"The defense is playing great out here," said Carden. "I think they're doing a really good job with Coach Smith … We didn't do everything we did on the practice field on the game field. For us, it's just trusting each other—routine plays. We tried to do way too much, tried to play out of our system."
Defensive coordinator Rick Smith was pleased that his group allowed just a single touchdown, but understands that Carden and his unit were working on meshing together.
"Usually, the first scrimmage, the offense is a little behind," said Smith. "A lot of it is timing. They got a couple of deep balls that they didn't catch, so they didn't execute. They had some screens that could have gone for some yardage that they didn't execute."
Carden added, "Every pick, every missed read, every missed call—you always just got to learn from," and when asked what he needed to fine-tune, he said, "You just got to take it and learn each practice. That's what camp's great for—it's practice after practice."
Smith says his squad was quickly humbled, though. Once the offense better established their timing and other intangibles, the defense had a tougher time.
"They kicked our phanny up and down," said Smith. "It was embarrassing how bad they beat us [Wednesday] and we came back [Thursday] and played pretty good."
Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has seen his unit make strides since last Saturday's scrimmage, too.
"We've made a lot of corrections and I think guys are really starting to take the next step as far as what we want to do," said Riley. "I think the natural narrowing down of positions, repping a few less guys has made us real sharp."
Riley has plenty of tools at his disposal to build on the offense that saw Carden surpass 3,000 passing yards and Vintavious Cooper run for over 1,000. Not to be forgotten, preseason all-conference receiver Justin Hardy is back for his junior season.
"We've got [Justin] Hardy and [Danny] Webster and [Reese] Wiggins—guys like that that have played and made plays in games," said Riley. "We've also got some really good young talent that we think is going to make a strong impact for us."
During his time at Texas Tech, Riley helped Michael Crabtree become the first underclassman to win the Biletnikoff Award. Heading into this season, Riley's system has helped Hardy get recognized on the watch list for the same award.
"We throw it a bunch, so that helps to get some numbers behind it, but you have to be a great player, too," said Riley. "[Crabtree] was able to separate himself and win that twice. It would be great for Hardy to get it… when [Crabtree] won those awards and when other guys at Texas Tech started getting national recognition is when we started winning more games."