August 9, 2008

Stormy Scrimmage for Cowboys

STILLWATER - The last open practice of the summer had it all, from some nice plays, big hits, a rain delay and even a black cat on the field.

About 5,000 or so fans showed up Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium to get their last glimpse at Oklahoma State's football team until their season opener at Washington State three weeks from today. Unfortunately, most of the fans weren't able to stick around for the whole thing, as a thunderstorm delayed practice around 50 minutes. Lightning forced the team off the field while fans went under the stadium to ride it out, although the vast majority left.

And that's a shame, because head coach Mike Gundy thought things went better after the delay even though he said he thought it was a little bit of a distraction.

"I felt bad for the fans," Gundy said. "We had a nice crowd and they had to make a decision whether to leave or not. So obviously we were waiting on the lightning. Quite a few of them had to head out, so I felt bad for them, but for the players, they back out there and stretch. They actually performed better after the rain delay than I thought they would have. Traditionally, it's not been very good after you've come inside for 45 minutes and then come back out.

"I think we stayed fairly healthy which was good. But we were rusty on both sides of the ball. Had a lot of penalties on offense. Defensively, I thought we played pretty well, but we didn't move fast enough on both sides of the ball. I like for the offense and defense to move and play a little faster, so we had to work through some things. But overall it was a good scrimmage and it went 115, 120 plays. Got some good work in."

The first play from scrimmage was a nice one for the defense. Defensive end Derek Burton managed to score a safety right off the bat.

Some other notable moments:

- A 50-or-so yard breakaway for Kendall Hunter
- A Jacob Lacey interception returned for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage
- A monster hit from linebacker Donald Booker
- A 75-yard kickoff return from Perrish Cox

Two of the above were on the defensive side, which is a big thing given the past performance of the OSU defense. While Gundy is an offensive-based guy from way back, there's no doubt which side he's rooting for in those situations.

"I'm certainly rooting for the defense," Gundy said. "I can promise you that. And I thought there were more collisions in the first 20 plays than we've had in a long time. I think Ricky Price had a big tackle, Booker had one. I think Jeray (Chatham) may have been the other. So I was pleased with the tackling. I thought that we brought something with us when we made those hits. I thought there was some force. I was pleased with that."

While the defense definitely seemed to have more pop to it, one of the other major storylines of the evening came on offense. Zac Robinson sat out the scrimmage while Alex Cate and Brandon Weeden took the snaps to see which one would be named the chief backup. So did either of them pull ahead in the race for No. 2? Gundy said it's difficult for him to say without watching tape from the scrimmage.

"I thought both of them did some good things and made some mistakes, so we'll obviously know a lot more tomorrow morning."

Don't look for a decision to be announced after you get out of church, though. So when will we know?

"We'd like to do it 12-14 practices out so those guys get the reps," Gundy said. "In practice you really can't give three guys reps. You give your starter the majority of the reps and the other guy gets 15 percent and then the other guy gets five."

While they were both in their green "don't him me" jerseys, Gundy let the defense off the leash to go after them to give them both some tangible practice experience under pressure.

"We didn't blow the whistle," he said. "If it was a blindside I would have blown a whistle. But they needed to play a little bit. So we would just really let them play. Defensively, those guys are so trained. Even though the whistle wasn't blowing, when they see those green jerseys they pull off. But they did get hit some and that was good."

In addition to Robinson not seeing the field, neither did Brandon Pettigrew.

"Just really no reason to put them out there," Gundy said.

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