The Cowboys actually started with a brief six-play team period that featured all pass plays. After a scramble and an incompletion, returning starting quarterback Donovan Woods rifled a pass deep down the right sideline to transfer wide receiver Tevin Williams, who had got behind the defense. Williams went up and made a nice catch and then sprinted down the field for what would have been a touchdown.
Williams and other receivers got extra opportunity to make plays because established wide out D'Juan Woods was hampered by a hamstring that he injured early in the practice. It wasn't serious, but it kept him out of the scrimmage action. Before the six-play team period was up Bobby Reid came in and completed his first pass attempt over the middle to running back Mike Hamilton.
The team then split up for seven-on-seven work and more drills for the linemen before coming together again for the bulk of the scrimmage action. It was then that the defense decided to make some noise and set a precedent for the new O-State defense. After Woods was flushed from the pocket on the first play and scrambled for 10 yards, the next play defensive end Victor DeGrate came off his block and hammered running back Greg Gold for a two-yard loss with a big hit.
"My gap was outside and I was fighting to get outside and when I saw Greg plant to go back inside, I had to get rid of Charlie (Johnson) and I was just there, perfect place at the right time," said the former linebacker in describing the play. "I made the hit, I got up, and I was feeling pretty good about myself right then."
The next play the offense got their yards as Tevin Williams came around the left side on a reverse, but the transfer from NEO paid for his 14-yard gain when safety Thomas Wright came screaming over and took his head off with a big hit as Williams tight roped the sideline. Giving up the yards was not good, but the big hits are something this group of defenders, under coordinator Vance Bedford, want to establish.
"I feel like it is an attitude thing," said senior cornerback Vernon Grant. "It's an attitude thing. We have to have attitude out here on the defense. The offense is clicking so we have to get out here and get set. I think it is bettering us as a defense as a whole and as a team, just going fast paced like this."
The scrimmage was fairly even with both the offense and the defense having their fair amount of success. The situations varied from first-and-10 to different second-down situations. As for the quarterbacks, the top three (Woods, Reid and Al Pena) got an equal number of snaps rotating every four plays. Each had a chance to play with and against first-, second-, and third-team personnel.
Donovan Woods finished the scrimmage with one carry for 10 yards. Woods was the most successful passer in yards as he connected on 5-of-9 passing for 124 yards. Besides his earlier connection with Tevin Williams, Woods hooked up with returning wide receiver Luke Frazier for 27 yards on a play over the middle. He also found Williams again for a 12-yard gain.
Bobby Reid also had once carry for nine yards and he completed 4-of-5 passes for 29 yards. Reid's passes were crisp with his longest completion a nine-yarder to tight end Justin Waller.
Al Pena had the second longest completion of the day as he connected with Tevin Williams over the middle for 68 yards. The pass was thrown just over safety Stephen James and Williams made a nice grab and then ran down to the 12-yard line before being hauled down by James.
"They have a lot of responsibility in learning the system and making adjustments," said Gundy of the quarterbacks. "They're getting better, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm encouraged by their ability to make big plays."
The scrimmage featured 33 runs for a total of 215 yards, including 77 yards gained on three reverse plays. Tevin Williams ran three of the reverses for 38 yards, while Tommy Devereaux had one for a 39-yard gain. Mike Hamilton led the tailbacks with seven carries for 45 yards. He also had the longest run by a running back going 20 yards busting loose through the right side of the defense. All four running backs that saw action in the scrimmage averaged three yards or better a carry.
The defense had their moments as they forced and recovered one fumble on a completed screen pass with cornerback Andrew Alexander coming up to make a big hit on Julius Crosslin to force the fumble.
The real highlight for the defense was the pass rush as they had seven sacks with seven different players registering the sacks. Cornerback Vernon Grant, linebackers Pagitte McGee, Jamar Ransom and Grant Jones, defensive end Jerry Don Bray, walk-on defensive end Chris Flowers, and new transfer defensive tackle Ryan McBean all had sacks. McBean and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy seemed to have solid scrimmages in the middle with backup Walter Thomas making a couple of nice stops on running plays.
"They are excited to be able to hit," said Gundy when asked about the defense. "Our defense got a good look at how fast this offense moves. That was a big adjustment for them today. Getting calls, breaking the huddle, making adjustments before the ball is snapped. Jamar Ransom moving from safety down to linebacker has really helped him. I thought he looked comfortable today."
The best aspect of the scrimmage is the learning and advancement it will produce on both sides of the ball as it will now be thoroughly reviewed by the coaching staff and the players.
"We want to get a lot of reps on the field and study on tape," said Gundy of the learning the tape of the scrimmage will produce. "We have the ability to cut all this up and not only tomorrow and the next two weeks of the spring but after the spring have the guys watch it and learn from it. It's a great teaching tool for them in the off season."
The Cowboys won't have to wait long before trying it again as a scrimmage is scheduled, weather permitting, for Saturday.
Donovan Woods: 1 rush, 10 yards; passing 5-of-9, 124 yards
Bobby Reid: 1 rush, 9 yards; passing 4-of-5, 29 yards
Al Pena: passing 3-of-6, 72 yards
Jamie Beeghley: passing 1-1, 7 yards
Greg Gold: rush, 7 for 22 yards
Mike Hamilton: rush, 7 for 45 yards; receiving, 2 for 10 yards
Julius Crosslin: rush, 11 for 36 yards; receivking, 1 for 2 yards
Clavin Roberts: rush, 4 for 35 yards; receiving, 1 for 6 yards
Tevin Williams: receiving, 4 for 168 yards; rush, 3 for 38 yards
Tommy Devereaux: receiving, 1 for 5 yards; rush, 1 for 39 yards
Luke Frazier: receiving, 1 for 27 yards
Justin Waller, receiving, 1 for 9 yards
Kenny Williams, receiving, 2 for 9 yards
Vernon Grant: 1 for -7 yards
Pagitte McGee: 1 for -7 yards
Chris Flowers: 1 for -7 yards
Jamar Ransom: 1 for -9 yards
Jerry Don Bray: 1 for -5 yards
Grant Jones: 1 for -8 yards
Spring Football Practice: March 23
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