come back and you just go out and run plays."