No Murray, no worries for Oklahoma rushing attack

January, 4, 2009
1/04/09
6:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Oklahoma running back Chris Brown might never been confused with DeMarco Murray as an elusive breakaway threat.

 
 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 Chris Brown leads the Sooners in rushing with 1,110 yards .

But the steadiness of the underrated Oklahoma rushing leader is the main reason why Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson expects the Sooners to overcome playing without Murray in the FedEx Bowl Championship Series National Championship without many troubles.

"The one guy [Murray] has flash and the other guy [Brown] is just a pit bulldog," Wilson said. "He's just a grinder who comes to work every single day. What you see is what you get, and from him it's pretty good."

Brown led the Sooners in rushing with 1,110 yards and ranked sixth nationally with 20 touchdowns. He will be counted on, along with backup Mossis Madu, to replace the loss of Murray, who ruptured a tendon in his left hamstring on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 championship game and will miss Thursday's game.

The loss of Murray, who rushed for 1,002 yards during the regular season, might be expected to cripple the Sooners with the loss of their top long-distance threat.

Instead, it has only inspired Brown of the opportunity he has playing against the Gators.

Brown compares his running style and Murray's with the vaunted USC rushing game of the 2004 national championship team.

"I don't really like to compare me and DeMarco because we're good friends," Brown said. "But we're two different players. You see him making flashy cuts a little bit like Reggie Bush. I'll take that I'm like LenDale White. DeMarco can make something small into a big play. But I feel I'm more patient and willing to waiting on things to develop. You could call me the conservative runner on our team. "

The ability of Brown and Madu was best shown in the Big 12 title game after Murray went down. Brown rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns and Madu chipped with a career-best 114 yards on 15 carries and three more scores to spark a 62-21 blowout over Missouri.

 
 Jesse Beals/Icon SMI
 Mossis Madu (17) will be needed to step up after the loss of DeMarco Murray to an injury.

Center Jon Cooper said that both remaining backs have the ability to be prime producers against the Gators, who ranked 16th nationally against the rush.

"DeMarco was a little flashier and he would try to make people miss where Chris just runs through them," Cooper said. "And Mossis is a combination of both. He hits the hole about as hard as anybody we've got. I don't know how fast he is, but he's pretty fast. And he's got the balance of Chris and the flashiness of DeMarco."

Florida players have noticed the strength and depth of the Sooners' running game. It makes them concerned about stopping Oklahoma's potent attack even with Murray out of the lineup.

"I don't think not having Murray will slow them down at all," Florida safety Ahmad Black said. "They have another one who comes off the bench who's almost as good. They rotate all of them out there. I don't think they'll take a step back at all. It will be a challenge to stop them."

Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford knows that balance will be important for his team's hopes to claim its first national championship since the 2001 Orange Bowl. Along with Tulsa, Oklahoma is the only team to rank in the top 20 nationally in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring.

And Bradford is convinced the Sooners still can consistently move the ball against Florida with their remaining players -- even without Murray.

"Obviously, DeMarco is a big part of our offense and we're going to miss him," Bradford said. "But I think that Mossis and Chris both are very good running backs and we're not going to lose much with them being in there.

"Running the ball like we did in the Big 12 championship game gives us a lot of confidence in what they can do. We see it from Mossis every day in practice and the Big 12 championship was just the first opportunity for him to show everybody else how good he is. It didn't surprise us how he played. And we expect him and Chris to come out and play well again."

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