Cowboy Preseason Camp: Day 7

STILLWATER – Head Coach Mike Gundy wouldn't come right out and say it, and neither would wide receivers D'Juan Woods and Adarius Bowman, but Wednesday night's two-hour, 50-minute practice, the longest so far of preseason camp, was the best practice for the Cowboys this fall. For the offense it was a breakout night featuring big plays in both the running and passing game.

Gundy was delighted that the defense forced a couple of turnovers, and the defense got the last word, sort of, with its success in the full contact work on goal-line situations.

"Really good practice today, (with) lots of hitting, (and the) defense forced two turnovers which is really good, stripped the ball and I liked it and from really good players," Gundy said after the practice. "One was Woods and the other was, I'm not for sure, Bowman. We have been working hard on that on defense and then the nice goal-line stand there at the end by the defense.

"The offense needs to really work hard. When you go for three hours or more by the time you count pre-practice and you have as much contact as we did that's really good. Offense made plays, defense made plays. Offense was gashing them on the running game and then the defense came back and got it. We were in our last segment of a three-hour practice and everybody was excited and having fun and talking and saying let's play some more. I see a group of guys that are really enjoying playing football."

Wide receiver D'Juan Woods said, "I think early on the offense had the momentum. It kind of sputtered away as the defense got more in the live situations. It kind of went the other way at the end."

It started well for the offense on the first play of the first team period as running back Julius Crosslin broke the grasp of strong safety Andre Sexton on a sweep play for a solid gain around the right side. On the next play it was Crosslin again, this time up the middle through a sizeable hole. The coaches blew the whistle after he was 15 yards downfield, but the question was did the whistle come before a defender popped the ball loose and free safety Donovan Woods recovered and returned the fumble for a nice gain. The whistle came into play later when backup quarterback Zac Robinson dropped back and found D'Juan Woods open for close to 20 yards. The ball was popped loose and the defense recovered, but did the fumble come before or after the whistle. Woods said afterwards it doesn't matter.

"I got down on myself a lot because that was my first fumble in five years," Woods said of a fact that we can't contest him on. "If I do it in practice, I'll do it in a game. It's good to hear the coaches to constantly keep it in my mind, but I know turnovers are the key to victory. You get takeways you are going to be successful, (but) you have giveaways and you are going to lose."

The offense was pretty consistent in moving the ball in the first team period as Robinson connected with third team tight end Justin Waller for a big gain over the middle. Robinson also completed a pass to Tevin Williams. Williams has been a player who has really stepped up this week after injuries over the weekend to receivers Jeremy Broadway and Anthony Parks.

"Tevin is doing a good job for us. Artie Woods is doing a good job and so is Seth (Newton)," said Gundy.

Tevin Williams said, "When Broadway went down, Coach Brew (Brewer) pulled me in his office and said it is time for you to step up and make plays because I was injured last year. I kind of got left in the spotlight, but I have been in the film room and on the field making plays."

Starting quarterback Bobby Reid was accurate passing with strikes to Keith Toston on the swing pass and a pair of connections with tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Reid also continued to show the ability to tuck the ball and run or make yards on designed quarterback running plays. It was not a complete victory for the offense, but it was the best team period so far.

"His confidence gets better everyday," Gundy saidof Reid. "He's got a little pull in his groin muscle that is not enough to talk about, but it keeps him from running some and we pull him out and get Zac some more in there."

"He's getting a lot more comfortable with the receivers," Bowman said of Reid. "We've had a lot of time together. He is getting better day by day. He has one of the nicest arms I've seen in awhile and with his frame he can really run the ball."

During drills before the second of the team periods, Bowman was dominant with several impressive catches in one-on-one work against the secondary. Then in seven-on-seven on the first play Reid led Woods perfectly on a post route that the senior standout turned up field and sprinted to the end zone. Woods and Bowman make a huge difference in the offense when they are making plays.

"Today was a better day for the offense as a whole," said Bowman. "I don't know how to describe it (70-yard touchdown), I'm just trying to make a play. I knew I had to come in with it, I had to tip it a little bit."

They made more as Bowman caught three passes in the second team period. On the first he looked like was off to the races but freshman corner Perrish Cox muscled him out of bounds. There would be no muscling on the next one as Bowman ran down the right sideline and hauled in with one hand the delivery from Reid and then sprinted into the end zone completing a 70-yard touchdown pass. Reid again had several good scramble plays with receivers covered.

Keith Toston and Calvin Roberts ran the ball well and Roberts caught a swing pass from Robinson that he turned into a long gain. Toston's best run started out to the left and then he cut it back all the way right for close to 40 yards. Toston also showed his physical side late in the period when he ran over fellow freshman Terrance Anderson with a loud bang that had teammates hooting on the sidelines. Gundy said Toston won't be wearing a redshirt this season. He is going to play.

"He's doing a nice job for us," analyzed Gundy. "He has some natural running ability and he is going to play for us. He is not going to redshirt. He will play on special teams and we have a lot of young guys that will play on special teams. Toston is going to play, Perrish Cox is going to play, (and) Artie Woods is going to play."

Freshman quarterback Alex Cate got in late in the period and completed passes to Chijuan Mack and DeMarcus Conner. Defensively, linebacker Seb Clements stopped Toston with a tackle right at the line of scrimmage and Victor DeGrate made several plays including a sack of Robinson. Xavier Lawson-Kennedy also sacked Robinson.

The defense really shined in the goal line drill as they held the offense out of the end zone on three of five series. Robinson scored on a fake up the middle and a scamper around the left side and Toston scored on a two-yard run, but other than that the offense saw a brick wall and actually got pushed back as linebacker Rodrick Johnson, XLK, freshman starting linebacker Chris Collins, defensive end Darnell Smith and even strong safety Andre Sexton all got in the mix in pushing the offense back. The practice ended on the last goal line drill with Bruce Redden coming on to hit a 22-yard field goal.

Earlier this week Gundy said that football is all about chunk plays, tackling in space and turnovers. Wednesday's practice has plenty of all three.

"We saw some big plays on the offense, big throws and catches," said Gundy. "Some running backs broke some long runs, and then we saw the defense tackle in space well at times. Then we saw turnovers created and then turnovers that worked against us. We really believe success has a lot to do with getting turnovers, having really big plays, and tackling in space. I feel very comfortable with where were at. We are much further ahead of where we were this time last year."

The Cowboys come off the long practice Wednesday night to a two-a-day Thursday. Practices will be held on the grass at 10 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. with both open to the public. The first scrimmage, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, will be on the grass and will be the last preseason session that will be open to the fans.

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