Oklahoma football: Offense outlasts defense in down-to-wire Sooner Spring Game

Apr 20, 2024; Norman, OK, USA;  Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Deion Burks (6) catches a touchdown in annual OU Red-White Spring Game.
Apr 20, 2024; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Deion Burks (6) catches a touchdown in annual OU Red-White Spring Game. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooner offense got off to a fast start, jumping out 21-0 with touchdowns on three straight opening possessions before the defense stormed back to make a game. It all culminated in a dramatic finish in the 2024 Oklahoma football Spring Game on Saturday.

Fans got their first glimpse of the SEC-bound 2024 Oklahoma football team on Saturday at Gaylord Family -- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, and although a number of returning starters did not see action in the game, there was plenty of positives to like from those who did play.

If there had been a most valuable player of the game, it undoubtedly had gone to wide receiver Deion Burks. The Purdue transfer was all over the field and proved difficult to corral, hauling in five catches for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns -- one for 64 yards on the opening possession of the game and another for 50 yards. Both touchdowns to Burks were thrown by presumptive OU starting QB Jackson Arnold, who also had a good game.

"He's been fantastic," head coach Brent Venables said about Burks after the game. "Great playmaker. He's got tremendous speed and quickness. He's got great hands...He's really done a great job of learning what to do and transitioning within our system."

Arnold and Burks barely missed connecting on another deep throw that fell just out of the outstretch hands of the speedy wide receiver, who appears to be a tremendous addition to an already deep Sooner receiving corps.

Arnold played on alternate offensive possessions in the first half and finished his afternoon with 10 of 20 completions for 233 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. True freshman Kalib Hicks was impressive in the running game, averaging 6.2 yards per carry on 62 yards in 10 carries. Tennessee Martin transfer Sam Franklin carried the ball 12 times for 58 yards.

Venables was all smiles before the game, but when the Red team offense stormed out with three touchdowns in the first three possessions against his defense, the smile quickly disappeared from the head coach's facial expression.

Arnold and freshman Michael Hawkins Jr. handled the quarterback duties in the first half, with General Booty and freshman Brendan Zurbrugg taking over in the second half.

While the Red team offense set the tone early, the White defensive team began turning the tide late in the first quarter and into the second. During one stretch the defensive unit got third or fourth-down stops in six of seven offensive possessions.

One of the big concerns entering spring practice was the offensive line, which lost four starters from last season as well as center Troy Everett this spring to an injury. The starting O-line in the Spring Game of tackles Michael Tarquin (USC transfer) and Jake Taylor, guards Jacob Sexton and Febechi Nwaiwu (North Texas transfer) and center Josh Bates looked good and actually held its own against the athletic and agressive Sooner defense.

The halftime score was 42-38 in favor of the offense, and it was 56-48 at the end of the third quarter.

One of the special rules for this year's game was that entering the fourth quarter, 12 points would be added to the team in the lead, and the outcome of the game would be decided, in this case, by the team that reached 68 points first or whoever was ahead when time ran out after 12 minutes.

With two minutes to go (which is a new NCAA rule for the 2024 season, with the two-minute warning taking effect as it is in the NFL, with play being stopped with two minutes to go in each half, creating an extra time out for both teams) and the score all deadlocked at 58-58, General Booty scored on a 32-yard touchdown run and, shortly thereafter with time running out, redshirt-freshman Chapman McKown, a 5-foot, 5-inch running back out of Norman North High School took a handoff and carried it in for the winning score.

The same scoring system that was introduced for the 2023 Spring Game was used this year. Points were awarded to the offense and defensive teams based on certain accomplishments. The quarters were 12 minutes in length. The first two quarters featured a normal clock, the third quarter was a continuously running clock, and then the special rule applied in the final quarter with a running clock.

Standouts on the defensive side included defensive linemen Ethan Downs and Gracen Halton, who each had four tackles, a couple of tackles for loss and a sack each. P.J. Adebawore had two sacks in the game and Davon Sears, R. Mason Thomas and the Sooners top recruit in the 2024 class. David Stone, all recorded sacks.

Some of the notable players who did not play in the game included WRs Jalil Farooq, who has a fractured foot, Nick Anderson and Andrel Anthony, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL, RB Jovante Barnes and QB Casey Thompson. On defense, DBs Billy Bowman and Woodi Washington and DL Da'Jon Terry sat out the game.