NORMAN — At Dillon Gabriel’s Oklahoma’s early days had a schoolyard feel.
Mirroring kids playing in backyards across the country, Gabriel played the all-time quarterback for most of the first half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Appearing in front of the biggest spring game crowd in the country, Gabriel moved the ball around the field for Team Red and Team White.
“The whole experience of playing for both teams, it was different for me,” Gabriel said after the game. “But it was a great experience.”
Together, Gabriel completed 19 of 28 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown, throwing just one interception on the east sideline.
wide receiver Marvin Mims forged a close bond with Gabriel during spring training, and he did not envy Gabriel’s position at the helm of the attack for both teams.
At halftime, Mims said Gabriel was only focused on his one mistake of the day.
“He was mostly about the pick,” Mims said after the game. “He’s like, ‘Man, I threw a pick on the white team and now I’m throwing a touchdown to (the red team).’ But he handled it well. He’s there, I mean most of the first half. I mean, it’s kind of crazy.
“But it definitely shows who he is. He’s not going, ‘oh coach get me out’, or anything. Every opportunity he gets, he will want to make the most of it.
Overall, the UCF transfer said he was happy with the attacking performance, although there is plenty of room for improvement.
“There’s a lot to clean up,” Gabriel said. “There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently and cleaned up…I can’t wait to watch it and dive deeper into it.”
On several occasions this spring, Gabriel’s teammates have praised his calm demeanor as an asset to his game.
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And with 75,360 fans filling the stands, the biggest crowd he’s ever played in front of, Sooner’s new quarterback didn’t fade on stage.
Gabriel’s response to the situation on Saturday did not shock his teammates or his head coach.
“He’s like a stealth bomber, man,” Brent Venables said of Gabriel’s assurance. “…He is like an assassin. He really is. He didn’t let any circumstances affect him. It’s the same guy every day.
“And that’s what the good and the great are.” They show up every day and have the same mindset.
But after the game, the Hawaiian caller admitted it took him a while to figure it all out.
“I was informed it would be a lower bowl and it would be packed,” he said. “…But the moment I saw (the fans) at the top and the whole stadium was packed like a game day, man, it’s just a great feeling to know that Sooner Nation is behind us.
“And like everyone says, there’s only one Oklahoma.”
Venables said Saturday’s scrimmage closed the spring ball chapter for the Sooners, but the team still has a ton of improvements ahead of it before taking the field against UTEP this fall.
Gabriel echoed his head coach’s sentiment, saying his display in the Spring Game is just the start of his OU story.
“We have to make sure this is our best summer and find ways to keep moving forward,” he said. “…We have to keep learning and growing.”
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