TOO CLOSE TO CALL

Spring game shows tight quar­ter­back bat­tle between Mur­ray, Ken­dall

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

With the brisk wind at his back, Austin Ken­dall po­si­tioned him­self be­hind Jonathan Al­varez.

His team, hon­orar­ily coached by Trent Wil­liams, was down by seven points to Adrian Peter­son’s team in the first over­time pe­riod of Ok­la­homa’s an­nual spring foot­ball game.

For a brief in­stant, the fate of the Ok­la­homa foot­ball team was in Ken­dall’s hands. This time, the stakes were mi­nor with just a postgame meal on the line.

In the fu­ture, the sit­u­a­tion could be more dire.

It only took the red­shirt sopho­more two plays to send a shot over the mid­dle to tight end Grant Cal­caterra.

Cal­caterra broke through triple cov­er­age and pulled the ball down in the end zone, putting the Red team within a point of forc­ing another over­time.

“I knew he could go up and get it,” Ken­dall said. “So I laid it out there for him.”

Ken­dall’s team came up short — los­ing 10-9 — as the two-point con­ver­sion failed, but in an af­ter­noon where the fi­nal score didn’t mat­ter, the an­nounced crowd of 52,102 fans at Owen Field got a glimpse into the quar­ter­back bat­tle that’s been waged on prac­tice fields and in meet­ing rooms all spring.

While dy­namic quar­ter­back Kyler Mur­ray en­tered Satur­day’s scrim­mage as the pre­sumed fa­vorite to win the start­ing job, Ken­dall ap­peared to fin­ish the game with the edge, com­plet­ing 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards with one in­ter­cep­tion and one touch­down. He also rushed five times for 32 yards in­clud­ing a 15-yard scram­ble to open the game.

Mur­ray, mean­while, com­pleted 11 of 21 at­tempts for 85 yards and picked up 35 yards on nine car­ries.

Be­cause Mur­ray prac­ticed as Baker May­field’s backup last sea­son while Ken­dall worked with the scout team, Mur­ray had the slight edge en­ter­ing the spring sea­son. The sea­son be­fore, the roles were re­versed as Mur­ray sat for his manda­tory trans­fer year while Ken­dall was forced to serve as May­field’s backup as a true fresh­man with a de­pleted quar­ter­back room.

“I thought early in the spring Kyler was play­ing pretty well and play­ing a lit­tle bet­ter than AK, which is to be ex­pected,” coach Lin­coln Ri­ley said af­ter­ward. “Austin has started to set­tle in this last half of spring. He’s played re­ally well. He did a lot of nice things to­day. It’s neck-and-neck right now without a doubt.”

Both quar­ter­backs were ham­pered by north winds that gusted up to 50 miles per hour. The con­di­tions kept Ri­ley from fully open­ing his play­book and cost Ken­dall at least one com­ple­tion.

“I was out there just cry­ing, ba­si­cally, tears run­ning down my eyes be­cause of the wind,” Ken­dall said. “But we’re in Ok­la­homa so we’ve got to get used to it.”

Early in the game, Ken­dall got a deep pass off to sopho­more CeeDee Lamb for a gain of 31 yards, but later he tried to hit red­shirt fresh­man Charleston Rambo and the ball sailed out of bounds, pushed off course by the wind.

While throw­ing the ball proved chal­leng­ing for each quar­ter­back, it didn’t af­fect their abil­ity to show off their foot­work and speed.

While Mur­ray earned a rep­u­ta­tion as the uberath­letic con­tender with speed and agility as his great­est as­sets, Ken­dall showed that he’s pretty good on his feet, too.

Af­ter open­ing the game with a 15-yard keeper, Ken­dall picked up 15 yards again later in the game, rolling out of the pocket and sprint­ing up the field be­fore slid­ing down to end the run.

“People think I’m more of a pocket passer,” Ken­dall said. “I think I am, too, but when a play breaks down or if I need to pull the ball, I can pull it.

“Hope­fully I show­cased that. I think I have a lit­tle bit of wheels on me as well.”

With the spring sea­son just one prac­tice away from com­ple­tion and the po­si­tion bat­tle far from over, the two quar­ter­backs have plenty of home­work.

“Sum­mer will be big,” Ri­ley said. “That’s a time when you can separate your­self. You only get eight hours a week with them manda­tory dur­ing the sum­mer.

“If they’re only spend­ing eight hours a week on

it them­selves, then they won’t be the start­ing quar­ter­back here.”

[PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Austin Ken­dall, right, keeps the ball while try­ing to get by Bren­dan Radley-Hiles dur­ing Satur­day’s spring foot­ball game in Nor­man.

Brooke Pryor bpryor@ oklahoman.com

[PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN]

A.D. Miller, left, catches a pass while Robert Charl­ton de­fends dur­ing Satur­day’s spring foot­ball game at Gay­lord Fam­ily — Ok­la­homa Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

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