A crowd of 42,436 watched the Red team defeat the White team by a 17-16 mark Saturday afternoon at the annual Oklahoma Football Spring Game presented by U.S. Fleet Tracking inside Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The Red team secured the victory on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Murray to Michiah Quick with 4:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Points were determined by the color of the jersey of the quarterback. If the quarterback was wearing a blue jersey, offensive points went to the Red team and defensive points to the White team (as was the case with Ogbonnia Okoronkwo's second-quarter safety), and vice versa if the quarterback was wearing a yellow jersey.
OU’s first-team players and quarterbacks were limited during the scrimmage as defenders were not allowed to tackle them. The game featured no turnovers.
“I’m more concerned with keeping guys on the field right now than I was being particular about how many yards somebody got or didn’t get,” said head coach Bob Stoops about the game’s format. “I also wanted to see guys excited, correct, and doing things the right way, executing those kinds of things, and I thought overall it was really positive in all parts of the game.”
New QBs Make Debut
A total of four quarterbacks saw playing time in Saturday’s scrimmage, with senior Baker Mayfield picking up where he left off last season by completing 13 of his 18 passes for a team-high 142 yards in one half of work. But it was not just Mayfield who thrived in the contest.
Sophomore Kyler Murray, a transfer from Texas A&M who will sit out the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules, tossed the game’s only two touchdowns through the air, finishing with 136 yards on 6-of-10 passing. After connecting with Jordan Smallwood for a 33-yard strike in the third quarter for his first TD of the day, Murray wrapped up the afternoon by finding Michiah Quick for a 52-yard touchdown to seal the win for the Red squad.
“He’s prepared for this,” OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said of Murray. “He’s known this was coming for a while and he’s got a great example there in Baker. Yes, you can’t do it on the field but there’s still so much more you can do to prepare yourself for that competition when you are eligible after this year.”
Freshman Austin Kendall completed 8 of 17 passes for 52 yards, while redshirt freshman walk-on Connor McGinnis completed his lone attempt for a 13-yard gain.
“He just gets better and better,” Riley said of Kendall, who enrolled at OU a semester early. “He’s pretty smart about the chances to take. It was good to see the look in his eye today, knowing the level of people – again, this kid that should be getting ready to go to prom is playing in front of a great crowd today and he handled it great. He had a great look in his eye from the beginning and really, he has the whole time. But you never really know how they’re going to react that first time, and so today was just a great step for him.
“He’s been very, very steady all spring. He missed a few things today…but he’s a little better than I thought physically. He’s shown the ability to get out of things a little bit more. We felt coming in he was a really good thrower and he’s shown nothing but that. We’ve been really happy with how just mentally he’s progressed. He’s really bought in.”
What About Those Receivers?
A big question entering the spring for the Sooners was who is going to step up and fill the shoes of departed wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal.
Saturday’s game saw a total of 13 players tally at least one reception, led by Dede Westbrook, Michiah Quick and A.D. Miller, who hauled in four catches each. Westbrook paced the Sooners with a game-high 76 receiving yards, while Quick and Miller recorded 66 and 48, respectively. Quick’s long score came from Kyler Murray late in the fourth quarter on a short out route. Quick snagged the pass and showed great burst to beat the defenders to the edge, taking the ball 52 yards down the sideline to paydirt.
Redshirt junior Jordan Smallwood, redshirt sophomore Mark Andrews, redshirt sophomore Nick Basquine and Penn State graduate transfer Geno Lewis all finished with two grabs Saturday. Smallwood averaged 21.5 yards per catch and scored on a 33-yard pass from Murray in the third quarter.
Head coach Bob Stoops is excited at the emergence of depth and pass-catching options for quarterback Baker Mayfield to utilize.
“A.D. (Miller)’s had a great spring,” said Stoops. “He’s shown up every week. He’s been solid. Dahu (Green) has been, all those guys. Jeffery Mead’s improved, (Michiah) Quick. Like I said, I think that group overall is just a lot stronger at this time than it was a year ago. And even though Sterling (Shepard) — you’re missing that big-play guy — Dede (Westbrook), I think, has a chance to have more of an impact, and I think the overall group will have more guys in the rotation that will be productive, having another full year of understanding what we want them to do and another year of maturity.”
Corner Spot Up For Grabs
Another key position battle surrounds the void at cornerback with the departure of second-team All-American Zack Sanchez. Sophomore P.J. Mbanasor and senior Dakota Austin are vying for the job opposite of returning starter Jordan Thomas.
Austin played in 11 games a year ago, logging 25 tackles, a pair of interceptions, three pass break-ups and five quarterback hurries. Smaller in stature at 5-foot-10 and 159 pounds, Austin excels in coverage and is a voracious tackler for his size. Mbanasor boasts a more prototypical frame for the position and his athleticism gives him a very high ceiling. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he was pleased with the performance of both on Saturday.
“I thought P.J. Mbanasor competed better, covered better (than he did last year),” Stoops said. “He’s starting to move his feet better, so we’re happy about that. That’s promising, but there’s a reason Dakota (Austin) started today. Our guys will always be competing. I think P.J. is making some progress, like I said, and we need that.”
The battle for the starting spot should continue through the summer and into fall camp, with each guy making the other one better all year.
First Look At The South End Zone
Saturday’s contest provided Sooner fans their first glimpse at ongoing renovations to the south end zone of Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Fans were excited to see the improvements in person for the first time and commented about the way the Owen Field gameday atmosphere might be impacted.
“It was more than I expected,” said Cary Jennings, a fan from Ponca City, Okla. “It was just unbelievable. I think the renovation ties it all together and it looks like it was built all at the same time. What I can envision with all the seats, I think it’s just going to be unbelievably loud. I think it will really help the crowd noise. It’s going to be awesome.”
OU’s players are also looking forward to taking the field inside their newly-renovated stadium for the home opener against ULM on Sept. 10.
“I’m honestly loving it,” junior safety Steven Parker said. “I was talking to Mark Andrews about this year being live. We were just thinking about how it will look with the fans in here. It will be an exciting atmosphere and we are definitely ready to play in it.”