Spring Finale: Defense Comes Up Big

STILLWATER, OKLA. - In the last three years, April football in Stillwater meant one thing: offensive firepower. From 2010 to 2012, Oklahoma State combined for 241 points in its intersquad matchups. On Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium for the Cowboys' 2013 spring finale, Orange and White combined for just 24 points in a 17-7 Orange victory.

Wide receivers Blake Webb (White) and Josh Stewart (Orange) each caught touchdown passes and quarterback Clint Chelf (Orange) threw for 204 yards and a touchdown. Caleb Lavey sealed it for the Orange with a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute.

And while it's way too early to make any definitive statements regarding the state of Cowboy football, we caught a glimpse of what head coach Mike Gundy could roll out this fall. Here's a few observations from the game:

-- There are three ways to look at the final score. 1. Mike Yurcich is still filling in the holes of his offense, combining old with new. 2. OSU is going to be much better defensively. 3. It's a spring game. It literally tells us nothing.

I tend to agree with a hybrid answer between 2 and 3.

-- Justin Gilbert showed us why fans were so critical of him last season. He had two picks with big run backs on Saturday. Where was that last year when he didn't have a single interception? There's some warranted excitement for what he could do next season.

-- Speaking of playing with a chip on his shoulder, Blake Jackson made some plays on Saturday. He caught his first three balls, including an acrobatic one down the near the sideline. He dropped a J.W. Walsh pass late in the third quarter, but it was high. If Jackson continues to improve, he could be a serious game-changer next year.

-- Clint Chelf was good, not great. He led all four quarterbacks in yards, completions and attempts. He threw Josh Stewart a great deep ball down the sideline for his only touchdown. He was short or off the mark on a number passes, but there's no need for concern here.

-- I get the feeling OSU will miss Joseph Randle this season. Desmond Roland showed big-play ability (7 carries for 28 yards), but expected starter Jeremy Smith had only 6 carries for 2 yards. There's no doubt Smith has the ability to be the go-to guy this season, but he'll need to prove it when OSU starts the regular season.

-- Defensive players who might fill key needs next season: DE Jimmy Bean: 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and 1 fumble recovery. DT Calvin Barnett: 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss. S Lyndell Johnson: 3 tackles. LB Kris Catlin: 5 tackles.

-- Attendance was announced as 15,000 at Boone Pickens Stadium. Compare that to 11,000 in 2011 and 16,000 in 2012. That's pretty good considering OSU's BCS-bowl winning team only got 1,000 more fans for its spring game. It's important for Mike Gundy's crew to continue riding its recent wave of success when it comes to fan participation. A good sign.


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