The Red/White Game usually serves as the end of Oklahoma’s spring practices or drills and everything turns toward the upcoming season. At times, it’s also been a coming out party for players who are ready to seize the spotlight.
Several did Saturday at Owen Field.
Most were in the secondary.
Cornerback Dominique Franks intercepted three passes and returned the first 57 yards for a touchdown to highlight a big day by OU’s defensive backs.
“I think I had a pretty good day today,” said Franks, who will be a sophomore next season.
He didn’t need to be asked to give that indication. The secondary entered spring practice with the most holes needing to be filled. Three of the four starters from last year’s unit, cornerbacks Reggie Smith and Marcus Walker, and strong safety D.J. Wolfe, needed to be replaced. A fourth, safety Nic Harris, missed spring drills due to a shoulder injury.
Yet the incoming group appeared to prove Saturday it’s ready to take the reins.
Cornerback Brian Jackson and safety Sam Proctor also broke up a pair of passes and the offense’s lack of big plays.
“I thought their positioning was great. I thought the corners were excellent,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Guys like Sam Proctor had big days that really showed. They were in position all day and that’s pleasing to see as a coach.”
As was the case with the previous two scrimmages this spring, defense dominated.
Quarterback Sam Bradford completed 12-of-25 passes for 191 yards.
He hit Jermaine Gresham for a 51-yard touchdown pass late in the first half.
However, Bradford was picked off three times with two going for touchdowns. Franks’ touchdown return came on the first series and defensive end Frank Alexander dropped into coverage to pick one off and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
Cornerback Jonathan Nelson also added an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Aside from a ball-hawking secondary, it was a rough day to throw the ball.
The wind was gusting out of the north at more than 30 miles per hour, wreaking havoc on the passing and kicking games.
“It was pretty brutal out here in this wind,” Bradford said.
The backup quarterbacks struggled. Joey Halzle was 1-for-13 for just 4 yards and in interception. Keith Nichol went 7-for-15 for 58 yards, but was picked off twice. True freshman Landry Jones was the only quarterback to avoid a pick, but completed just 1-of-5
The Sooners stuck to their no-huddle offense throughout the day.
The sped up offense produced mixed returns this spring. Saturday, the group struggled early, but picked up momentum as the day went along.
“In our time, we’ll make our analysis of how far we keep pushing it and all that,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
Stoops was pleased his team managed to play a clean game.
“There were no fumbles and very few penalties overall. All that was good in my mind anyway,” he said.
Some of the 23,306 in attendance might have left Owen Field shaking their heads about OU’s offensive performance. Fans seem to always root for the offense in the scrimmages.
Come fall, they’ll take a new interest in what’s going on the other side of the ball. If OU’s defense starts the season anything like it played Saturday, the Red/White Game will be remembered as a breakout day for a group of first-year starters.
“We’re trying to make a name for ourselves,” Jackson said. “With all of us being new and none of us having seen that much game time, I felt like we came out and did a wonderful job.”