EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., OCT. 4 -- It looked vaguely like football; there were touchdowns and sacks and penalties. Tom Landry was standing on the sideline wearing one of his funny looking hats, so it must have been football.

There was even a final score here today: Dallas Cowboys 38, the New York Jets 24. But the names and faces belonged mostly to players the public has never heard or seen. And in Giants Stadium, which is routinely packed with 75,000 fans, only 12,370 showed up to watch.

Whether this was really the National Football League is up for debate. The Jets and Cowboys combined for 26 penalties and nine turnovers.

Even so, players like Alvin Blount of the Cowboys and Ken Rose of the Jets, who replaced the striking union players, called being able to play today the thrill of their lifetimes. Cowboys President Tex Schramm called these games a big success for the owners for the simple reason that they were played.

But the anguish on the faces of such veterans as Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys and Marty Lyons and Mark Gastineau of the Jets told a different story.

From the moment Dorsett took the field in pregame warmups, he stood off to the side by himself. He, quarterback Danny White and Mike Renfro -- the three offensive starters who crossed their striking teammates' picket line -- did not play because Landry didn't think they were mentally prepared to.

That was putting it mildly, at least in Dorsett's case. "I'm not really proud of being involved with something like this," he said after the game. "This is one of the most {unbelievable} experiences I've ever been involved in as a football player. I mean, to come in here with a scab team.

"It wasn't one of my better days, I'd have to say. I really didn't want to play, although Danny and I were both on call. I just couldn't believe coming in here -- no packed house, I'm surrounded by unfamiliar faces, there are all the distractions of the strike.

"I mean, I'm a pro. To see scattered fans . . . It was just embarrassing. I can't digest and analyze it. We just played in a scarcely populated stadium. I'm glad I didn't play. I didn't know these guys and I just felt more comfortable staying off to the side by myself."

Over in the Jets' locker room, Lyons -- a veteran defensive lineman -- expressed similar sentiments.

Lyons shivered at the thought of seeing someone else playing in his uniform. He said, primarily for the benefit of his striking teammates, "When they see someone else wearing their uniforms, then it's time to make a decision . . .

"You know what's worse, though? The people who made the NFL must be embarrassed. Jim Otto and Dick Butkus, the people who made the game with their sweat and tears, must be embarrassed."

And only two cubicles away, defensive end Gastineau, whom striking teammates spit on for crossing the picket line last week, tried to make jokes. "I'm not going to comment if any of you guys spit on me," he said to one reporter.

But Gastineau was closer to tears than laughs.

"This all has been very, very draining," he said. "I've been very uncomfortable. It's been hard. It's got to get better. This is the worst it can get . . . I can't believe these games will count. I don't know how long {the striking players} can sit back and watch this go on."

Gastineau was asked how he might deal with his regular teammates, who could be returning depending on what the 28 union representatives decide in Chicago Monday night. "I'll have to take it on the chin."

The mood of the replacement players was in stunning contrast. While Dorsett stood at his dressing stall, fighting off an attack of depression, rookie running back Blount stood across the way, grinning.

"This felt so great, regardless of what people will say about it, even if they put an asterisk by it or something," Blount said.

A year ago, Blount was wearing a Maryland Terrapins uniform. But today, in his first game as a pro, he led all rushers by gaining 72 yards and ran one yard for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Kevin Sweeney, Dallas' starting quarterback, completed only six of 14 passes but had three touchdown passes. The first one, good for 13 yards to Cornell Burbage in the first quarter, put Dallas ahead for good, 7-3.

A second touchdown pass, which covered 33 yards to Kelvin Edwards, increased the Dallas lead to 23-3 and had Schramm joking, "Hey, this is just like the old days."

One more Sweeney-to-Edwards touchdown pass, this one 35 yards, made it 38-17, enabled the Cowboys to withstand a 78-yard punt return by the Jets' Michael Harper with two minutes left in the game.

But this game was a string of bloopers. At one point of the first half, seven Dallas players stood at the goal line waiting to down a punt at the 1-yard line, but somehow let it slip into the end zone for a touchback.

Schramm said, "I don't think anybody pretends this is business as usual. This isn't the NFL in peacetime and payday. But . . . we never said this is the same quality of football we have when Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker and all the other players are out there. Still, this is exciting football."

Landry, the Cowboys' head coach for 28 years, said: "This is probably as strange as any circumstances I've ever coached under." But Landry also said he thought the game was "exciting" and that several players had taken steps to sticking with the real Cowboys later.

Still, Landry awaits the return of his regular squad. "We'd like to see 'em back whenever they can come back," he said of the striking players. "They're the NFL."

Dallas 7 17 14 0 38 N.Y. Jets 3 7 7 7 24 First Quarter

NY -- FG Ragusa 20, 2:24

D -- Burbage 13 pass from Sweeney (Zendejas kick), 10:06 Second Quarter

D -- FG Zendejas 33, 2:43

D -- Adams 27 run (Zendejas kick), 4:32

D -- Edwards 33 pass from Sweeney (Zendejas kick), 13:06

NY -- Kurisko 41 pass from Norrie (Ragusa kick), 14:50 Third Quarter

NY -- Chirico 3 run (Ragusa kick), 3:31

D -- Blount 1 run (Zendejas kick), 8:01

D -- Edwards 35 pass from Sweeney (Zendejas kick), 13:32 Fourth Quarter

NY -- Harper 78 punt return, (Ragusa kick), 13:21

A -- 12,370.

Cowboys Jets First downs 14 22 Rushes-yards 37-114 30-82 Passing yards 132 159 Return yards 13 88 Passing 6-15-1 18-35-2 Sacked-yards lost 2-7 11-54 Punts average 6-42 4-26 Fumbles-lost 4-3 4-3 Penalties-yards 16-131 10-150 Time of possession 29:36 30:24

INDIVIDUA

RUSHING -- Dallas: Blount 28-72, Adams 5-43, Sweeney 3-3, G.White 1-minus 4. N.Y. Jets: Hunter 15-48, Chiri

PASSING -- Dallas: Sweeney 6-14-1, 139 yards, Snyder 0-1-0, 0. N.Y. Jets: Norrie 18-33-1, 213, Briggs 0-2-0

RECEIVING -- Dallas: Burbage 3-46, Edwards 2-68, Spivey 1-25. N.Y. Jets: Harper 6-89, Holman 4-40, Chirico

MISSED FIELD GOALS -- None.