STILLWATER – Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy climbed the stairs to the top of the Sherman Smith Training Center, the outside of the building, to see his team's first full scrimmage of the season. There was a full officiating crew, mostly from the Mountain West Conference, and a decent crowd of parents and support staff to watch.
Vice-President of Athletics and Athletics Director Mike Holder was among the crowd of curious to see what the first scrimmage would look like and right off the bat they saw defense. A short pass tipped with the second offense going against the second defense resulted in redshirt freshman defensive tackle Taaj Bakari grabbing the football out of the air and enjoying an escort the short distance into the end zone.
It was just a sample of what was seen in what several onlookers I watched with considered a good scrimmage, a near 50/50 proposition where there were good plays made by both sides of the football, offense and defense. A lot of plays, with a lot of situations being used, two-minute, four-minute, red zone, coming off the goal line and plenty of just putting the ball down and playing football.
"I really liked our scrimmage, we had 116 plays," Gundy said. "The offense started a little slow and the defense was able to rally and scored off of a turnover. The offense was able to come back and run the ball effectively, which opens up play action (passing). Mason (Rudolph) played good and we had a few wideouts that made plays. We had some young wideouts that played with the varsity, the first team I should say, and give them some quality work.
"We were able to make some headway running the ball and I thought the offensive line played good. Without watching tape, I don't think they played great but they were able to open some holes so we could turn the corner at times. That was good."
Before anybody turned the corner the defense struck again as new cornerback transfer Lenzy Pipkins, a graduate transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, showed his prowess making a really nice saving catch on a ball at the sideline and then the 6-0, 200-pound Pipkins set sail some 40 yards for the end zone.
"Defensively, they were active and it's always a tougher scrimmage for them because the offense was down, but the referees didn't blow the whistle because the offense wasn't all the way to the ground," Gundy added while praising the defense in comments to the team after the scrimmage saying he saw situations where defenders could have lowered the boom on offensive teammates and held up to protect their teammates and keep everybody healthy.
Okay, now the offense kicked into gear as two familiar friends, Mason Rudolph and James Washington connected on a long touchdown pass where Rudolph got some extra nice protection from the offensive line.
Gundy liked his running backs and, as he will often do, he threw a freshman into the deep end of the pool as Tulsa Booker T. Washington's Justice Hill, a good performer in camp, turned the corner and scored on a long touchdown run in which he outran some defenders the last 20 yards.
"I think that were right where I thought we would be running the football," Gundy said thinking of the plays he had just seen and will see plenty in video review. "I like that we have as many defensive tackles that we feel can play in a game. We knew we had the bodies but until you see them play you're not sure if they can factor and without watching the tape, it looks like we're going to have six guys at the two spots that can factor in, which is going to be good for us.
"I, obviously, didn't know we were going to have two freshmen that may factor in at receivers. You are never going to know that going in. i like our freshmen running back group. I like Justice (Hill) and L.D. (Brown). Junior (Barry J. Sanders) had a catch for a touchdown of about 27 yards and a touchdown run of about 30 yards. We've made some strides to get there and we've had some pretty pleasant surprises."
The screen pass to Sanders from Rudolph displayed some patience by Sanders to let the play open up. It was a 41-yard score. He also had an 11-yard touchdown run where he displayed his burst.
An impressive drive in the two-minute drill featured another long run by Hill, a couple of catches by freshman receiver Dillon Stoner and then a back shoulder connection for the score from Rudolph to Jhajuan Seales, who had a good scrimmage.
"Our kicking was good, our kickers were effective, so overall, it was a good day," Gundy said. "We worked our young kids, the true freshmen and the threes, overall they got 32 plays, which was excellent. It was awesome or us that we are back into a system where we have enough threes to get quality work. We haven't been able to do that in a couple of years. I'm excited about that."
In that action freshman quarterback Keondre Wudtee had a 71-yard touchdown pass to walk-on wide receiver Terry Tillmon from Dolton, Ill. Later, Wudtee hit Chris Lacy for another score, this one for 39 yards. Walk-on tough guy running back Keegan Metcalf out of Elk City punched in a one-yard touchdown run.
The head coach truly was in a good mood after the scrimmage, but with students back in town, a short camp this year, and still plenty of work to be done, he kept in a bed check for the team tonight and a practice scheduled for Sunday.
"We'll have a lighter practice tomorrow (helmets and shoulder pads) and then a day off and let them go to school on Monday."
Oklahoma State fans can be happy, camp has been good, injuries have been few and none serious since the pre-camp loss of wide receiver Marcell Ateman, and the routine of school and classes is 24 hours away.