Fans got to see some young players Saturday as the black team defeated the orange team 23-7 in the annual spring football game at Oklahoma State.
“The scrimmage went well for us from a health standpoint,” coach Mike Gundy said. “We were able to tackle and had a physical scrimmage. We had 100 plays and I was pleased, I thought the defense played really well. Some guys made plays and we were able to run some of our offense and have a good day.”
The black team scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Cornelius found Jhajuan Seales on a slant route and Seales darted through the defense and sprinted to the end zone for the opening score.
The orange team didn’t take long to strike back as freshman corner Madre Harper picked off a pass late in the first quarter and set up quarterback Mason Rudolph on a scoring drive that he capped with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Redshirt freshman placekicker Matt Ammendola nailed a 50-yard field goal for the black team and 40-yarder on the subsequent drive to put the black team on top 13-7 heading into halftime.
Chris Lacy hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius in the third quarter and Ammendola finished off his big day with another late fourth-quarter field goal to seal the 23-7 victory for the black squad.
Both teams combined for 312 yards through the air in the 40-minute scrimmage with most of the damage coming from Cornelius and Rudolph. For the black team, Cornelius had nine completions for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and Rudolph threw for 105 yards with 17 completions and a touchdown run for the orange team.
“I thought Taylor [Cornelius] did a good job of directing the black offense for the first time being out there,” Gundy said.
On the ground, Rennie Childs led the way for the Pokes rushing for 38 yards on eight carries. Jeff Carr ran for 18 yards and transfer Jakeem Johnson had a 12-yard carry for the longest of the day. He finished the day with 21.
“We’re in a divided unit, we substitute a lot in a lot of our packages, so there’s kind of a minimal opportunity for us to be diverse as we want to,” Gundy said. “As is the case in most springs, there’s an advantage for the defense. They’ve seen the same plays for two months, but they’ve got to get lined up and make plays also.”
Defensively, Trey Carter had three sacks for the orange team to lead both sides and scooped up a fumble. The turnover margin was even with Justin Phillips grabbing an interception to offset Harper’s pick, and Darion Daniels recovering a tricky exchange late in the game for the black team.
Devante Averette led the black team with eight tackles, while Za’Carrius Green led the orange team with seven.
Gundy summarized spring drills earlier in the week.
“We finished up practice and had a really, really good spring,” Gundy said. “A lot of enthusiasm. The same group of guys that I’ve talked about made plays. Both young quarterbacks have showed improvement. I like where our running backs are.”
Rudolph hit 17 of 23 pass attempts with no touchdowns and one interception. Cornelius Taylor was 9 of 14 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. John Koar hit 1 of 8 pass attempts for 15 yards and one interception.
The orange team rushed 20 times for 52 yards and the black team had 73 yards on 23 carries. Rudolph scored the only rushing touchdown.
There are legitimate concerns about rebuilding the offensive line and beefing up a lackluster running game.
“I hope they’ve improved and I know they’re improved,” Gundy said of the line and backs. “We’ve improved in blocking and being able to cover up defenders and I like how our running backs are sinking their hips and being more aggressive and downhill.”
Gundy thinks OSU has improved its “Cowboy back” position.
“It’s growing,” Gundy said. “It’s more prevalent now than it was in our games last year and it’s going to help our offense. We’ve got good players at that position. Now we have four or five guys who can play that position. We’ll find out at the end of September, but I like where we’re at with that position.
“It gives us flexibility running the ball and a little more protection in the passing game. It actually helps us if we’re executing the right way and we’re all on the same page. It should help with misdirection on certain types of plays.”
Gundy expects his team to have a productive summer.
“I don’t have any questions in their work ethic,” Gundy said. “In our staff meeting, we have 102 players, give or take, on our team right now so we wanted to identify guys that we didn’t think weren’t fully committed to our organization. We had a difficult time coming up with a couple of names, but even that was iffy. So we have no questions about their commitment to maximizing their potential and being the best team possible.”
Oklahoma State kicks off the 2016 season on Sept. 3 when it hosts Southeastern Louisiana.