STILLWATER – Spring games are a zero-sum game. A big play produced is a big play allowed. A takeaway also means a turnover.
Except in a few select locales. Like Boone Pickens Stadium. See the defense shine in an OSU spring game, and that's a good thing for Cowboy football in general. A very good thing.
The Orange beat the White 17-7 Saturday in a 130-play scrimmage dominated by, yep, defense. Talk about man biting dog.
“I enjoyed it,” Mike Gundy said. “I know the crowd here is not used to it. But I'm really excited about the play we're getting on defense.
“If we want to consistently compete for a championship, we have to play better on defense. So I'm excited.”
Defense dominated for both teams. The run game was stuffed. All three quarterbacks – Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh, Wes Lunt – struggled to find a rhythm.
Cornerback Justin Gilbert had two interceptions. Defensive end Jimmy Bean had two of the game's 10 sacks.
Only two offensive touchdowns were scored, and one was bogus – the Orange team was allowed to keep possession despite Tracy Moore's obvious fumble in White territory, and Chelf threw a TD pass four plays later.
“For the most part, it was a good day,” said linebacker Caleb Lavey, who returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown with 1:06 left in the game.
“We're trying to be more aggressive. We were able to shut down the running game last year. Now we're working on shutting down both.”
Call it an early endorsement of Gundy's decision to switch coordinators. Gundy elevated Glenn Spencer and jettisoned Bill Young, primarily, Gundy said, to create more aggression in pass coverage.
OSU offensive players were the first victims. Some appreciated it, some did not.
“Sometimes our defense gets our (offensive) script,” said junior guard Daniel Koenig.
But tailback Jeremy Smith was more encouraged than dismayed. “They stepped up a whole new level today,” Smith said. “They showed out today. Just to see how far they've come was a big stride.”
That's the spirit. Possession of the script hasn't worked in the past.
“Our defense and their approach has been very challenging for our offense this spring,” Gundy said. “First time I've seen that in years.”
And the best thing about it, there's no reason to believe this is a sign of offensive woes to come. The Cowboys weathered three quarterback switches last season, because of injury, and remained potent.
This offense is beyond reproach.
“In the long run, we're going to move the ball and score a lot of points here, because of what we do and who we are,” Gundy said. “I'm not concerned any at all about our offense.”
The offense was at some disadvantage, as is usual in the spring. The playbook remained conservative. The tempo was not as rapid as you'll see come autumn, though it still was plenty quick. The quarterback run game was shackled by the protectionism of quick whistles.
But all those things have been true in springs past. And the score last April was 31-21, with the three quarterbacks combining for 737 yards, six TD passes, no interceptions and 60.4 completion percentage. Saturday, they combined for 449 yards, two TDs, two interceptions and 53.6 completion percentage.
“We don't want to be seen as just a one-sided team,” said defensive tackle Calvin Barnett.
Maybe the Cowboys won't be, after this spring game that was definitely not zero-sum.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.