|Sooners' Bradford even better in no-huddle|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:39|
It's about as close to a riddle that can't be solved, but one thing's for certain: the top-ranked Sooners (5-0, 1-0) are rolling with Bradford at the controls.
After edging out Heisman winner Tim Tebow to lead the nation in passing efficiency as a redshirt freshman, Bradford is on pace this season to put up even more impressive numbers. With 18 touchdown passes and only three interceptions heading into this Saturday's showdown with No. 5 Texas (5-0, 1-0), even Jason White's school record of 40 touchdown passes in his 2003 Heisman season isn't safe.
The Sooners considered going to the no-huddle back when White was on campus, but only committed fully to it after Bradford proved himself last season. It was implemented as quietly as coaches could keep it this spring, and opponents haven't been able to keep up with the tempo so far this season.
``He's helped it because of how smart he is and how quick he can run it and how quick he can process things,'' center Jon Cooper said. ``And it's helped him by kind of making the defenses show what they're going to do quicker. He's young but he's still really smart.''
Bradford, who's about as even-keeled as they come, isn't impressed by any numbers that aren't in the win column, though. He blames himself for getting rattled in two of the Sooners' losses last season, at Colorado and in the Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia, and he was knocked out of the other defeat with a concussion.
This year, he feels that he's more mentally tough when hard times hit.
``I just feel like emotionally I'm more steady. I don't get down on myself too much in the game,'' said Bradford, who has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,665 yards. ``I'm more poised, being able to hang in the pocket and take a hit and maybe make a throw that I maybe got out of the pocket and had to throw away last year.''
So far, he's been on the attack too much to come across much adversity. The Sooners have scored on their first two possessions in every game and have never been behind. He has two games with four touchdowns and two games with five, giving himself more five-TD games in his career - four - than either White or 2000 Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel.
is own. He'll be on the opposite sideline from Colt McCoy, the dynamic quarterback who leads the Longhorns in rushing and has passing numbers (1,280 yards, 16 TDs, 3 INTs) that rival Bradford.
``For him to be his age, he has a real good pocket presence,'' Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle said. ``He can feel the blitz - actually, I don't know if he feels a blitz with that offensive line - but he obviously has great maturity for his age since he got his first snap.
``We've just got to play good defense as a whole and hopefully bring something to the table that he hasn't seen yet.''
Bradford's emergence as a leader was solidified this preseason when, as a redshirt sophomore, he was chosen by his teammates to be one of the captains - an honor the Sooners usually reserve for seniors.
``He's not a guy that's going to joke around all the time. He's just real reserved, the farthest from cocky that you can get. Just a humble guy,'' defensive end Auston English said. ``Those are the kind of players you like: that can handle the success on the field and still just be as humble and as nice as they've ever been.''
Teammates say they've seen Bradford loosen up in the past year or so as he grew into the leadership role. He was the speaker at a players-only meeting before this season's first road game at Washington.
``Now you're starting to know Sam more. He's more comfortable, he's starting to open up. He's starting to talk to us more,'' receiver Juaquin Iglesias said. ``I've hung out with him several times off the field, and he's a cool guy. He's always going to be the same, no matter what.''
That level head also proves useful as the Sooners play at a breakneck speed, trying to snap the ball before opponents can get settled in on defense.
``Within the no-huddle, you certainly have to - with all the communication and everything that's going on, as quick as you're going - you have to play within yourself and slow yourself down within that,'' said Heupel, now Bradford's quarterbacks coach. ``He's done a good job up to this point.''
This week, Bradford will have to keep cool even more at the 92,000-seat Cotton Bowl, with Oklahoma and Texas fans split down the middle, where he used to attend games with his father, a former Oklahoma lineman.
``It's pretty surreal,'' said Bradford, who threw three TD passes in Oklahoma's 28-21 win last year. ``I remember coming down that tunnel and just seeing both sides divided - one side orange, one side red - and it's hard to explain.
``It's something that you dream about growing up. To get to go out and do it, you can't explain it.''