Is The Defense For Real?

STILLWATER – For much of the spring we've heard about how much better the Oklahoma State defense has been performing. But no one had any idea that a defensive play – a tackle for a safety by backup linebacker Seb Clement – would be the difference in the Orange team's 9-7 victory over the White squad in Saturday's Orange-White game to complete spring practice.

The Oklahoma State defense allowed nearly 450 yards of offense and the Cowboy opponents scored more than 30 points in eight of 13 games a year ago under first-year defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.

But in Saturday's spring game the combined defenses forced four turnovers – three fumbles and an interception. The White team defense, led by linebacker Justin Gent's team-best 9.5 tackles, stopped the Orange offense inside the 20-yard line four different times. Redshirt freshman defensive end Jamie Blatnick led the way by accumulating three of the Orange defense's four quarterback sacks.

"I was really excited to watch the defense, including some of the young guys get pressure on the quarterbacks," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said afterwards. "It's nice to see that because we haven't had that kind of pressure in a couple of years at OSU. I was excited to see Jamie get around the corner a couple plays, as well as Richetti (Jones). Jones used a power-rush on Brady Bond, who has played in 12 to 15 games in his career, which was good to see.

"It was a good day for us and it seems that we finished the day without any players getting injured, which is important for us," Gundy continued. "From this point on, we need leadership. We need guys to perform well over the summer. This becomes the most intense time for the team as they will be training in the summer with Coach (Rob) Glass.

"We had a great spring. We finished strong (today), and we are just looking forward to seeing the guys improve over the summer."

The White team got 42 of its 95 yards of total offense the first time it touched the ball. The White team recovered a fumble by Dez Bryant on the opening kickoff (recovered by Justin Gent), and went 42 yards in six plays to make it 7-0 just 2:19 into the game.

Junior college transfer running back Beau Johnson's catch and run with a pass from Alex Cate from the 16-yard line proved to be the only score of the game for the White team. Johnson, who has impressed the Cowboy offensive coaches throughout the spring, finished with 60 yards on 10 carries.

Little did people realize that not only would that be the White team's final points of the day, but also the game's only touchdown until early in the fourth quarter.

The Orange team, led by starting quarterback Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden (who is battling Cate for the backup QB job), got inside the 10-yard line three times in the first half but could not score. Walk-on kicker Grayson Buster missed a 24-yard field goal, Robinson was stopped a yard short of the goal line on a fourth-and-2 play from the 2-yard line, and then Weeden's pass on fourth-and-8 was dropped in the end zone by tight end Wilson Youman on the final play of the first half.

On its first drive of the second half, Robinson completed three of four passes and drove the Orange team from its own 33 to the 20-yard line. This time Buster's 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

"We got down there something like four times and couldn't punch it in, but it's tough when they split up the squads and you have the ones with the twos," Robinson said.

But the Cowboys' starting quarterback was impressed during the spring with what he's seeing from Beckman's defensive unit. He finished Saturday's spring game 12 of 21 for 142 yards and one touchdown (a 31-yard scoring toss to Youman with just under 13 minutes remaining in the game to tie the score 7-7).

"It's night and day (how much better the defense is now), even from the Indiana game to the beginning of spring, and from the beginning of spring to now," Robinson said. "They're lining up in the right spots, they know what's going on, they've been in the system for a year now. All those guys feel more comfortable, and now they're just going out and playing."

Beckman deflected credit for the improvement of the defense to the players and his coaching staff, which includes two new assistants in defensive line coach Glenn Spencer and cornerbacks coach Jason Jones.

"It's been a year. They've been in the system a year now," Beckman said. "I see a lot of progress, and I'm proud of the way they're playing. They're buying into the system, and it's for the players. Our coaches are doing a good job of coaching it, and it's paying off.

"We're taking baby steps, and doing the little things better. We're tackling better. We're getting off blocks better. We've talked about effort, we've talked about enthusiasm, and you see those things happening. I'm proud of the seniors."

It was one of those seniors, Clement, who made the game-deciding play, tackling Beau Johnson in the end zone with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

The White team took over on its own 1-yard line following the Orange squad's lack of ability to punch the ball into the end zone for the fourth time after driving into the red zone. But on the first play from scrimmage, the linebacker from Sanger, Texas met Johnson about two yards in the end zone and although he attempt to lunge forward to push the ball across the goal-line, the official ruled him down for a safety.

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