Defense, Backup QBs Shine In Scrimmage

STILLWATER - Just as head coach Mike Gundy promised Saturday's scrimmage was going to be used as major barometer to try to decide on a backup quarterback with junior Alex Cate and 24-year-old redshirt freshman Brandon Weeden getting the lion's share of reps. They did in the 115 to 120-play scrimmage that also featured a 53-minute lightning delay as thunderstorms passed over Boone Pickens Stadium.

The initial thunder in the scrimmage came from the Oklahoma State defense as the first two scores -- to the delight of the close to 3,000 fans on hand for the open scrimmage -- came from the Cowboys defense.

As the offense was working on coming off the goal line, a typical starting point in a scrimmage, defensive tackle Jeray Chatham broke off his blocker and charged into the end zone and surprised freshman running back Travis Miller as he was just trying to get started. Chatham put him down aggressively for the safety.

The biggest highlight for the offense in the coming out drill was, no surprise Kendall Hunter breaking off a run to the left side for 46 yards before Perrish Cox came over to make a touchdown-saving tackle. It was a run that got the attention of the crowd and further stamped Hunter as a definite playmaker in the offense. It was an example of what Hunter does best in getting to the outside.

"Pretty much, it was just like a little zone play and I didn't see anything," recreated Hunter. "The first thing that crosses my mind is to bounce it outside if the hole is clogged up."

He said it would have been better if he could have avoided the tackler, but he didn't and that meant the defense got its second straight score to open the scrimmage.

A few minutes later as the offense moved out to a starting point from its own 35-yard line, Weeden threw a short fade to wide receiver Jeremy Broadway and hung it up a little too much where the defender, in this case standout cornerback Jacob Lacey, could get to it. Lacey outbattled Broadway for the ball and then made several nice moves and broke a tackle to cover 39 yards on the return for the touchdown.

"I read it real quick and got a good break and I took it to the house," said Lacey simply of his scoring play. "It is pretty good. It's just a matter of making a read and breaking. I don't think it was too brave but it was a little bit of a confidence boost."

"I feel really good about Jacob Lacey," said Gundy when he was reminded that the defense registered the first two scores in the game. "He's played really well and he had a good summer, He's been a leader in camp. He's really matured, and I feel like he can be a really good corner in this league."

Yes, but again, the first two scores of the scrimmage came from the defense.

"I'm certainly rooting for the defense," continued Gundy. "I thought there were more collisions in the first 20 plays than we've had out here in a long time. I think Ricky Price had a big tackle, (Donald) Booker had one, and I think Jeray (Chatham) maybe had the other (on the safety.

"I was pleased with the tackling and I thought we brought something with us when we came up and made those hits, I was pleased with that."

Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman was pleased too, moderately, because he won't truly be pleased until they start stuffing opposing teams and stealing the ball in real games.

"It is a credit to being stronger and faster and what Rob Glass has done with these guys," said Beckman commenting on the big hits in the scrimmage. "We harp on it, stress on it, live by it. You have to get the football and as you know when our offense gets the football they can score. We have got to get the football for our offense. We scored twice and those are takeways for us and we are just trying to reach our goals."

The Cowboys were trying to move really fast as the dark clouds were approaching from the west. After freshman running back and last fall's Oklahoma High School Player of the Year Kye Staley broke loose on a 30-yard run, fellow freshman Quinn Sharp connected on a 29-yard field goal.

The next drive resulted in a touchdown by the offense. Weeden, who is 6-4, 215 pounds, took off on a scramble that netted 17 yards. He also had a 12-yard scramble earlier and later ended this drive with a two-yard touchdown run where he bulled the ball in on defenders that stood in front of him, but weren't quite sure whether to hit him.

"We didn't blow the whistle," said Gundy on letting the quarterbacks be a little more live than normal. "If it had been blind side I would have blown the whistle, but we wanted to let them play a little bit so we let them play. Defensively, those guys are so trained that they pull off those green jerseys like they are trained to but they got hit a little. Weeden is bigger and older, so they should have hit him."

"I don't think so," answered Weeden when we asked if he's converting to a running quarterback. "My parents were out here giving me crap because that was my first ever rushing touchdown. In high school I was 6-4, 175 and I never ran the ball. I told Zac (Robinson) that in the locker room and he thought it was a joke. I did (get moving). I'm big and when I get this body going I can move a little. I had some nice scrambles."

Shortly after that touchdown drive the thunder and lightning came along with the rain, and players headed to the locker room and the crowd, much of it took off having seen some good things already.

The team came back 53 minutes later and got right back into the scrimmage and the encouraging aspect of that was the team seemed to focus through the distraction of the delay and come back, maybe even better than before.

"I think so, it's a little bit of a distraction, but I felt bad for the fans," said Gundy in discussing the delay. "We had a really nice crowd and they had to make a decision on whether to leave or not. Obviously, we were waiting on the lightning. Quite a few of them had to head out and I felt really sorry for them.

"For the players they go back out and stretch and then get back after it ... the players actually performed better after the rain delay than I thought they would have. Traditionally, it's not very good when you go in for 45 minutes and come back out."

"You always come out excited, maybe too excited," said Cate of the start of the scrimmage. Cate played well and said he felt pretty good, but admitted felt better after the break. "We came out of the break and we both performed well and moved the offense. I think the offense performed well as a whole after the break."

It was Cate that led the first scoring drive after the break as he had a 12-yard scramble for a big play in the drive that finished with a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey. Bailey was a perfect two-for-two on field goals and was also perfect on extra points. The freshman Sharp missed one, a 37-yard try.

"They did a nice job," said Gundy. "Obviously, Sharp was a little nervous and hooked it, but I thought the field goal and PAT team performed pretty well and Bailey has performed well all camp."

The other special teams work came on punt return, kickoff return, which featured a big hit by Taylor Sokolosky, and kickoffs.

The next score was set up by the longest play of the scrimmage and it was not neccesarily a pretty play. Weeden hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Hubert Anyiam. Anyiam, a speedster that runs in the 4.4 neighborhood, had beaten his man and was open deep.

"My catch," said Anyiam afterward, "I feel good about that catch because normally in a regular game Weeden would have got that ball out there, but he got tangled up in the backfield and he threw it and I just tried to get to it and make the play. It was all good."

"When it came out it didn't feel good, but I knew Hubert had him one on one and if I just threw in the vicinity he would come down with it," explained Weeden of the 60-yard play. "I had a little pressure in my face and just threw a bad ball but he is a good player and just went up and made a play."

The 65-yard drive was polished off by Staley on a four-yard tough touchdown run.

"Beau and Kye and Travis, it looked like Kye did pretty well," said Gundy when asked about the three new backs thus leaving Hunter out of the discussion. "He put the ball on the ground once. Beau played pretty well and he was here in the spring and we knew that he was good enough to have an impact for us in the fall. Travis was a little further behind but he played better late. Earlier he was slipping and missing his cuts, just experience but he played pretty well late."

Bailey came back and hit a 41-yard field goal that closed out the regular portion of the scrimmage and then it was on to red zone and goal-line work. The scrimmage continued to be give and take with both sides of the ball as each quarterback threw for a score.

Cate made a perfect toss in the corner of the end zone to newcomer Bo Bowling who had worked free on the play. Weeden came back at the end of the scrimmage to hit Dez Bryant on a 21-yard scoring play.

Gundy asked that statistics not be released but he did allow for completion percentages on the quarterbacks, and it was close with Cate completing 60 percent of his passes and Weeden completing 56.2 percent. Weeden did throw that interception to Lacey, but he was also the quarterback on two long touchdown drives. The two signal callers mixed it up playing with the first, second, and third offenses at different points in the scrimmage.

Starting quarterback Zac Robinson did not play at all and neither did All-Big 12 and All-American candidate tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

"Just didn't play him and the same with Pettigrew," addressed Gundy. "There was no reason to see them out there."

As for the race to be the backup to Robinson, Gundy wanted to see tape, but...

"I thought both of them did some good things and I thought they made some mistakes," assessed Gundy. "We'll obviously know a lot more tomorrow morning. Again, without watching tape it is hard to comment but I thought both of them played pretty well."

That is a good assessment of the whole scrimmage. They played pretty well. There is still a lot of improvement needed and a lot of work to do. But at this stage, the Cowboys are in better shape than they were a year ago. That would be physically and mentally.

The Cowboys get most of Sunday off before coming back for dinner and meetings in the evening. The next practice for the squad is on Monday at 5 p.m.

Scoring Summary
Safety: Jeray Chatham tackled Travis Miller in the end zone

Touchdown: Jacob Lacey intercepts Brandon Weeden and returns it 39-yards - No PAT attempted

Field Goal: Quinn Sharp 29-yards

Touchdown: Brandon Weeden 2-yard run (65-yard drive) - PAT Good

Field Goal: Dan Bailey 38-yards

Touchdown: Kye Staley 4-yard run (65-yard drive) - PAT Good

Field Goal: Bailey 41-yards

Touchdown: Alex Cate 25-yard pass to Bo Bowling (red zone work) - No PAT Attempted

Touchdown: Staley 1-yard run (goal line work)

Touchdown: Weeden 21-yard pass to Dez Bryant (goal line work) - PAT Good

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