March 14, 2008

Defense rules the day in scrimmage

Oklahoma State's sixth spring practice was a big one for fans, media and the Cowboy players. For the first two groups, Friday's practice and scrimmage was the first chance to see OSU in person. For the players, it was their final practice before getting a full week off for the university's Spring Break.

"Spring break starts for the gang," Mike Gundy said following the workout. "The offense is on spring break starting 30 minutes ago."

The fourth-year head coach was jokingly referring to the fact that his defense stepped up in the Cowboys' first public scrimmage of the spring and had his offense sputtering. It was a nice step in the right direction according to defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.

"We played pretty good," Beckman said. "It was nice to see some of the new faces make plays. Lucien (Antoine) made a great play and Markelle (Martin) made a couple of nice plays. So, it was good to see those guys running around and they're believing in what we're doing now. It's been a year in this system, so the kids are getting very familiar with it."

Beckman was referencing a pair of interceptions by newcomer defensive backs Antoine and Martin, and a big hit by Martin on walk-on running back Michael Roberts that drew oohs and aahs from the modest crowd on hand in Boone Pickens Stadium. Martin turned in the defense's first big play when he sat on a telegraphed Brandon Weeden pass and went for a 56-yard touchdown. Three plays later, he made the big hit to stop Roberts at the line of scrimmage. Antoine solidified the defense's big day when he played centerfield to pick off Alex Cate to end the day's practice.

"The defense took control early and no one on offense stepped up and made a play," Gundy said. "It's kind of like hoops this time of year - nobody stepped up and hit a three and changed the tempo of the scrimmage. The defense took control and just went the rest of the way. The offense never turned the tide."

The big plays were the most noticeable aspect to the scrimmage, but the offense's utter lack of success in moving the ball was the bigger story. Even with the first-team and returning starter Zac Robinson running the show, the Cowboy offense did not penetrate the red zone and never threatened to score. An offensive coach by nature, that might tend to set Gundy off, but he said the opposite was true at this point in the spring.

The Cowboys will take all of next week off for Spring Break and resume their three-per-week practice schedule on Monday, March 23rd.

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