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Bradford poised for fast finish against Tech

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sam Bradford squirmed in his seat last week as he watched tapes of Texas Tech's victory over Oklahoma last season.

There was the obvious disappointment of having to relive the game where his team's national championship hopes were snuffed out. It was even worse considering he wasn't able to play for most of the game.

The sophomore quarterback doesn't remember much about that nightmarish November night in Lubbock. He suffered a concussion on Oklahoma's first play from scrimmage. The images didn't elicit many memories because he can't recall much about his first look at the Red Raiders -- or that entire night.
"Watching the first couple of plays and then knowing I wasn't able to compete was hard to watch," Bradford said. "It definitely leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I'm looking forward to playing in this game this year. And there's a little bit of an extra motivation to play well this year."

Bradford's quest for personal redemption is just another element in a delicious South Division showdown that many are calling the Sooners' biggest home game in nearly a decade.

Oklahoma needs a victory over the Red Raiders and then another one next week against Oklahoma State in order to keep their hopes alive to become the first three-peat conference champion in Big 12 history.

Having that chance wasn't something that was expected after the Sooners' 45-35 loss to Texas on Oct. 11.

But since then, Bradford has been the linchpin of an explosive Sooner offense that has averaged 57.8 points, 590.8 yards and 7.43 yards per snap. In their last two games, the Sooners have averaged more than a point a minute.

That offensive surge is even more remarkable considering that Bradford still has less than a year of experience with the Sooners' new no-huddle offense. The up-tempo nature is such that offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson doesn't want his players to congratulate teammates for plays on the field because of the wasted time.

The transformation took some time for Bradford, who struggled during the spring but gradually become more accustomed to the quick pace.

"When we first started practicing, I wasn't sure," Bradford said. "I was uncomfortable and it seemed like everybody was in a panic. It seemed like we were going 90 mph. But once we got used to it, I really enjoy it and everybody else seems to, too."

Despite the change, Bradford has thrived in the new offense, passing for 3,406 yards and a nation-best 38 touchdowns. He has also completed 67.9 percent of his passes. The Sooners lead the nation in scoring with an average of 51.4 points per game.

Oklahoma has a wealth of talented offensive weapons with running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, wide receivers Manny Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias and tight end Jermaine Gresham. Most scouts expect several members of their offensive line to play in the NFL.

But the primary reason has been Bradford's development.

"I'm really impressed with him. He's everything they said he would be and more,"' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said after Bradford passed for a career-best 468 yards in the Sooners' 45-35 victory over the Jayhawks. "He just has pinpoint accuracy, good poise. He scrambled for a couple big plays and then you look at some of the guys he's throwing the ball to. It's hard to contain him and them. They've just got a lot of depth on offense."

Bradford needs a big performance to set himself apart in a crowded Heisman race that features other candidates from his own conference like Graham Harrell of Texas Tech and Colt McCoy of Texas as well as defending Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida.

The Texas loss kind of put him in the shadows of the other leaders. But Bradford's statistics rank with any of the contenders. He has a higher passing efficiency than McCoy, Harrell or Tebow, ranking second nationally behind Tulsa's David Johnson. And a victory over Harrell would give him a springboard for the end of the season.

"Sam is playing as well or better than most about every quarterback everybody out there," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm not saying we're underrated, but if you want to look at production, we're there with anybody. You can't get much better than he has played."

Despite that success, Bradford says he's not getting caught up in the Heisman hoopla. Quarterback coach Josh Heupel, who finished second in 2000, has told him that those individual awards "will play themselves out" as the season continues.

"A lot of people are talking about it, but it's probably the last thing that I'm thinking about," Bradford said. "That gets away from the most important game we've played all season. This is the biggest game we've played all year. It will have an effect on the Big 12 championship and maybe the national championship. So I want to get ready to do my best."