The work and strategy paid off huge in the overtime of the Bedlam win over Oklahoma and in the Cactus Bowl going against a stout defensive front and big offensive line that the Washington Huskies brought to Tempe, Ariz., for the contest.
Winning football and doing it with a tough edge has been a continued theme in the spring. It was right there Wednesday inside the Sherman Smith Training Center as practice started about a half an hour early and it was nothing but scrimmage after stretch and a few drills. The nearly two-hour practice was about one hour, 45 minutes of scrimmage.
"We had 118 plays and I wanted the young guys and some veterans to get snaps today," Gundy said. "Essentially, it was just an all-out scrimmage for us.
"Early the offense played pretty well and later the defense kind of took over. It was very controlled from the defensive standpoint, in my opinion. We have a number of guys on our team that have to pick up the pace and play at a higher tempo than last year if we want to be successful this year – particularly the two-year guys that came into our program.
"(Motekiai) Maile, (Todd) Mays, (Jordan) Burton, they're all doing pretty well. The quarterback made some good plays. He missed a throw or two, threw a pick. We didn't put the ball on the ground, the defense ran well and I think we dropped four balls so we have to do a better job of catching."
There were several highlight plays as backup running back Raymond Taylor broke off the longest run of the day with close to a 50-yard touchdown run. Todd Mays ran well and seemed to overcome a slight issue he has had this spring of fumbling. There were no fumbles in the scrimmage.
Rennie Childs has had a good spring and he told me he felt like he played okay in the scrimmage.
"It went pretty well," Childs said. "The offense was moving around pretty well. The defense played very well today. They were very physical. They did their thing out there today."
There were no fumbles but as Gundy said the defense had its moments, and the biggest came courtesy of newcomer defensive tackle Motekiai Maile. He dropped back into a zone coverage and got deep enough before the pass was thrown over the middle to run through the receiver and picked it off. Gundy was impressed.
"I thought that he weighed 285, and the other day they said he was 306," the head coach said of Maile. "He's showing signs of being athletic. He made a nice play today – a one-handed grab.
"His attitude has been good and he seems to understand the tempo of this level of football. To this point, it looks like he's been a good take for us. I've said a long time ago we need to wait until we get to the middle of the season to evaluate a guy, but up to this point he's had the right temperament."
It was starting quarterback Mason Rudolph that threw the ball on Maile's interception but you can excuse a quarterback once on that mistake as few defensive tackles can make that kind of play. Rudolph played fine, but was hard on himself after the scrimmage.
"I wasn't really very pleased with the way I played. I made a lot of mistakes," the sophomore-to-be said. "There were certain mistakes that were easily correctable, so we'll get back there in the film room this afternoon and tomorrow morning and correct things for Friday. So, not a great day."
But not a setback either. As we have stated throughout the spring the Cowboys defense is veteran and very fast and athletic. Going against them will make the offense better through the spring and fall camp and right into the 2015 season.
There were some recruits on hand for the scrimmage and we have another story posted on that. Former players showed up as well with former defensive tackle and tremendous program supporter Jerry Winchester up from Texas. Former Cowboys tight end and offensive tackle and nine-year NFL veteran Charlie Johnson was there as was former receiver and NFL player Josh Cooper.
The Cowboys staff will host the annual spring high school coaches clinic on Good Friday and the Cowboys will practice in front of the clinic coaches on Friday afternoon.