September 8, 2007

Bradford, Oklahoma walk over Miami

Sooners rout Hurricanes | Box score

NORMAN, Okla. - A football team that shoots itself in the foot needs a walking stick.

Or better yet, the grandson of a Walkingstick.

Oklahoma has one, and he's a big reason the Sooners walked all over Miami 51-13 Saturday and should be a major factor in the race for the national championship.

Redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, the great, great grandson of Susie Walkingstick - a certified Cherokee Indian - just may prove to be a great, great quarterback.

It's one thing to play well against overmatched North Texas, as he did with three touchdown passes in his collegiate debut last week. It's quite another to do so against Miami, which has one of the nation's best pass rushers in end Calais Campbell, an All-American safety in Kenny Phillips and six other starters back from a defense that ranked seventh nationally a year ago.

Bradford threw two more touchdown passes against the Hurricanes than he did against North Texas. In fact, if Oklahoma receivers hadn't dropped three passes, he would have thrown more touchdown passes than incompletions.

As it was, his 19-for-25, five-touchdown performance easily compensated for any mistakes (two fumbles and an errant punt snap) the sixth-ranked Sooners committed.

One of those fumbles set up a field goal that enabled Miami to cut the lead to 21-13 early in the third quarter. Undaunted, Bradford threw touchdown passes on the Sooners' next four possessions to turn the game into a rout.

OKLAHOMA 51, MIAMI 13
Player of the game
Sam Bradford was 19 of 25 for 205 yards and five touchdowns. Three of his incompletions were drops. He has eight touchdown passes in two games.
Turning point/key play
Trailing 14-3 early in the second quarter, Miami appeared on the verge of getting back in contention after a punt return and penalty put the Hurricanes at OU's 35. But Sooners cornerback Reggie Smith scooped up a Javarris James fumble on the first play and ran 61 yards for a touchdown. Miami never got closer than eight points.
Best coaching move
Randy Shannon pulled starting quarterback Kirby Freeman and replaced him with Kyle Wright. Freeman completed just one pass for 3 yards, and Miami trailed 21-3 when Shannon sent in Wright in the second quarter. Wright was 5-of-9 and had a 6-yard touchdown pass to finish the half. Shannon sent Freeman back in late in the third quarter.
Surprise performance
Oklahoma sophomore tight end Jermaine Gresham caught eight passes, which equaled his total production of last season. His catches went for 55 yards and a touchdown.
What this means for Oklahoma
OU has to be considered the favorite in the Big 12 and a legitimate player in the national- championship race. The Sooners had all the components for a national championship team except a proven quarterback. They appear to have that now.
What this means for Miami
Miami still has a long way to go to regain its status among the nation's elite. The Hurricanes' offense lacks playmakers.
Noteworthy
Bradford completed his first four passes, which extended his streak to 22 in a row (he completed his last 18 against North Texas last week) and set a school record. Former Heisman Trophy winner Jason White previously held the school record with 18 consecutive completions. Malcolm Kelly caught three touchdown passes to raise his career total to 17, which puts him in a tie with Travis Wilson for second place on OU's all-time list. Oklahoma's 51 points were the most against Miami since the Hurricanes lost to Syracuse 66-13 in 1998. Miami defensive end Calais Campbell notched his first sack of the season. He also recovered a fumble and caught a pass on a fake field goal that resulted in a first down.
"We talked about shooting ourselves in the foot," Bradford said. "I knew once we got rolling we'd be OK."

"Oklahoma is OK." That's what used to be printed on the state's license plates. Now, they read "Native America," which adds to the reasons the 6-foot-5 Bradford is sure to be adored from Tulsa to Lawton and all points in-between.

Oklahoma has built a legendary program largely by using out-of-state players as its foundation. But Bradford is a native of Oklahoma City and one of more than 250,000 of the state's residents with Native American ancestry. He'll be most revered if he can lead the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and more.

He's definitely capable. And if the first four touchdown passes didn't convince everyone among the record crowd of 85,357 at Memorial Stadium, he added evidence on his fifth. Bradford completed a 9-yard toss to fullback Dane Zaslaw on a play that originally was designed to go to wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, who caught three of Bradford's scoring tosses.

"He's very mature, very level-headed," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "I thought the biggest play he made all game was the touchdown to Zaslaw. We were running an over-the-top route to Malcolm Kelly. The safety was high, and here is a freshman that says, 'I'm not going to force it to my best receiver.' Our fullback was wide open and he makes the play.

"For a young kid, that's great to see. A lot of young guys would have locked on to that 'I'm throwing it to my guy.' "

Miami coach Randy Shannon was impressed.

"He did a great job," Shannon said. "He got the ball where it was supposed to be. Hats off to him."

Bradford's performance establishes Oklahoma as a solid favorite to retain its Big 12 championship. The Sooners' defense is strong. Their offensive line is among the nation's best. Their receivers - Kelly, in particular - are excellent, their kicker automatic and they may have more depth at running back than any team east of USC.

But all that was known back in the summer. The question was whether their inexperience and uncertainty at quarterback would weigh the Sooners down.

"I heard that and you take that for motivation," Bradford said. "When they don't give you credit that you can play, it's got to be a motivator. You want to prove you belong and that you can play on this level."

Consider it proved.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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