Spring Football: Offense Shines In Scrimmage

STILLWATER – The Cowboys wasted little time getting after each other on the first day in pads as about an hour and half into practice the ball was put down, the officials came out, and there was a 59-play scrimmage. It was a moral booster for the players as that's what they wanted to do. One of the players that head coach Mike Gundy has bragged about in the offseason with his work ethic had the first highlight of the spring.

Mike Hamilton, who rushed for an OSU freshman record 961 yards last season, showed the promise of more to come as he took a handoff from Al Pena, cut inside, and then quickly veered back to the outside and went down the sideline for a 34-yard gain. The comments in the stands at Boone Pickens Stadium ranged from, "man, he looks faster" to "he may be better than we thought." Those comments could have been used for the offense overall as the scrimmage was dominated by the guys with the ball.

"We believe in putting them out there and letting them go. Rhat's what spring is for," said Gundy. "We're not getting ready to play a game Saturday. I'm pleased we were able to go out and execute. There were times when we didn't look very good on offense last season and today we threw and caught the ball pretty well.

"Hamilton has had a really good offseason and I enjoy him because he is one of those guys that keeps his mouth shut and plays hard and never says a word. He just keeps playing. Everybody says he isn't fast enough or doesn't make enough people miss, but he is the guy that keeps getting the ball and carry it."

Hamilton led the runners as he finished with 70 yards on eight carries, including a 16-yard gain on his second carry. He also picked up 10 yards on an option pitch. Julius Crosslin, who has also slimmed down and bulked up at the same time, had gains of 19 and 14 yards on his way to 49 yards on six carries. Calvin Roberts was also impressive as broke off a long run of 14 yards in carrying nine times for 42 yards. Overall, the offense had 178 yards and an average of 6.5 yards a carry.

Running primarily out of the spread, all of the quarterbacks and wide receivers had success. Bobby Reid was 7 of 8 passing for 79 yards, redshirt freshman Zac Robinson was 6 of 9 for 71 yards, Al Pena was 3 of 5 for 27 yards, and true freshman Alex Cate was 6 of 6 for 71 yards. The quarterbacks were mixed in the reps with various offensive personnel, although it appeared that Pena and Reid worked more with first and second units, while Robinson and Cate worked more with second and third units.

"My comfort level is as high as it has ever been since I've been here," Reid said in showing the confidence of the offensive players in the practice.

Pena's biggest completion was a 16-yard out route to D'Juan Woods, who led all receivers with six receptions for 97 yards. Reid nailed Woods down the seam for a 30-yard gain late in the scrimmage. Woods took a big hit but did a good job of hanging on to the football.

Among Robinson's best throws was a come back out route to Jeremy Broadway for 14 yards. Broadway had two receptions for 26 yards. Cate's first completion was over the middle to Adarius Bowman. Bowman picked up a lot of the 20 yards on the play after the catch, and finished with three receptions for 32 yards. It was a good day for the offense and the quarterbacks were very complimentary of their receivers.

"The young boys, like Ricky (Price), Jeremy (Broadway), Parks (two receptions for eight yards), are doing a good job," said Reid. "They are learning the system. This was just our third practice of the spring and you know D'Juan and Adarius are going to make their plays. It just felt good having toys to play with."

"The weapons this year with A.D., D'Juan, and the receiver corps as a whole is really good," said Zac Robinson.

The offense as a whole is much further along than a year ago and it showed today.

"Our execution was better. Obviously we are in the second year of the system which makes a difference," said Gundy. "When the twos are out there all five guys up front have never played in a college game, so it slows down. With the ones we just turned them loose and let them play. I thought the quarterbacks handled everything and some wide outs made some plays, and I thought the running backs took care of the football and made some plays. I thought the defense gave up way too many plays and missed too many tackles. Our defense has to tackle better in space."

While there were no turnovers, the defense did have some highlights. There were no scoring plays as the defense never allowed anyone to get to the end zone. The yardage became more difficult to pick up as the scrimmage wore on. There were two clean sacks as defensive end Marque Fountain tagged Robinson for a seven-yard loss and defensive end Darnell Smith sacked Reid for a three-yard loss as he was trying to scramble back to the line of scrimmage.

On the final series of the scrimmage defensive end Nathan Peterson became a one-man wrecking crew as he stopped Calvin Roberts at the line of scrimmage, batted away a screen pass off the arm of Robinson, and then stopped Roberts for a three-yard loss on the last play of the day. It's not unusual for offense to show up better early in the spring.

"Spring ball, early in spring, is an offensive advantage and then late is a defensive advantage in most cases because they've seen so much," said Gundy. "This system (no huddle) you don't really have a chance to get set up (on defense) and these guys got caught. We never got to where it is supposed to be last season. We never controlled the tempo of a game and we're better at it now. (But) we have a long way to go."

One other item that will likely get some attention in the Saturday morning meetings in which the coaches go over the video will be penalties. There were nine of them - seven on the offense, primarily illegal procedure and delay of game.

The Cowboys will get back to practice on Monday with a 2:30 p.m. start time. It is scheduled to be a full pads practice on the grass practice fields east of Gallagher-Iba Arena.

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