NCF Nation: Rhett Bomar
The NCAA's denial of Dez Bryant's final appeal to play this season wasn't unexpected.
When Bryant was suspended by the NCAA for lying about his association with Deion Sanders, I thought his chances of ever playing again with Oklahoma State were nil.
Bryant's crime actually was much less than LeGarrette Blount's or Rhett Bomar's or some of the other notorious cases in recent years. But Bryant lied, and the NCAA takes a pretty dim view on that.
The Cowboys missed Bryant for the first time all season last week in their loss to Texas. He likely would have been OSU's most consistent offensive weapon against the Longhorns, both as a receiver and a kick returner.
I'm not saying that OSU would have won that game, but the margin would have been closer if he had played. Bryant would have caught the touchdown pass that Hubert Anyiam dropped early in the game. He likely wouldn't have fumbled like Anyiam did later in the game. And he would have provided another weapon that would have made Texas alter its defensive schemes.
OSU has two more upcoming games in which Bryant would have been handy -- tough ones against Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
So the difference between having Bryant all season and not having him will end up being challenging for a BCS bowl versus playing in a good one at the end of the season.
For Mike Gundy and his program, that gap is a huge one.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It was a time of unbridled happiness and joy for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops -- a moment he described as the “best recruiting day” he could have ever imagined earlier this year.
|AP Photo/Jeff Roberson|
|Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is going to have to coach through injuries if he’s going to save the Sooners' season.|
The return of standout players like quarterback Sam Bradford, tight end Jermaine Gresham, tackle Trent Williams and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for another college season was hailed as one of the top moments of Stoops’ coaching career. Those four key players would serve as the cornerstones of the Sooners’ charge to another Big 12 title and perhaps provide a chance at that elusive BCS title that has been the program’s albatross in recent years.
But as injuries have wracked the Oklahoma program, that group of standout players that Stoops expected to have at his disposal have never all been available at the same time. Gresham suffered a season-ending knee injury before the season started and Bradford sprained a shoulder joint in the first game. It’s been a cruel reminder for Stoops on how football fortunes can change quickly.
And it got worse this past weekend in the Sooners’ 21-20 loss to Miami. Top playmaking receiver Ryan Broyles, the nation’s leader in touchdown receptions, went out with a fractured shoulder that could keep him sidelined until early November. His departure robs the 2-2 Sooners of their top deep threat and one of their few receivers who can stretch the field vertically.
That departure was evident on Oklahoma’s final drive against Miami. With no real deep threats to test a Miami defense that was missing a couple of key players in the secondary, the Sooners weren’t nearly as potent. On a pivotal drive late in the fourth quarter where the Sooners could have reclaimed the lead, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson went conservative. Oklahoma ran on six straight plays before throwing a safe swing pass to DeMarco Murray for no yards on third down.
The Sooners then settled for a field goal and then never got the ball back as the Hurricanes closed out the one-point victory against a tiring Oklahoma defense.
It was a far cry from the Sooners’ offensive juggernaut of 2008. That group rolled up 60 or more points during a five-game stretch late last season to boost Oklahoma to an unprecedented third-straight Big 12 title.
It’s expected that Bradford will return to the lineup sooner than later -- perhaps even this week against Baylor. But the symptoms that have befallen the Sooners in the Miami game won’t be magically removed as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner returns.
The young offensive line has been a disappointment in pass protection and susceptibility to penalties. Those mistakes have kept the Sooners struggling in troublesome down-and-distance situations in their losses to BYU and Miami.
The loss of Broyles underscores the Sooners lack of depth at wide receiver. Top recruits Dejuan Miller and Jameel Owens haven’t fulfilled their promise. Adron “Pooh” Tennell has been a bust with three catches this season. Cameron Kenney produced six receptions against Miami, but now will be relied on as the Sooners’ primary offensive receiving threat. And tight end has all but disappeared out of Wilson’s offensive arsenal after Gresham’s injury.
The problems at wide receiver could be traced to last season, when highly-regarded recruit Josh Jarboe never joined the team after his scholarship was rescinded when he made a controversial rap video. His talent would fit this receiving corps nicely, even as channeling his behavior would have been challenging for Stoops and his staff.
Even with all of these problems building on top of another, the Sooners’ real season starts in Saturday's conference opener.
The Sooners won’t be playing for the BCS championship, but they can still make it to a BCS bowl game with a strong rebound. Their huge game against Texas approaches next week. They will be a heavy underdog in that game, but weird upsets always have a way of happening in the history of that bitter rivalry.
Stoops has always been his most effective over the years when he’s had to coach with a shortened roster. Remember his 2006 team claimed the Big 12 title after Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team before fall practice started and Adrian Peterson was hurt for most of the second half of the season?
That team overcame all of those problems and even a loss to Texas and still rebounded to win the fourth of Stoops’ Big 12 titles. He’s never said so, but I’ve always thought that had to be the most satisfying of his titles that he’s won considering all of the obstacles en route to the championship.
He’ll have another chance this season to duplicate that success with a similarly depleted roster. And if Bradford returns healthy, Stoops will have one big advantage that he’s lacked before.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Despite the dire straits their team is facing, Oklahoma players still can joke with new starting quarterback Landry Jones about the growing fame of he and his mustache.
|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|If Landry Jones was nervous about taking over for Sam Bradford, he didn't show it versus BYU.|
The redshirt freshman will replace Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford for the foreseeable future. And the Sooners' new quarterback’s facial hair is providing some levity for his teammates following the loss of Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham.
“We tease him about the mustache all the time,” Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams said. “I’m predicting before the year is over, he’ll shave that thing off.”
His teammates have quickly gravitated to the redshirt freshman who has been pressed into duty after Bradford’s shoulder injury last week against BYU.
Despite Bradford's absence, Jones is confident in his abilities for as long as he is needed.
“It's very unfortunate, but right now we have to move on and I have some huge shoes to fill,” Jones told reporters earlier this week. “So I have to pick my game up as well.”
His teammates have said that Jones reminds them of Bradford when he was younger because of his size, football acumen and his demeanor around his teammates.
“Landry is a laid-back dude,” senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. “He’s a very easy-going guy. And with him now, when he talks we all listen.”
Jones’ first taste of action was a mixed mag in the Sooners’ season-opening loss to BYU, as he completed only 6 of 12 passes for 51 yards. But the Sooners didn’t turn the ball over with him in charge and he didn’t make a bad throw.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was particularly pleased with Jones’ reaction after he took over the team.
“He couldn’t have handled it better,” Stoops said. “I didn’t see him flinch once.”
During a heralded career at Artesia (N.M.) High School, Jones led his school to two state championships and threw 89 touchdown passes in his two seasons as a starter. He was an Under Armour ESPN All-American, a Parade All-American and the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year.
He’s brings a similar skill set as Bradford, without nearly the experience. His work as a redshirt gave him a slight edge over freshman Drew Allen for the backup job in training camp.
“I have no doubt he’ll do a good job,” Tennell said. “No matter what quarterback is out there, we’ll try to make it easier for him. We’ve just got to do a better job of catching the ball.”
The Sooners likely won’t be tested as much against Idaho State, an FCS school that started the season with a 50-3 loss at Arizona State. But it will still test Jones’ confidence, which has grown with his experience.
“I feel really comfortable now,” Jones told reporters earlier this week. “I have a year under my belt. I kind of have all my checks down and have a feel for the tempo. So I feel really good.”
No coach in the Big 12 has traditionally been able to circle the wagons in times of adversity like Stoops.
The Sooners claimed the Big 12 championship in two of the last three seasons after early-season losses to Texas. In 2006, they overcame the training camp loss of Rhett Bomar after he was kicked off the team. Later that season, Stoops coached around the injury of Adrian Peterson for the second half of the season and still won the Big 12 championship.
“Our guys know we expect whoever’s out there to do well,” Stoops said. “You have to move forward and play with the guys you have. Just like with all of the other injuries, somebody’s got to step up and play. That’s what a team does.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
News that Sam Bradford has either a Grade 2 or Grade 3 sprain of his throwing shoulder means that he won’t be back in the starting lineup for at least a couple of weeks.
Bradford likely won’t be ready to play before October. And even that could be pushing his return before he is ready to play.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday that Bradford’s upcoming status with the Sooners is undetermined.
“It will be a fairly long process, meaning it will probably be a week or two before we know more about it,” Stoops said. “A lot depends on how he feels and how he recovers through the week. In the end, it will be awhile.”
Stoops said that the loss of tight end Jermaine Gresham, out with a sprained knee, has changed how his offense works. Gresham was expected to be the Sooners’ leading receiver and an important checkdown receiver for a young offensive line with four new starters.
Not having a Heisman Trophy winner and a projected preseason All-American tight end has led to a dramatic change of production from an offense that set an FBS record last season for scoring.
After a 14-13 loss to BYU in the Sooners’ first game, the Sooners rank 73rd nationally in rushing offense, 90th in scoring offense, 92nd in passing offense and 95th in total offense.
“It affects us in a big way, there’s no denying that,” Stoops said. “Jermaine is a big presence and a go-to guy for us. It changes the complexion of our offense, but you just deal with it. It’s the same kind of things with him as Sam, and hopefully we’ll have an idea within a few days to see what the doctors and Jermaine decide to do.”
The Sooners won’t be pushed over their upcoming home games against Idaho State on Saturday and next week against Tulsa. And then they have a week off before they travel to Miami.
Getting both players back by then obviously is the goal. It would provide the Sooners with two games -- the game against the Hurricanes and against Baylor the following week -- to get their rhythm back by the crucial Texas game.
It won’t be easy. But the Sooners have been one of the most effective teams in the nation at overcoming adversity and injuries in recent seasons.
Stoops was able to coach around the preseason loss of Rhett Bomar after he was dismissed from the team in training camp before the 2006 season. Despite playing untested quarterback Paul Thompson, the Sooners still won the Big 12 championship that season to start their recent run of three consecutive titles.
That season was also marked by the loss of Adrian Peterson, who missed the final seven games of the season with a broken collarbone.
And despite early conference losses to Texas in 2006 and 2008, the Sooners rebounded to claim the title in both seasons.
Texas coach Mack Brown said that Stoops’ past history makes him confident that the Sooners will be able to overcome Bradford’s injury.
“Bob does a great job,” Brown said. “They’ve overcome more injuries than anybody and bounced back and won. Oklahoma will be good and I’ll say it will start this week. It was a one-point loss [to BYU] with two great players out and they still nearly won. It’s a credit to them.”
Stoops is the highest-paid coach in the Big 12. He'll be earning every penny of that salary over the next several weeks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Even some spotty cable service can't keep these links from being served today. Enjoy them.
- Former Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar tells the Associated Press' John Zenor that he couldn't watch the Sooners' BCS championship game loss against Florida because of too many painful memories.
- Former Colorado players Bernard Jackson and Lionel Harris could receive reduced charges in a plea-bargaining deal in connection with a home-invasion style robbery for which they were jailed last summer, the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
- Former Texas defensive lineman Shane Dronett, 38, was found dead Wednesday at his home in suburban Atlanta. Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton has remembrances from his teammates and former coaches.
- Omaha Millard's Ty Kildow's recruiting story is a little different than most, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star reports. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Kildow will walk-on at Nebraska, where he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at summer camp several days before tearing his ACL there in a 7-on-7 drill that caused him to miss his senior season.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes that new Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young will become only the second coach to serve as a coordinator at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa. The other was Larry Coker.
- Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain doesn't agree with Oklahoma State's policy of making Georgia a premium game, but credits athletic director Mike Holder for trying to build the Cowboys' season-ticket base.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 items to watch for across the Big 12 this weekend.
1. Chase Daniel's offensive surge: Missouri has scored on its last 13 possessions over the last two games with Daniel directing the offense. They should have another easy game Saturday against Buffalo, but can Daniel keep his amazing offensive production going? His Heisman candidacy is improving with each performance.
2. Texas A&M's starting quarterback: Stephen McGee's streak of 29 straight starts as Texas A&M's quarterback is in jeopardy after he sustained a sprained right shoulder in the Aggies' most recent game at New Mexico. Will he be ready to go Saturday against Miami? Or will Coach Mike Sherman instead opt for talented backup Jerrod Johnson, who passed for three touchdowns to direct the Aggies' first victory of the season after McGee's injury?
3. Texas' young secondary against Rice's sophisticated passing offense: Freshman safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon made it through unscathed against UTEP. But they'll be taking a big step forward when facing Rice QB Chase Clement and the Owls' talented and underrated receivers James Casey and Jarrett Dillard.
4. Any lingering reaction from Miami's beat-down over Texas A&M last season: Dennis Franchione's program is gone for the Aggies. The Aggies will have a chance Saturday to blot away memories from one of the recent humiliations in school history stemming from last season's disappointing loss at the Orange Bowl. And new A&M coach Mike Sherman can regain some of his lost luster after his season-opening loss against Arkansas State with an upset on Saturday.
5. How will Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree react to the pointed criticism of Mike Leach? Harrell passed for 418 yards and five touchdowns and Crabtree won AT&T national Player of the Week honors after grabbing eight receptions for 164 yards and three TDs last week after a 43-7 victory over SMU. And Leach still wasn't happy. What will they do for an encore against a leaky Massachusetts defense that has allowed an average of 47 points per game in its last two games?
6. Iowa State's Vegas vacation: Gene Chizik says the Cyclones will bunk far away from the Strip in preparation for Saturday's game against UNLV. Will staying away from the bright lights of the casinos help them snap a 12-game road losing streak, including the last six games with Chizik?
7. Robert Griffin's encore: After breaking the Big 12 single-game rushing-average record last week against Washington State in only his second career start, the freshman Baylor quarterback now steps up in class against an underrated Connecticut defense in a national television contest. A big effort could be huge statement for Art Briles' rebuilding efforts.
8. Rhett Bomar's return to the Big 12: The former Oklahoma quarterback transferred to Sam Houston State after washing out with the Sooners. Bomar led the Sooners to a 19-3 victory over Kansas in his last trip to Lawrence in 2005. Will he be as productive against a much improved Jayhawks team?
9. Texas' running game: The Longhorns have struggled at times running the ball. But the emergence of Fozzy Whittaker might have given them a breakaway threat. He should have a lot of opportunities against Rice, which has been gashed for an average of 317.4 rushing yards per game in its seven games against Mack Brown's Texas teams.
10. Missouri's retooled secondary: Starting FS William Moore isn't expected to play Saturday against Buffalo after reinjuring his right foot last week. Converted CB Del Howard will start in his place. Howard will be challenged by Buffalo WR Naaman Roosevelt, who made headlines last week with his game-winning, final-play TD catch against Temple.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 will be on display the next two nights as underdogs against two powerful Big East foes. After losing two games in six days to the Big East, the conference is looking for a quick turnaround.
Here are my picks:
West Virginia 33, Colorado 28: The Mountaineers have too much offensive firepower in this one, even with Colorado fans planning a "Blackout" and West Virginia offensive linemen worrying about Boulder's altitude in game preparation this week. The Buffaloes are still a little young to prevail, but will pick up some important lessons that could help them later in Big 12 play.
Connecticut 42, Baylor 17: The quick development of Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin has given this game a little bit more sizzle than it might have had a couple of weeks ago. Baylor will be looking for its first road victory at a BCS opponent since 1996. But look for the Huskies to dominate inside because of the tough running of Donald Brown, cruising to their ninth-straight victory and second straight 4-0 start.
Missouri 57, Buffalo 20: The Bulls will be looking for their first 3-1 start since 1996. It won't happen here, however, because Missouri's potent offense is cruising, even if Gary Pinkel is claiming he can't find the off switch. The Tigers lead the nation with an average of 57.7 points per game and 10 yards per snap. It might just be a moral victory for Buffalo to keep Missouri from scoring every time they get the ball, considering that QB Chase Daniel has led Missouri on 13 straight scoring possessions over the last two games.
Miami 17, Texas A&M 7: Both teams have unsettled quarterback situations. Robert Marve and Jacory Harris have been alternating snaps for the Hurricanes. And the Aggies' starter is in flux as Stephen McGee is coming off a sprained shoulder after Jerrod Johnson's impressive relief work against New Mexico. Both teams have been offensively challenged, so look for points to be hard to come by. Even though A&M president and Miami native Elsa Murano has made beating "The U" a priority, the Aggies don't have enough firepower to do it.
Texas 48, Rice 17: The Longhorns will be looking for their 10th straight victory and 37th in the last 38 games against Rice since 1966. Look for the Longhorns to try and emphasize their running attack and their physical advantage in the trenches. Rice QB Chase Clement and WR James Casey, who is tied for first nationally in per-game receptions, could give the young Texas secondary some problems. But not that many.
Texas Tech 61, Massachusetts 10: Tech coach Mike Leach called out his quarterbacks and receivers this week -- and by inference QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree -- for lack of production after beating SMU last week. Look for an inspired offense from the Red Raiders with a lot of points and yardage against the FCS Minutemen. Massachusetts QB Liam Coen has thrown 75 career touchdown passes, but will be challenged by a Tech defense that picked off five passes last week.
Kansas 45, Sam Houston State 10: After a disappointing defeat last week at South Florida, the Jayhawks are hoping to rebound and rebuild confidence in their running game at the same time. Sam Houston State hasn't played since beating East Central, 58-14, on Aug. 28. The Jayhawks will be looking for defensive improvement after failing to produce a turnover and allowing 31 straight points at one juncture last week. And they'll be challenged by Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar, who formerly played at Oklahoma and beat the Jayhawks while playing there.
UNLV 24, Iowa State 22: The Rebels enter this game brimming with confidence after their stunning overtime victory at Arizona State last week. It's helped them post a winning record for the first time since 2003 after failing to win more than two games in any of the last four seasons. The Cyclones are trying to bounce back after failing to score a touchdown in a loss at archrival Iowa. Iowa State remains the Big 12's most opportunistic team, but will need some big plays to win in the desert and snap Gene Chizik's 12-game road losing streak.
My pick last night: 0-1 (0 percent)
My picks for the season: 31-2 (93.9 percent)