Practice Report 14: Mini-Scrimmage Pleases Gundy

PONCA CITY – Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was looking for toughness. He didn't see enough of it from his offense in a lengthy scrimmage at Ponca City High School's Sullins Stadium on Monday, so the Cowboys engaged in a shorter 60-play mini-scrimmage after an hour of regular practice drills on Wednesday.

Gundy tested his team's conditioning during the scrimmage as just before it started he had the entire team run gassers, sprints across the field and back and back again. The Cowboys ran three of those.

The practice had been planned for Ponca City, and with an additional inch of rainfall on Wednesday morning it was a good thing. Weather will dictate the plans the rest of the week, but Ponca City has said OSU can use the stadium through Saturday.

As for the scrimmage Gundy got more of what he wanted as the offense had a better showing in the mini-scrimmage. Especially promising was the performance of redshirt sophomore Calvin Roberts who led all rushers and delivered with a short touchdown run to finish up an overtime possession. He also helped the offense get out of the shadow of the goalposts when he broke a couple of tackles for a first down around the left side. Roberts had the trifecta as he also caught a shovel pass and broke it open through the secondary for a gain across midfield. Even fellow running back Mike Hamilton, who showed more toughness on his opportunities, admitted that Roberts is in a good position.

"Calvin had a good day today and he showed that he can run. Sall of us are just competing with each other," said Hamilton.

"It's the first time in the first two scrimmages that a guy has run hard and bounced off of tackles, got his helmet knocked off and got back in the huddle," said Gundy. "That's what happens in scrimmages and that's what I'm accustomed to (Vernand) Morency making plays in scrimmages. Tatum Bell, when he grew up his junior year, I was accustomed to that, and the guys I played with were that way. In order for it to be what in the old days we called a real running back you have to be able to do that."

The scrimmage started out a little flat in the steamy conditions caused by the sun breaking through the clouds, but picked up when strong safety Chas Holland racked up a couple of big hits. On Roberts weaving run with the shovel pass, Holland came across and slammed the 5-11, 225-pound back to the ground. A few plays later third team quarterback Al Pena hit Ponca City native Justin Waller coming across to the right sideline and Holland again zeroed in for a crunching blow. Gundy yelled to the rest of the squad that he had found somebody eager to get after it.

"Chase Holland wants to play some football," proclaimed Gundy about the hits from the senior out Oklahoma City Heritage Hall. "He wants to play, and he's showing it."

"I just knew they were testing us and had us run a few gassers right before the start of the scrimmage," said Holland. "I knew at that point that they wanted some people to step up and I took it on myself to go out there and play as hard as I could and lift up the defense a little bit."

Gundy said afterward that he's impressed with Holland and was more impressed overall than on Monday.

"Chase will play a lot this year," said Gundy. "He is on all of our special teams and makes a lot of calls. It's important to him. He plays hard every play, and he understands the game of football. That's what we want all 105 of our players to understand. There are a lot of guys that have played the game that have played it with respect. We want the guys that play for us in the games to respect the game and play extremely hard. Once we find those 35 or 40 guys that are going to play on Saturday and play extremely hard then that will solve our problem. It doesn't have anything to do with schemes and X's and O's.

"It was a lot better, better effort. The offensive line played hard and the running backs ran hard and didn't lay on the ground like they were hurt. It was a lot better effort. We didn't move the ball much on offense for the second scrimmage, but, boy, they played hard and guys didn't act like they were hurt. (It was) much more encouraging that the other day."

The theme of the scrimmage again focused on the running game and short passing game. Both quarterbacks completed about half of their passes with Donovan Woods' most impressive completion going to his brother D'Juan down the left sideline. Woods also had a medium strike that was zipped in between two defenders and tight end Brandon Pettigrew made an impressive catch while getting hit from both sides. Woods went on to finish that 60-yard scoring drive with a quarterback sneak that Woods broke through the defensive front and sprinted clear for the score. Bobby Reid had success with the shovel pass to Roberts and also found the outside routes to his liking, hooking up with Tommy Devereaux, Errick McCown and Seth Newton on similar routes.

It was a tough scrimmage to do much evaluation on the quarterbacks in the throwing game, although three interceptions - all coming late in the two-minute portion of the scrimmage - will be examined. Woods misfired outside and was picked off by cornerback Daniel McLemore. A few plays later Reid tried to throw the ball in a crowd and the other first team cornerback Martel Van Zant came down with his second interception in a scrimmage this week. The scrimmage ended with Woods scrambling and throwing the ball toward the out of bounds, but Jamie Thompson was able to steal it.

"I won't ever give you an opinion until I look at the tape," said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Larry Fedora. "I know it's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think."

In the goal line portion of the scrimmage the offense tripled its touchdown production from Monday with three touchdowns. Donovan Woods proved to be a double threat with a short scoring pass to fullback John Johnson and then also scored on a quarterback roll out. Reid had the other goal line touchdown with a short quarterback sneak.

"The reason why is because Calvin Roberts decided to run hard. That was the difference," said Gundy. "There were some decent blocks down there the other day, but today Calvin decided he wanted to run in there and score. Obviously, Donovan had a nice throw and a boot. It was much more encouraging from an offensive standpoint."

"I just keep on working hard in practice," said Roberts, who has waited patiently and impatiently for his opportunity. "It just works out if you work hard in practice and that is what they ask us to do. I try to give 100 percent effort every time I go out there."

The defense had its share of highlights in addition to the big hits early by Holland. McLemore proved very tough to beat on his side as he successfully defended the first three passes thrown his way besides the interception he had late. Defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy stopped Julius Crosslin for a loss as he stormed off the ball and into the backfield. Later XLK shared another tackle for a loss with Darnell Smith as they double teamed Mike Hamilton in the backfield. Defensive end Maurice Cummings sacked freshman quarterback Zac Robinson for a double digit loss. Later Cummings and fellow defensive end Marque Fountain teamed up to sack Reid.

Defensive tackle Ryan McBean was active and also registered a sack on Reid during the two-minute period. Freshman Jacob Lacey, a converted option quarterback from Garland Naaman Forest in Texas, is running second team at corner and he had an impressive play as he cornered Reid on a quarterback keeper for a short loss.

"I think there's more maturity on defense and it usually shows up early like this," said Gundy of the decided defensive advantage in the two scrimmages. "Defenses at time tend to be ahead especially when they have more experience than the offense. I think the defense is playing okay, but I'm concerned about them getting fatigued at the end and letting them run down at the goal line on that overtime with the twos. They are coming along fine."

Overall, it was a good showing by the defense although they had a few up downs to do when they allowed scores, but the offense made some advancement, according to offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.

"It was better than the last scrimmage, but are we there yet? We're not even close," said Fedora. "We're making progress, if we were going the other way then I'd really be concerned. You still as a coach have a sense or urgency and September third is coming fast and we're not anywhere close to where we need to be as an offensive unit to be able to execute to be able to help. We made progress over the other day, a tremendous amount of progress. If we can do that samething before the next time we go live then I'll be happy with where we're at."

The Cowboys will practice on Thursday, probably just once, either in Stillwater or Ponca City depending on the condition of the practice fields at The Athletic Center and the weather. Practices are now closed to the public, including the final scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday.

GoPokes Top Stories