First Scrimmage Is Exactly What You Want

STILLWATER - It is the age old question for a head coach either right before or right after the first scrimmage. Hey coach, what would you like to see, the offense do better, the defense do better, or a little of both? Mike Gundy got to answer that Saturday night and he wasn't disappointed in what he saw, and neither we were.

Close to 300 parents and relatives and Cowboy Extreme Campers were present as witnesses. Upstairs in Gallagher-Iba Arena was Dave Hunziker, the voice of the Cowboys, and Hunziker said he was impressed. He really liked the speed on defense and he liked the concept and execution that led to success for the offense.

As we mentioned, Gundy, the most important critic on the night, liked what he saw.

"Not bad, there were several situations that we need to do a better job with," said Gundy in his overall assessment. "One, lining up onsides and eliminating procedure penalties on offense and we had a late hit.

"I thought our effort was really good. I was pleased with both sides of the ball. We went ones versus twos for several series and obviously, the one offense and the one defense did very well. We went ones versus ones and it was about 50 percent

"I thought several guys did well. I thought (Brandon) Weeden made plays. Justin Gilbert made some plays. Justin Blackmon made plays. LeRon Furr made some plays. Chris Donaldson made some plays. I thought Justin Gent showed up."

As Gundy mentioned they started off with the ones going against the two. With the starting defense out there against the number two offense, defensive end Richetti Jones was quick to ignite. Jones made three of the first four plays in the scrimmage with a sack, another tackle for loss along with linebacker Justin Gent, and then a deflection of a Johnny Deaton pass.

"They've been working really hard to get off the ball," said defensive coordinator Bill Young. "Credit card linemen and today our credit card was too thin as we got caught offsides about four times, but we'll get that corrected."

The first team offense wasted no time in countering as wide receiver Josh Cooper made big plays early in the scrimmage with some nifty catch and run plays, a little like what he did back in high school in a similar offensive scheme at Mustang High. However, the scrimmage didn't end as well as it started for Cooper.

"He dropped the ball in overtime and that probably isn't going to sit to well with people at the end of a game," said offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "Other than that he did fine."

"That was a lack of concentration on my part and it was a good ball from Weeden," said Cooper of the disappointment at the end. "You know the line gave Weeden the time and Travis (Miller) had a good block on the play and I saw the field and was able to get down field in a hurry. It does take me back to the old days in high school. We have some stuff to work on and we got a lot on tape today to study."

Freshman Joseph Randle was part of a successful running attack and he scored the first touchdown on a one-yard run.

Overall, on offense Mike Gundy was happy with the multitude of players that touched the football. That included Blackmon, who on one possession caught an important out route for a first down and then came back with a 13-yard reverse for a touchdown. He would later add to that with a fade in the end zone for a touchdown on a pass that quarterback Brandon Weeden said he enjoyed delivering.

"The most fun throw to make is that fade to Justin, but it is fun throwing the ball to Cooper and watching what he can do with the ball in space," said Weeden after the scrimmage. "He had that big play over the middle and that throw to Blackmon is a fun throw to make."

"Weeden did fine, he threw to the open guy," said Holgorsen. "He could have probably operated a little bit quicker. For the most part, and I don't know how many snaps he got, but he did a good job."

In that running attack, besides Randle, a few plays from talented starter Kendall Hunter, Jeremy Smith was a beast with the ball. He broke several big runs. Smith found running room up the middle and was also effective going down the sideline, but he did figure out that young No. 4 on defense, cornerback Justin Gilbert, can fly.

"It felt real good today, great line," said Smith of his day running. "The speed is out there and he is on my team. The defense did a great job and the offense did a pretty good job but we have a lot to work on."

"He has a lot of closing speed, but he still has a long way to go technique-wise, but he is a great cover guy," said safety Markelle Martin. "He brings a lot to the secondary and I'm excited what he will do this season."

Tracy Moore, Smith's high school teammate at Tulsa Union, was also active in the scrimmage, one of those multitude of receivers Gundy was happy with.

Although Gundy challenged the defense after a 30-yard touchdown connection from Weeden to Moore, and he got what he wanted - a defensive stop - on the next series. The defense also produced some spectacular turnovers as Shaun Lewis picked a pass and then Justin Horton forced him to fumble only to have another freshman defender Zach Craig be "johnny on the spot" and pluck it out of mid-air for the recovery. A few plays later cornerback Brodrick Brown picked one off inside the 15 and took it in for a pick six.

"I just sat on the route and jumped it and I was in the end zone," said Brown. "I showed one thing and came back with another and picked the ball off. I don't know the signals,. That is what we praise on, turnovers, turnovers."

"Nobody talks turnovers more than we do," said Young of his defenders. "We encourage them to get them and we got a few. We'll see the film and I'm sure that we'll be excited about some things and see some things that we need to correct."

"Shaun Lewis has made enough plays to stay in the mix," said Gundy of the freshman showing up so far. "Justin Gilbert, obviously Joseph Randle has made enough plays. Joe Mitchell has made enough plays to stay in the mix and I'm probably forgetting somebody. Devin Hedgepeth has made enough plays and Zach Craig shows up some. We've got enough guys that are going to play in the first game."

"We picked up a lot today and while we didn't have a lot of big hits today we made tackles, made adjustments on the field and responded at times, so I think we did pretty good," said Martin of the defense.

Special teams got some work and looked good, especially kickoff returns featuring the blocking of All-Big 12 fullback Bryant "Stillwater" Ward and the returns of Justin Gilbert and Isaiah Anderson. Dan Bailey got some work and hit a pair of mid-range field goals during the scrimmage.

The players get Sunday off from practice but they will meet and review the scrimmage video before getting back at it with the first of three two-a-day work days on Monday. Mother Nature is expected to cooperate with some cooler, more reasonable temperatures next week.

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