NORMAN — Standing next to cornerback Demontre Hurst, free safety Tony Jefferson said the difference in the defense's 22-21 “loss” Saturday in Oklahoma's spring game was Hurst dropped an interception midway through the fourth quarter.
“That's three points,” Jefferson quipped, poking Hurst in the ribs. “If he doesn't drop it we'd have had a two-possession lead.”
Turnovers were worth three points in a unique scoring system that matched OU's offense versus the defense Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Fourth-string quarterback Kendal Thompson directed an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes against the third-string defense to rally the offense to a “win” in front of 20,509 fans.
But other than struggling against the run at times early in the game, and one long pass play, OU's defense played well Saturday afternoon under returning defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
The offense's only long play the entire game came late in the first quarter. Quarterback Blake Bell rolled to his right and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jaz Reynolds, who got one step behind Javon Harris.
“I thought for the most part they showed good discipline,” said coach Bob Stoops. “The scramble play that happens once in a while to balls thrown over the opposite shoulder. The receiver can see it and the DB loses it. You don't want it to happen but it's not like it was a clean play.”
It was the only deep ball of the day.
Mike Stoops emphasized it's not just the secondary that plays a role on deep balls. The Sooners must develop a consistent pass rush. Playing without three defensive line starters nursing minor injuries, the defense compiled only two sacks.
“I think we're going to be a very complete defense,” Mike Stoops said. “When we come back in August we'll have some guys that weren't with us today that we desperately need. Our pass rush needs to improve. But we'll need to continue keeping position on the football when it comes to deep balls.”
The scoring system slanted toward the offense, which scored in traditional fashion (touchdowns and field goals).
The defense scored on three-and-outs (two points), missed field goals (three points), sacks (two points), fourth-down stops (three points) and turnovers (three points).
The scoreboard says the defense “lost” but one stat underscored that the defense played well Saturday afternoon.
The offense had 18 possessions and scored only two touchdowns — Reynolds' catch and Thompson's eight-yard pass to Danzel Williams with 31 seconds left.
OU's defense didn't force any turnovers. But on the offense's other 16 possessions, the defense forced 12 punts.
“Our defense had a big chip on our shoulder throughout the spring,” said linebacker Corey Nelson. “We had to let everybody know that last year wasn't really good and this year has to be better than last year. I feel all spring the defense played well with an aggressive attitude.”
The defense was in its base scheme most of the game but did blitz late.
“Believe it or not, we were trying to win,” said Mike Stoops, smiling. “We (even) kept blitzing at the end to try and get our two points. They finally figured that out and ran the ball.”
The defense viewed Saturday's game as a spring final exam.
So what was their final grade?
“Overall, not giving up big plays and executing our defense, I'd give us around a B-plus,” Hurst said. “We still have some things to work on, technique, small things. Once we get those ironed out we'll be where we want to be.”