NCF Nation: Manny Johnson
There’s a natural tendency to overlook Dejuan Miller when considering Oklahoma’s speediest wide receivers.
|Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images|
|Oklahoma receiver Dejuan Miller scored his first touchdown against Kansas State.|
That is, until Miller lines up and actually runs a few routes.
“When people look at me, they automatically think I’m some kind of possession receiver,” Miller said. “But I ran track in high school. I can get out and run when I have to.”
That speed might be a stunner to some defenders. But it’s a natural advantage that Miller likes to spring on unsuspecting opponents.
“It’s fun and I love it,” Miller said. “When they see somebody 6-4 and 224 pounds they think I can just catch the ball. But it’s nice to surprise and shock them sometimes when I run.”
Earlier this season, teammates were mesmerized by his combination of size and speed. Several Oklahoma defensive backs compared him to NFL superstar Larry Fitzgerald because of his bountiful natural gifts.
But despite those tools and a strong effort in fall camp, Miller has had to wait his turn to work his way into Oklahoma’s receiving rotation.
“There was a frustrating point,” Miller said. “It was kind of like climbing a mountain and trying to stay positive every day and have positive outlook. I knew things would fall into place. I just needed my chance to shine and get a chance to play.”
That opportunity finally arrived last week when he produced a career-best nine receptions for 93 yards to help spark the Sooners’ victory over Kansas State.
His first catch was a 23-yard touchdown grab in which he broke several tackles. It was the first touchdown of his career.
Miller also produced three key third-down receptions on drives that led to Oklahoma touchdowns against the Wildcats.
“I feel like this was kind of my coming-out party, a chance to show what I could do,” Miller said. "It was huge because I’ve been waiting for a breakout game like that. I just wanted to showcase what I could do and be a playmaker for us.”
That development provides a capable No. 2 threat behind the speedy Ryan Broyles, who leads the nation with 10 touchdown receptions. The sophomore duo has Oklahoma fans excited about the future.
“Me and Ryan bring something different to the table,” Miller said. “He’s a natural playmaker and I think I bring more of a physical standpoint. I bring the physical and he brings flair and finesse. We kind of feed off each other.”
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones' connection with Miller in Oklahoma’s offense also appears to have grown in the last several weeks. Miller is listed as a first-string receiver on the Sooners' depth chart heading into Saturday's game at Nebraska.
"I always had confidence in him," Jones told the Tulsa World. "I've seen what he does in practice and what he's done since spring. He's a hard-working kid. He's going to make every play for you."
Miller was one of the three top wide receivers who chose the Sooners in the 2008 recruiting class along with Josh Jarboe and Jameel Owens. But Jarboe was dismissed from the Oklahoma squad two days before practice began last season when an expletive-laced rap video he had crafted ended up on the Internet.
And neither Miller nor Owens got much playing time last season as the Sooners preferred to use senior receivers like Manny Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney.
“I was in kind of a rough situation last year because there were a lot of older guys in front of me,” Miller said. “I had to wait on my turn and be patient. I learned patience is a virtue.”
Family members in the Oklahoma City area were the major reason why Miller chose to leave his hometown of Metuchen, N.J., for the Oklahoma program. Among the other schools he considered included Penn State, Florida, Michigan, Boston College and Cincinnati.
But after the first big game of his career, Miller is happy he chose to come to Oklahoma -- even if he had to wait for his chance to play.
"I knew things eventually would get better,” Miller said. “It might be a rocky road, but I wanted to stick with it. I always had a good attitude because I knew it was just a matter of time before my chance would come along.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Sam Bradford's return to Oklahoma's starting lineup tomorrow against Baylor is the best indication that the Sooners' real season starts tomorrow.
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Sam Bradford will see his first game action since the season opener.|
The Sooners have lost their chance to play for the national championship, but are redirecting their priorities to winning an unprecedented fourth-straight Big 12 title.
Bradford's return could be the adrenaline shot the Sooners need to turn around their season.
Obviously, the most important game for the Sooners is next Saturday at the Cotton Bowl when they meet up with old nemesis Texas. The winner of that game has the clearest path to the South Division title.
It would have been hard to imagine that Bradford would have been able to go into that game "cold" without experiencing any previous game action.
That's why the game against Baylor plays out so well for Oklahoma.
I look for Bradford to maybe work in the Baylor game almost like an NFL starting quarterback would tune up for the regular season in a late exhibition game. It wouldn't surprise me to see him play three or four possessions just to get his feet wet and see how his shoulder might hold up while making some throws and some game contact.
Bradford returns with a team that bears little resemblance to the record-setting unit that broke scoring records last season. Preseason All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham will miss the season with a knee injury. Top receivers Manny Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias are gone to the NFL. Top 2009 receiver Ryan Broyles is out with a fractured scapula. A retooled offensive line with four new starters has struggled both in pass protection and staying away from penalties.
It will be interesting to see what Bradford's return will mean for the Sooners.
But it certainly can't hurt.
And a Sooners season that looked moribund after the disappointing loss to Miami last week still has a little sizzle left.
Starting tomorrow with Bradford's return to the starting lineup.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.
Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?
Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.
I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.
I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.
Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.
Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 -- a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.
But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.
But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.
Maybe I'll do that next summer.
Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.
I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.
The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.
Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.
But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.
That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.
Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?
Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.
That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.
Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.
I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.
But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.
Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.
But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.
Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.
Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.
And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.
Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on ESPN.com earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.
I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.
Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.
Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.
As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.
I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."
We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.
Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- The red eyes in the Oklahoma locker room were to be expected.
Another loss in a BCS bowl game -- the Sooners' fifth in the past six seasons -- was a bitter pill for a team that felt it was going to shock the world by upsetting Florida.
|AP Photo/Lynne Sladky|
|Missed opportunities in the red zone hurt the Sooners on Thursday night.|
That didn't work out in the Sooners' 24-14 loss to Florida because of one major reason: Oklahoma simply made too many critical mistakes inside the Florida 20-yard line to expect to be able to win.
"We moved the ball well, but just kept shooting ourselves in the foot over and over," Oklahoma wide receiver Manny Johnson said. "It hurts, because we moved the ball but we just couldn't make the plays when we needed them. We felt like it's our own fault."
And it was. The Sooners were turned away on two drives inside the Florida 6-yard line in the first half when they easily could have seized the game's momentum.
Oklahoma was stopped twice inside the Florida 1 midway through the second quarter. Tailback Chris Brown was stuffed on consecutive plays by sophomore Florida defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who had provided only five tackles all season coming into the game.
Brown, who rushed for a team-high 110 yards, might have been tired. He carried the ball on all five plays in the drive until he was turned away on fourth down.
"They bit down on us," Brown said. "They stopped us and they came up with some key plays when they really needed them. It was disappointing because I felt like I could get there [the end zone]."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MIAMI -- Early in his career, Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias wasn't sure he belonged with the Sooners.
|Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE|
|Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias is looking to end his career on a high-note with a BCS Championship Game win over Florida.|
Recruited almost as an afterthought after a high-school career where he was known primarily for his basketball and track accomplishments, Iglesias struggled early to get the concepts of the Sooners' passing game down after his arrival.
"I didn't think I would play at all when I first got there," Iglesias said. "Going from catching a lot of balls in high school to not playing is hard. I was trying to prepare myself for that transformation after I was here for a few weeks."
But instead of moping, Iglesias redoubled his efforts on the practice, catching his coaches' attention by doing the little things.
From those humble origins, Iglesias has developed into one of the most prolific receivers in Oklahoma history. And he's never forgotten how far he has come from those early days when he felt fortunate to even be playing with the Sooners.
Iglesias will conclude his career Thursday night playing in the biggest football game of the season as the Sooners meet Florida in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game.
"The difference between back then and now is like night and day," Iglesias said Monday as he soaked up the atmosphere at Dolphin Stadium during a team media function. "I was sure I was never going to play for the few months I was here. Now, playing in a stadium like this in a game like this is something you dream about.
"A lot of kids play this game and never get a chance like I'm getting. I'm playing for them and for my family."
The Big 12's deep collection of receiving talent has caused Iglesias to sometimes become lost in the shuffle. Especially this season, when the conference was the home to all three Biletnikoff Award finalists -- Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant.
But Iglesias was nearly as proficient this season, producing 69 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was the second-most catches in Oklahoma history as Iglesias became only the third Sooner to top 1,000 yards. He holds two of the top three seasons in Sooner history for receptions, trailing only Mark Clayton's record of 221 catches from 2001-04.
When Manny Johnson went down early in the Kansas game with an elbow injury, Iglesias stepped up to produce a school single-game record 12 receptions for 191 yards.
His development has mirrored the growth of quarterback Sam Bradford. The two players often worked during the summer and after practice the last two seasons to work on their timing running hundreds of his pass patterns.
That work has allowed them to bond in a connection that Bradford said is closer than he shares with any other teammate.
"I do have confidence in Juaquin and I definitely know where he's going to be on every play," Bradford said. "If something is funky and I'm not sure what's going on with the defense, most of the time I just look for him."
Oklahoma's collection of receiving threats has kept opposing defenses honest all season. The Sooners feature a deep cast with six receivers with at least 27 catches this season. Five of those players have averaged at least 15 yards per catch.
"I very rarely ever see double coverage," Iglesias said. "Having all those players helps us out a lot. It's good to have a lot of people so they have to worry about a lot of things."
But Iglesias' development has particularly thrilled the Sooners' coaches over the years. They outrecruited UTEP for him as no other Big 12 players were interested after a limited football career at Killeen (Texas) High School. He was more widely known after averaging 17 points per game in basketball and being an accomplished runner in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.
The Sooners got interested in him late in recruiting and have seen him transformed once he came to college because of his work ethic.
"I kid with the Price Brothers at UTEP (former UTEP assistant coach Eric Price and current UTEP assistant Aaron Price) about Juaquin," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "They say 'There's that guy you stole from us.' Not that Juaquin wasn't a good player, but he was falling through the cracks. We got lucky and found a guy who has really helped us."
Iglesias will also inherit another role in Thursday's game as he becomes the Sooners' primary kickoff returner after the injury to DeMarco Murray. Iglesias set a school record with 826 kickoff return yards last season, but saw Murray inherit the featured return role this season.
"I'm really excited about getting my chance at that again," Iglesias said. "It's always fun when you have the ball in your hands."
Even if he wasn't sure he'd ever get that opportunity earlier in his college career.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|Jackson Laizure/US Presswire|
|Sam Bradford's pass in the third quarter of Oklahoma's 61-41 victory over Oklahoma State bounced off Manny Johnson's hands to tight end Jermaine Gresham, above, for a 73-yard touchdown reception.|
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Barry Switzer had a term for the luck that seemingly graced his team throughout his career.
The "Bootlegger's Boy" is long gone from the Sooners' sideline but "Sooner Magic" was alive and well for Oklahoma Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Two key plays that provided touchdowns probably had Switzer smiling Saturday as his old team claimed a wild 61-41 victory over rival Oklahoma State.
The Sooners watched a tipped pass slip through Manny Johnson's hands and between three Oklahoma State defenders to a sprinting Jermaine Gresham for a 73-yard touchdown reception. The score helped the Sooners reclaim momentum after Oklahoma State pulled within four points early in the third quarter.
"I guess I've been living right because I've been going to church a lot recently," Gresham said. "I'm blessed it happened in this game."
Later, quarterback Sam Bradford botched a exchange from center Jon Cooper on fourth down. The Oklahoma State defense froze for a millisecond -- long enough for Bradford to pick up the ball and still scoot into the end zone.
"You definitely need a little luck to win," Bradford said. "There were a couple of plays like that, but we played well overall tonight."
The tipped pass was the wildest. Johnson said he thought the ball was going to be intercepted because the Oklahoma State defenders were so closely bunched around him.
"I saw it go through my hands and then all those other guys were around it," Johnson said. "I was relieved when it bounced through them and landed in Jermaine's hands. And then when he was running at full stride to the goal line, it was a big play for us."
Even Bob Stoops was thankful for the good fortune -- or luck -- that graced his team at key moments.
"You always feel fortunate when you get a play like that," Stoops said. "And I feel fortunate tonight."
Bradford's dad played for Switzer in the 1970s and sometimes heard about the Sooners' propensity for big plays in clutch situations. But "Sooner Magic" has been with him since he arrived at college.
"I've heard more about it since I've been at OU since I grew up," Bradford said. "I guess you could say we had a little bit tonight."
The Sooners need any kind of bounce they can get considering the BCS ramifications of the victory. And they were happiest when the good fortune came when they really needed it.
Both came during a wild spurt of eight-straight scoring possessions that began in the second quarter and lasted until the end of the game. The Sooners erupted for 54 points during that 45-minute period.
"If you want it call it 'Sooner Magic' you can," Oklahoma tailback Chris Brown said. "It's being in the right spot at the right times. Some of those players could have been disasters. But we got two touchdowns on them. It was like 'Sooner Magic' was with us."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- We'll go to the BCS standings Sunday afternoon to determine who will be playing in the Big 12 championship game.
Oklahoma's 61-41 victory over Oklahoma State forced the first three-way tie in Big 12 history. It pushed the Sooners into a tie for the South Division title with Texas and Texas Tech.
Because the three teams each have a win and a loss -- all against each other -- it means the conference will have to go to the fifth tiebreaker to determine who will play Missouri next Saturday in Kansas City.
I'm headed downstairs to hear if Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will take an active role in lobbying for his team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Will it be enough?
Oklahoma took advantage of a couple of huge breaks to claim a 37-26 lead over Oklahoma State after three quarters.
But will this kind of performance resonate with pollsters Sunday morning?
The Sooners benefitted from two big plays in the third quarter to account for its two touchdowns.
Oklahoma's last touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Bradford after his bobbled snap had bounced back into his hands.
Barry Switzer used to call it "Sooner Magic." But I wonder if he ever saw as much good fortune concentrated into such a short period of time.
Oklahoma needs a big finish as they attempt to sway the pollsters. Oklahoma State's defense looked tired late in the third quarter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- The Sooners' final margin Saturday night over Texas Tech was 65-21 and, truthfully, could have been worse. So much for any kind of style points. These Sooners just prefer to mash opponents into oblivion after scoring the most points that Tech has ever allowed in its 84-season football history.
|Jackson Laizure/US Presswire|
|Oklahoma's Chris Brown rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns as No. 5 Oklahoma pounded No. 2 Texas Tech in a 65-21 blowout.|
After the game, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was lamenting the plays his team left on the field which could have made the final score even more one-sided.
"All I know is that we got stopped one time in the red zone," Wilson said. "I didn't like that."
But that might have been nitpicking -- even if Oklahoma was turned away at the Tech 1 on downs late in the fourth quarter.
The Sooners rushed for 299 yards, passed for 326 yards and averaged 8.0 yards per snap. It was as thorough an offensive performance against a good defense as has been seen around Owen Field in a long time.
"We proved tonight that when we are balanced, we are a really hard team to stop," said Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. "I have to give credit to the guys up front because they played absolutely amazingly tonight. They gave me time to sit back there and pick at my open receivers. I think they are the reason we won tonight."
Bradford completed only 14 passes, but still blistered Tech for four touchdown passes and 304 yards. And he was pulled after one series in the fourth quarter, likely after many viewers back at home had given up watching this one-sided rout.
The sophomore quarterback was again the instigator in a quick Oklahoma start. The Sooners jumped on the shell-shocked Red Raiders for six touchdowns in their first seven possessions and cruised from there.
"Sam did great tonight," Oklahoma wide receiver Manny Johnson said. "His stats say it all."
And they do.
It continued his sizzling streak since the Texas game. The Sooners have won five straight games as Bradford has averaged 331.6 yards per game. He's throwing 19 touchdowns against one interception during that period as the Sooners have rang up 59.2 points per game.
Murray, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Red Raiders last season in Lubbock, said that he was amazed at the open spaces he saw in Tech's defense.
"Our offensive line was getting me into space and I wasn't getting touched until I was five or 10 yards down the field," said Murray, who finished with a game-high 125 yards and added four catches for 71 yards. "With them blocking like that I was just feeling it. And once we started fast, we just started feeling it."
While Wilson was beating himself up over the missed touchdown at the end, there weren't many other things he could complain about. The Sooners are averaging more than a point a minute over the last three games, ringing up 62 points against Nebraska, 66 against Texas A&M and 65 against Tech on Saturday night.
And the fact it came against Tech, which had played opponents like Texas and Oklahoma State strongly in its recent games and beaten the Sooners two of the last three games made it even sweeter.
"Those guys had come in here playing great defense and the computers had them ranked No. 1 in the nation," Wilson said. "They held Texas to eight yards rushing in one half. They gave Oklahoma State all they wanted. We came out and did a good job of being physical and didn't make a lot of negative plays. It was a strong effort."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Remember coming into this game when Texas Tech was being held as a cutting-edge offense that couldn't be stopped?
Somebody apparently forgot to tell Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables and his Sooner defense.
The Sooners are turning in a vintage defensive performance, limiting the Red Raiders to 271 yards through three quarters in a decisive 58-14 beatdown.
Oklahoma's big performance is pushing us to the Big 12's version of BCS Armageddon. If Oklahoma lead holds, we'll have a three-way tie for the South Division lead with a game remaining. And a potential three-way tie after next week's games will mean the South Division title-game representative will be determined by the BCS standings after next week.
Tech didn't convert its first third-down play until 5:39 was left in the third quarter. The Red Raiders failed on their first seven third-down plays.
And Oklahoma's offense has been just as salty. Chris Brown has scored three touchdowns and DeMarco Murray has added two more along with a game-high 125 rushing yards. And Manny Johnson's scintillating 66-yard one-handed touchdown reception punctuated the Sooners' scoring binge -- one of seven scoring drives that have taken less than two elapsed minutes.
Oklahoma appears destined to score the most points against Texas Tech in the Leach era. The previous high was Missouri's 62-31 victory over the Red Raiders on Oct. 25, 2003.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few last-minute tidbits before tonight's Texas Tech-Oklahoma game.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: Something has to give tonight. The Sooners have a nation-best 23 game winning streak. But Texas Tech is 10-0 for the first time since 1938 and will carry a 12-game winning streak that is the longest in the country to start the day.
A Texas Tech victory would give the Red Raiders their first birth in the Big 12 championship game against Missouri on Dec. 6.
An Oklahoma victory would throw the South Division into a three-way tie for the lead. Next week, Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State, Texas hosts Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night and Baylor will visit Texas Tech. If there's a three-way tie at the end of that day, the Bowl Championship Series standings will be used to determine which team will advance to the championship game.
INJURIES: Oklahoma's banged-up defense will have some replacements. Starting defensive ends Auston English and Alan Davis both are out with sprained knees. That will mean that redshirt freshman Frank Alexander and Jeremy Beal will get the starts, with converted linebacker J.R. Bryant and Pryce Macon thrust into key reserve roles. Steady middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds has been out since the Texas game with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Austin Box will get the start in his place. Tight end Brody Eldridge (ankle) and wide receiver Manny Johnson (dislocated elbow) both are expected to play.
Texas Tech is in pretty good shape in terms of injuries. The extra week gave Michael Crabtree time to rest and he told reporters earlier this week he's ready to play at 100 percent.
WEATHER CONDITIONS: It's an almost ideal football night at Owen Field, with one exception. A gusting south wind of up to 20 mph could play havoc with teams' passing strategies and the kicking game. But other than that, you couldn't ask for a better night in mid-November. Temperatures will start at kickoff in the mid-40s and should slide into the high-30s by the time the game finishes up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- It wasn't exactly how Barry Switzer would have called the offense.
There were no wishbone elements in Oklahoma's offensive attack. But other elements of the Sooners' offensive onslaught were eerily reminiscent of how "The King" would have done it -- mainly in its sheer domination.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford passed for a school-record 468 yards.|
But unlike some of Switzer's run-heavy efforts back in the day, this one was a bow to modern-day offensive philosophy. Sam Bradford threw for a school-record 468 passing yards and the much-maligned Sooner offensive line paved the way for 206 rushing yards as the Sooners cruised to a convincing victory.
"We always want more," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of his team's 97-snap offensive binge. "I would have liked to have had three more snaps and just kept moving and gotten to 100. I would have liked to have had a couple of plays back. But I guess that's being a little greedy."
Bradford broke the previous school record of 429 yards set by his quarterback coach Josh Heupel. But he was happier about his team bouncing back from its late struggles last week against Texas than any individual accomplishment.
"Obviously, getting the numbers are nice, but the most important thing is come out here and get a win," Bradford said. "Our offensive line did a great job, we got the running game going and I had all the time in the world back there to pass."
Oklahoma's huge offensive game came after the loss of leading receiver Manny Johnson, who suffered an injury to his left elbow on the game's fifth play and did not return.
Juaquin Iglesias took advantage of his absence by producing a school-record 12 catches for 191 yards. It was the second-biggest receiving performance in school history, topped only by Johnson's 206-yard effort earlier this season against TCU.
"Today, I felt like I was in the zone," said Iglesias, who said he would beat himself up for two drops. "I didn't feel like I had to do something I wasn't. I just tried to make the plays that were there."
The Sooners' offensive line had become a punchline over the last week after producing less than 50 rushing yards in two of its last three games. But Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray combined to rush for 175 yards as the Sooners' massive offensive line was intent on proving a point early in the game.
"There was a lot of weight bearing down on our shoulders about not getting the running game going," Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson said. "We came out on edge. We just wanted to show something."
Nobody emerged more than Murray, who had been struggling with a slump that many attributed to the lasting effects of a dislocated kneecap sustained late last season.
"I just decided not to listen what the media has been saying," said Murray, who had averaged only 2.7 yards per carry in his last three games. "I know people have been talking about my knee. It was just in my mind and I wanted to forget about it."
Murray and Brown both appeared to be running with passion, answering the challenge of Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. During struggles against TCU and Texas, Wilson had hinted that the Oklahoma backs hadn't been running as hard as he would have liked.
Murray had not had a carry longer than 14 yards since the opening game of the season. But he spurted through a huge hole for a 17-yard gain late in the first quarter to show he was approaching his previous form and later added another spinning 16-yarder shortly before halftime.
"We knew we hadn't been running hard enough," Murray said. "We took it as a challenge and wanted to be more physical. And we answered a little of the challenge today."
He credited some of his performance to running with a new, lighter pair of shoes that made him feel like he was faster.
"I always had confidence, but I had just missed some holes," Murray said. "I just tried to run hard and the offensive line made some good blocks for me. It was there for me."
This fact, if true, should be a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12. Even after the 10th best offensive performance in terms of total offense in school history, Murray said the Sooners can do more.
And he was right. The Sooners missed two makeable field goals from kicker Jimmy Stevens, including a shanked 30-yarder that ended Oklahoma's streak of 28 scores on 28 red-zone possessions on the opening possession.
"It's not about being greedy," Murray said. "We expect more of ourselves, knowing we had some opportunities and didn't do as well as we could have done. We've still have got a lot of room for improvement."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Another tough week selecting the best of the Big 12's best. But their efforts on Saturday set them apart.
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford and WR Manny Johnson: Bradford passed for a career-best 411 yards on 19-of-34 passing with four TD passes to spark the Sooners' 35-10 victory over TCU. Johnson was the main recipient with five catches for a school-record 206 receiving yards and three TDs.
Texas QB Colt McCoy: Accounted for five TDs in the Longhorns' 52-10 victory over Arkansas. McCoy was 17-of-19 passing for 185 yards and three TDs and ran for two more scores on a game-high 84 yards rushing.
Kansas State QB Josh Freeman: Contributed five TDs in the Wildcats' 45-37 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Freeman ran for two touchdowns and passed for 272 yards and three TDs, becoming KSU's career passing yardage leader.
Oklahoma S Lendy Holmes: Produced seven tackles (six solo), recovered two fumbles and made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff to spark the Sooners' defensive effort against TCU.
Oklahoma State's offense: A collective sticker for a unit that rolled up 612 yards and reached 50 points for the third straight game in a 55-24 victory over Troy -- a defensive unit that came into the game ranked 11th nationally in total defense. Zac Robinson passed for 254 yards and three TDs, Dez Bryant added three TD grabs and Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston both topped 100 yards rushing.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma's impressive victory over TCU appears to have them poised to assume the No. 1 position when the national polls are released on Sunday.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops reacted to that scenario with little outward emotion after his team's resounding 35-10 thumping of the No. 24 Horned Frogs.
"I don't have any thoughts about that, not at all," Stoops said. "You'll have to talk to somebody else about that."
The Sooners' strong performance, combined with losses by No. 1 USC and No. 3 Georgia. could boost Oklahoma to the top slot in both major polls. And it will come even if Stoops' outward indifference seems to indicate he won't be running to the Internet when the polls are announced Sunday afternoon.
Instead, he seemed much happier to talk about his team's strong all-around effort against the Horned Frogs than anything that pollsters might bestow on them.
"It's always a good thing to win, believe me. It's not easy to do," Stoops said. "It's positive ... how can it not be? You think I'm ever going to be disappointed with a 35-10 victory?"
Stoops can act like the potential No. 1 ranking -- which would be his team's first since younger brother Mike Stoops left to coach Arizona at the end of the 2003 season - -might not matter much to him.
But it would be an important step for his program, indicating the Sooners are back.
It's been fashionable to dismiss Stoops in recent years, particularly with his recent struggles in BCS bowl games as indicative that he's lost his fastball as one of the nation's premier coaches. You haven't heard him called "Big Game Bob" nearly as much in the last couple of years as he was earlier in his career when he won a national championship in only his second season as a head coach.
Bringing this team to the top slot would be an important and significant milestone. It would also boost Oklahoma into the top position of the all-time ranking of No. 1 teams. The Sooners currently are tied with Notre Dame with 95 weeks at the top of the Associated Press poll since it started in 1936.
And Oklahoma's performance on Saturday certainly befitted an elite team. The Sooners scored on three of their first four possessions, gashing the nation's top-ranked defensive unit for 222 yards in the first quarter alone. They exhibited a tough, opportunistic defense that throttled the Horned Frogs during most of the game. TCU was limited to a field goal -- caused by faulty Oklahoma kick coverage -- before a cosmetic fourth-quarter touchdown.
Sam Bradford remained upright in the face of withering TCU defensive pressure to pass for a career-best 411 yards and four touchdowns. He likely staked his Heisman hopes as well as boosting his team's chances for No. 1.
Bradford and several Sooners echoed their coach's attitude toward the top ranking.
"At this point, being No. 1 means absolutely nothing," Bradford said. "We still have a long way to go before we can to where we eventually want to be ranked in the polls. No matter what happens, we're still going to have to get ready to play Baylor next week."
Wide receiver Manny Johnson was about as forthright as any Sooner about the possibility of being No. 1. And he realizes the ranking could be an albatross if it has to be maintained throughout the course of the season.
"You can't really worry too much about the polls," he said. "But I was thinking about the teams that have been No. 1 in the past. There haven't been a lot of teams that were No. 1 at this point that continued being No. 1. But teams are upset every week."
Johnson's logic is solid, particularly in a stacked Big 12 that should be more competitive than ever this season. The conference likely will have three teams ranked among the top five nationally on Sunday.
Texas should move up after a resounding victory over Arkansas. Missouri was poised to move into the top five even with an off date. Texas Tech will be in the top 10. Kansas should be elevated into the top 15. Oklahoma will likely face all of them in Big 12 or in a potential conference championship game this season.
Stoops can act like he doesn't want the top ranking, but somebody will have to take it. And after Saturday night, no team appears to be as deserving at this point as much as the Sooners - no matter what their coach might think.