Friday Night Lights a success
It was a gamble for Oklahoma to move its spring game from Saturday afternoon to Friday evening just a mere 72 hours before the event, and nobody knew what to expect.
How would the crowd be? How would the atmosphere be? Turns out nobody had anything to worry about as 50,228 people showed up to watch the Red’s 35-14 victory.
Happiest person in the stadium? Head coach Lincoln Riley.
“What a great night. I don't know that I've ever enjoyed a spring game as much as I did that one right there,” Riley said. “The first thing I would like to say is just a huge thank you to our fans, to Sooner Nation. I don't know how many fan bases where you literally change a game day three days before and then you have an atmosphere like we did tonight. I mean, absolutely phenomenal. Really proud of our fan base, the way they responded.”
With inclement weather set for the whole state Saturday, the move was made Tuesday afternoon to switch to the first-ever night spring game.
The spring game has always been a Saturday afternoon affair. But after watching what went down Friday night, just because that’s the way it has been in the past doesn’t mean that’s the way it needs to be moving forward.
“There’s nothing like playing under the lights,” Riley said. “If we could do it like this every year, maybe we can, we’ll start working on the next one probably next week. If we can do it again, we will. Again, you only get so many of these in college ball.
“You only get under the lights, especially in a stadium with an atmosphere and a history like we have, only a few times. So it just brings a different vibe, a different electricity in the crowd, that I think everybody could feel tonight.”
Freshmen quartet brings the goods
Talked about all summer, fall, winter and now with their arrival, how good would that freshmen quartet of wide receivers Trejan Bridges, Theo Wease and Jadon Haselwood and tight end Austin Stogner look under the lights?
Honestly, not much more you could ask for. Bridges felt like one of the stars of the game, while Wease had two late touchdowns and all caught multiple passes.
“All four of those guys are good players. You can tell the moment, at least tonight, certainly wasn't too big for them. They got out there and made some competitive plays. think they feel the competition in that room right now. There's a lot of competition at all four of those spots. It's raised all their games. That's what you want to have.”
Bridges had three catches for 75 yards. Wease had three receptions for 68 yards and two scores. Stogner added three catches for 41 yards, while Haselwood had two receptions for 18 yards.
Defense a work in progress
It doesn’t even seem fair to judge the defense since so many key players for first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch were held out Friday evening because minor injuries. Riley reiterated that a lot of players didn’t play because it wasn’t worth the risk and not because of anything serious.
Following a terrible start where both quarterbacks drove down the field for touchdowns, the group settled in a bit, sparked by an interception by redshirt sophomore Justin Broiles.
“Turnovers have been emphasized heavily,” Broiles said. “If you’re not stripping at the ball, it’s an issue. He’s gonna let you know. It’s not OK to go through a practice and not get any turnovers and call it a good practice.”
Riley said there were some missed tackles early, and a physical practice Tuesday actually knocked off three defensive backs. Safeties Patrick Fields and Delarrin Turner-Yell were on the spring game roster but didn’t play, while Tre Norwood also sat out.
“We were playing with some different lineups there in the secondary,” Riley said. “It challenged our guys honestly just to fill a whole secondary, especially at safety. We got in the backfield a lot. It looks like there was a couple sacks that probably should have been blown dead. The pass rush was pretty good. A couple breakdowns in coverage, but other than that it looked like we moved around pretty well.”
Chanse Sylvie and Bryan Mead tied for the team lead with 4.5 tackles. Brendan Radley Hiles had a sack and a fumble recovery, while Neville Gallimore had 1.5 tackles for loss.
Now we turn toward recruiting. Heck, Riley couldn’t let the spring game begin without giving a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge in that direction as the first set of emoji eyes went public an hour before the spring game.
With so many top recruits still able to make their official visits, there’s no reason to suggest this will be a wasted weekend.
OU earned seven commitments last year at the spring game. There are two sets of unaccounted eyes right now, expect to see even more eyes throughout the next 48 hours.
“It’s been a large investment there, but it’s worth it,” Riley said. “Because what one great player, what one great student-athlete in this sport, on this campus, is worth to this university is more than probably what we invest as a whole. It’s that big.”