NCF Nation: Kent Bradford


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


The stately Cotton Bowl, neatly split in half for Texas and Oklahoma, would appear be an ideal lure for recruiting the top players in the country to play for both national powers.

 
 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 The Cotton Bowl sets a special atmosphere for the annual Red River Rivalry game.
But both Bob Stoops and Mack Brown say that the unique factors of playing the game at Fair Park in Dallas cause some logistical problems for recruiting.

Because the game isn't considered to be on a school campus, one of the biggest recruiting enticements is taken away from Saturday's game.

Texas is the home team. They will be able to give out tickets to recruits, but can have no contact with them. And recruits' high school coaches can't be provided tickets, either.

"We can give kids the allotted amount of tickets from the NCAA, but we can't see them," Brown said. "So it's not as big a positive in recruiting as it would be if it was at home.

"The kids go to the will-call, go to the window, sit in the stands and leave. But you can't speak to them before the game or after the game. You can't speak to them in Dallas -- only on your campus. The only difference is when you are the home team or OU is the home team is who gives out the tickets."

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Stoops agrees that it's a special atmosphere, but probably overrated as a recruiting enticement.

"It's an exciting selling point for both of us having it there in Dallas," Stoops said. "But in the end, will it really change a guy's mind? I doubt it."

But players who have attended those games often come away impressed with the excitement found on both sides of the stadium.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford started attending the game when he was a boy, attending with his father, Kent, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman.

To this day, Bradford can rattle off his favorite moments in the rivalry, topped by the biggest recent defensive play in the modern history of the game.

"I still remember watching [Oklahoma safety] Roy Williams' leap at the end of the game that won that game," Bradford said. "I remember everybody going absolutely nuts and to see that and then to get to play in it absolutely exciting. You really can't explain the feeling."

Sergio Kindle never attended the game when he was a recruit. But he grew up not far away.

"I remember hearing the bands, the sounds of the stadium and the traffic," Kindle said. "After that, I always wanted to just get inside the stadium and see what was happening."

Jordan Shipley attended the game when he was a high school recruit for the Longhorns. The big crowd and the excitement level of the game still stick with him among the most memorable parts of his recruiting process.

"It's definitely a fun game to be at," Shipley said. "There's no other atmosphere that I've seen that's like it with the State Fair going on and it being on a neutral site, half burnt orange and half crimson. It's really a special atmosphere."

After attending the game, the Red River Rivalry was among the reasons why Shipley decided to attend Texas.

"When you come to Texas, you want to be a part of really big games and be on good teams," Shipley said. "It's definitely the reason you come here is to be in games like this one."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford's personal relationship goes beyond football.

But Saturday's game will decide their storied rivalry that stands at a game apiece after the last two seasons. Bradford won the Heisman Trophy last season with McCoy finishing second.

 
 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy became friends while attending awards banquets last season.
McCoy will make history Saturday as one of the few Texas quarterbacks to start four games in the Texas-Oklahoma series.

“The first one seems like it was a long time ago,” McCoy said, thinking back to his first start in the series in 2006. “But the last one I played in seems like it was forever ago, too. We’ve both changed since then.”

The annual rivalry is something that both quarterbacks relish.

Bradford remembers watching games with his father, Kent, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman. Roy Williams’ leap in 2001 that saved the Sooners’ 14-3 victory remains one of Bradford's most vivid memories of the series. He’s had even more fun playing in the games.

McCoy said that participating in the series is one of his most treasured college memories.

“These four games over the last four years are some of the most fun games I’ve played in,” McCoy said. “They are the games you remember because of the tradition, the rivalry and just how big a conference game it is.”

The duo developed a friendship while attending awards banquets last season. They had some fun during an ESPN shoot at the Cotton Bowl earlier this summer.

And after Bradford sustained a third-degree sprained shoulder earlier this year, McCoy immediately contacted him.

“Colt is a great guy,” Bradford said. “Him sending me a text message after I got hurt telling me he was praying for me and to keep my head up shows a lot about him. For him to keep encouraging me, it says a lot about him.”

Both have talked about maintaining their relationship after their college careers end.

"In the end, we’re both football players,” Bradford said. “Obviously, we are both trying to beat each other, but at the same time we can help each other in a lot of different ways. We play a lot of the same teams this year. Our offenses are fairly similar. Helping each other out, we can do that.”

Here’s a look at Bradford and McCoy’s statistics in previous Red River Rivalry games.

Colt McCoy vs. Oklahoma
Year Comp Att Yds TD Int QB rtg W-L
2006 11 18 108 2 0 148.18 W
2007 19 26 324 2 1 195.45 L
2008 28 35 277 1 0 155.91 W
Totals 58 79 709 5 1 167.16 2-1


Sam Bradford vs. Texas
Year Comp Att Yds TD Int QB rtg W-L
2007 21 32 244 3 0 160.61 W
2008 28 39 387 5 2 187.20 L
Totals 49 71 631 8 2 175.22 1-1


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Most freshmen would have been caught up by the magnitude of the game, much less the immense importance the entire state of Oklahoma puts on the contest. After all, they used to dismiss school on the following Monday when the Sooners beat Texas.

But Sam Bradford didn't sway, mainly because he had been building for such a moment all of his life.
 
 Getty Images
 Sam Bradford is second nationally in passing efficiency and tied for third in touchdown passes.

"Growing up in Oklahoma, it's very clear at a young age which side you're on and what it means to be a Sooner," Bradford said.

Bradford swallowed that emotion and directed the Sooners to a gutsy 28-21 victory over the Longhorns last season, directing a fourth-quarter game-winning drive in which he converted three straight third downs, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Kelly. And he's back again this season, leading the No. 1 Sooners against their biggest rivals Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

Since he was a little shaver, Bradford had been coming to Texas-OU games with his dad, Kent, a former Oklahoma offensive lineman during the 1970s. That association forged an appreciation for the game and its magnitude.

"I thought it would be a dream to play in a game like this," he said. "To go out and actually do it, I really can't even begin to explain the excitement and fulfillment of doing it. It was kind of surreal."

A bigger, stronger Bradford is back for more this season. And he's a more forceful leader directing one of the nation's most explosive offenses.

"I feel like I'm in a lot more control and more calm this year," said Bradford, who led the nation in pass efficiency last season. "I don't get rattled as much as I did last year. I feel like that's something that I have improved on since last year."

His early start has been amazing. After only 19 games, he's already second on Oklahoma's career touchdown pass list with 54. The Sooners have averaged 39.2 points during those games, eclipsing 50 points on eight occasions. And he broke his career passing record in three-straight games earlier this season before settling for "only" 372 yards against Baylor last week.

"I feel like my arm is a little stronger and I can get a little more zip on the ball," Bradford said. "I'm also more emotionally steady. I'm willing to hang in the pocket and take hits a little more. I might have gone out of the pocket in the past, but now I'm willing to hang in there and do what I need to do."

Bradford is second nationally in passing efficiency, tied for third in touchdown passes and third in yards per passing attempt. Most early Heisman polls have him among the top contenders. A win Saturday would likely boost him into heavy contention.

Despite the fast start, Bradford says he's not concerned with the Heisman talk already bubbling around him.

"You really can't worry about it. You worry about going out and playing within the system and playing your own game and just helping the team win," Bradford said. "I don't think you worry about any individual awards. It's all about the team."

Bradford has also emerged as a more polished and forceful leader this season. It was his decision to ask the Oklahoma coaches to leave for several minutes for an impromptu team meeting before the Washington game earlier this year to reinforce the importance of team goals.

"You can just tell he's more comfortable and a better leader," Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams said. "Little things like his command in the huddle, how he called that meeting for us. Guys respect him and want to go out and play for him."

That development hasn't surprised Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who thought that Bradford could be a top quarterback from his earliest association with him.

"We always expected him to do well," Stoops said. "We had him in our camps and saw him up close and we loved how he threw the ball. But to the degree he's done things so far, I don't know if I could have projected that. His poised demeanor and athletic ability to do what he's done so far is pretty amazing."

Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston compares Bradford to another consistent winner.

"He's smart and intelligent and reminds me of Tom Brady," Houston said. "He's mobile, but he's smart and makes good decision. He knows where to put the ball and he has great chemistry with his teammates. He knows that offense inside and out."

Against Texas, he likely will face more pressure -- both physical and mental -- than in any previous game this season. The Longhorns lead the nation with an average of 3.8 sacks per game. They produced three sacks, 11 hits on the quarterback and 14 pressures against Colorado last week.

That challenge doesn't overwhelm Bradford as much as stoke him for his opportunity to play amid the excitement at Fair Park again -- even if he has to go to school two days later, unlike most previous Texas conquerors. 

"There's probably more emotion and you get more amped than most times. But you do your best to just get into your rhythm and do what you usually do," Bradford said. "You just take this game like any other one."

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