Bradford's arm, stingy D put Sooners back at No. 1 Print
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Sunday, 28 September 2008 12:39
NCAAF Headline News

 NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -Stop Oklahoma's one-two punch at running back, quiet the touchdown machine at tight end and slow the top returning receiver, and there's still too much firepower to overcome - even for the nation's top defense.
With Sam Bradford distributing the ball to an endless line of playmakers, the Sooners (4-0) have raced their way back to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in nearly five years and there's been little slowing them down. Not since they implemented a fast-paced offense that's turned Bradford from a dependable freshman into a top-tier Heisman Trophy contender.
Bradford lit up the scoreboard again with a 411-yard passing day and four touchdowns Saturday against TCU, which came in with the best defense in the NCAA.
After keeping each of their opponents below 210 yards in each of their first four games, the Frogs gave up that many to the Sooners by the end of the first quarter. And they're not alone.
edge in the first quarter, and they've never trailed. When you add in a defense that's developing an appetite for takeaways - with nine in the past two games - and a change in attitude built on last year's upset losses, the Sooners don't plan on giving up that top spot anytime soon.
``If you're at the top, you're at the top and if you lose, then you drop,'' receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. ``We're just trying not to lose, no matter what happens to the rankings.''
The Sooners have made it this far with a morphing offense that can make opponents' heads spin. The first week, it was tailbacks Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray teaming up for five rushing touchdowns. Then receiver Ryan Broyles emerged with a school freshman record 141 receiving yards, plus three touchdowns in the first two games of his career. Jermaine Gresham followed that by catching two TD passes to tie the school's record for a tight end.
TCU slowed all of them down, and it still didn't matter. Manuel Johnson came through with the biggest receiving night in school history - five catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns, spanning 76, 55 and 63 yards - and the Sooners rolled again to a 35-10 win.
That's how loaded this team is on offense, much like the 2003 team that reached the No. 1 spot with Heisman winner Jason White at quarterback and five other NFL-bound players - without even mentioning that star-studded defense.
has its rising stars too. Beyond reigning Big 12 sacks leader Auston English and stellar defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Sooners have replaced tackles leader Curtis Lofton with speedy linebackers Travis Lewis and Keenan Clayton, a converted safety who can put Oklahoma in a nickel package without needing to substitute.
That's key because it keeps opponents from giving Oklahoma a dose of its own medicine.
``If you're fortunate enough to have players that have the ability to pop out and play in space and match up well and be able to slide in and play a physical brand, then I think obviously you have a huge advantage without having to change personnel in and out,'' defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
``Along with the spread is the up-tempo and no-huddle offense that catches you with your pants down if you're having to constantly substitute players on and off the field.''
Which is exactly what the Sooners did to TCU early on. Bradford said the Sooners ``tempoed'' the Horned Frogs on their way to a 21-3 first-quarter lead.
After watching his team get caught out of position repeatedly, TCU coach Gary Patterson gave up on trying to outsmart the Sooners with pre-snap adjustments. He told his players to line up in their base defense or just run whatever blitz had been called, and that helped, albeit too late.
to play in the BCS championship game, but the Sooners believe they've learned lessons from last year. They were a mere two spots lower in the polls when they opened Big 12 play at Colorado and were upset 24-21.
``The thing that's the best about the team so far is we're not taking anybody lightly. We're trying to come out and hit everybody and out-physical people and play harder than everybody. I think so far, we've done that,'' Iglesias said.
``The rankings really don't matter because we were in the top when Colorado beat us. We're just trying to work hard and just treat everybody the same. If they're not ranked or ranked or in the top 10 or whatever, it doesn't matter to us.''
 

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