By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — Though Oklahoma State will be featuring a new starting running back with the loss of talented running back Joseph Randle, who declared for the NFL Draft, the Cowboys didn’t focus on the ground game.
Instead its focus was on the quarterbacks in Saturday’s spring game which the Orange squad won 17-7.
With first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich looking for a fast tempo — and new starting running Jeremy Smith known more as a bruising back — the Cowboys turned to the air early and often and utilized the running game about as much as the kicking game the past few years.
“We knew it was going to be like that, just because (head) coach (Mike) Gundy was with the quick whistle for the running backs today just to keep them healthy,” said Smith, who had just six carries for two yards for the Orange squad.
“Our whole plan was just to go ahead and work on the passing game and fix things that we could work on with that.”
The two squads combined for 14 yards rushing on 37 carries — while the Cowboys went to the air 95 times. The final rushing tally was boosted thanks to Caleb Muncrief, who had a few big runs late to finish with a game-high 42 yards on five attempts.
With the amount of passes thrown, fans were able to get a good assessment from the trio of quarterbacks for OSU — Clint Chelf, Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh. And the numbers weren’t anything astounding.
Chelf started 12 of 19 for 165 yards, but went just 2 of 9 for three yards in the third quarter and ultimately finished with 17 of 34 for 204 yards and the touchdown. Lunt went 15 for 27 with 122 yards and Walsh was 13 of 23 for 123 yards while splitting time for the White squad — they both also threw interceptions, while Walsh did record the first touchdown of the game with a 24-yard pass to Blake Webb.
“I think they did fine. It makes it tougher when you split the teams like we did. We normally run sets with three and four wide receivers, so when you split the teams and try to run those same sets, we didn’t have the depth to do it,” Gundy said. “We were a little more vanilla with our offense than what we would be. The defensive line got great pressure. We dropped some passes that we should have caught, but other than that, I thought the kids had a good day.”
A combination of misfires and dropped passes made it difficult to keep much of a tempo, but some of those had to do with the more aggressive style of defense under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer.
The defense had a much better showing than last year’s spring game — when 52 points were put up.
The two squads combined for three turnovers — two interceptions from Justin Gilbert of the Orange squad and a fumble recovery from defensive lineman Jimmy Bean, who also had two sacks for the White squad. The defense also held tough in the red zone, where the OSU offenses combined to go 1 for 4 — with the only score in the red zone being a 30-yard field goal.
“We dropped some passes on offense that contributed to it, but I’m really excited about the play we’re getting on defense,” Gundy said. “In the long run, we’re going to move the ball and score a lot of points here, because that’s what we do and who we are.
“But if we want to consistently compete for a championship, we have to play better on defense. I’m excited about our group, I think their attitude is different and I think they have a chance to be better this season.”