Heisman jinx strikes Bradford in loss


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MIAMI -- Florida came after Sam Bradford all night. It left him with a different vantage point than in most games this season.

Consistent defensive pressure stymied Oklahoma's record-breaking offense in Florida's 24-14 victory over the Sooners in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. One of the biggest reasons was Florida's defensive effort against Bradford.

Two pivotal second-quarter drives were huge for Oklahoma as the Sooners were turned away twice inside the Florida 6. Bradford's interception on the next-to-last play of the first half helped sway momentum when the Sooners appeared ready to seize it.

"There were some plays that we made that were pretty good," Bradford said. "But we just didn't capitalize when we had our opportunities. And that's what is pretty frustrating."

The "Heisman Jinx" struck Bradford, who became the sixth Heisman winner among seven who played in a BCS title game and lost.

His statistics weren't bad, but they weren't the kind of numbers Bradford routinely produced this season.

He completed 26 of 41 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. But he was intercepted twice, matching his season high as the Sooners uncharacteristically struggled with turnovers and red zone problems.

It marked only the third time this season that Bradford passed for less than 300 yards in a game.

"Statistics are for assistant coaches and losers," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "I think Sam played pretty good. We probably didn't play with as many high-percentage passes as we normally do. But it helped open our running game and got the safeties out of there."

Bradford particularly struggled throwing the ball downfield. While completing 22 of 30 passes of 10 yards or less for 184 yards and a touchdown, he repeatedly had problems throwing deep against the talented and athletic Florida secondary. On passes of 10 yards or more, Bradford was only 4 for 11 for 72 yards with an interception.

During the regular season, Bradford torched Big 12 defenses for a nation-best 48 touchdowns. But the yardage wasn't as easy to produce against Florida, which limited the Sooners to season-lows in points and total yards.

"They are a good team," Bradford said. "As far as being on a whole different level from what we saw in the Big 12, I don't know. But they are a very good defense."

Bradford said he was confused by Florida's coverage on an interception late in the first half when he was picked off by Major Wright near the Gator goal line on a batted ball that was touched by two other Florida defenders.

"Obviously, I wasn't trying to throw an interception there, but we called it," Bradford said. "It actually wasn't the coverage we were expecting [Florida] to run there. I tried to force one in there, but I probably should have just thrown it in the back of the end zone and taken the three points."

Earlier this week, Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham said the key to beating Bradford was getting his pants dirty. And the Gators were successful as they confounded him with a variety of blitz packages that helped cause him to throw earlier than he would have liked on many occasions.

Bradford was sacked only twice, but the consistent Gators pressure was the most intense that the Oklahoma quarterback had seen since the Texas game -- his only other loss this season.

"You know, obviously they're a great defense, and I don't know if it's one thing that they did tonight that got us," Bradford said. "I think there were a couple times where we got ourselves in trouble by getting ourselves behind the chains, forcing ourselves into bad situations. And we just couldn't overcome it."