|Slowing Oklahoma's Bradford key for W.Va.|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 December 2007 01:06|
The Oklahoma redshirt freshman will be staring down an improved West Virginia defense that has made opposing quarterbacks look good in bowl games.
Keeping Bradford from turning the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl into a touchdown parade will be the Mountaineers' top priority.
Opposing quarterbacks have been piling up the postseason yards ever since a Mississippi freshman named Eli Manning threw for 167 yards and three TDs in the fourth quarter during mop-up duty in the 2000 Music City Bowl.
Virginia's Matt Schaub was a model of efficiency in the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl. The ACC player of the year threw for 182 yards and a TD and Virginia scored twice after converting several times on fourth down in a 48-22 win.
Maryland's Scott McBrien was a star in the Gator Bowl following the 2003 season, throwing for 381 yards and three scores in a 41-7 rout over the Mountaineers.
Florida State's Chris Rix had just one TD pass and 157 yards passing in the Gator Bowl the following season but he crafted two long second-half scoring drives, completing five straight passes at one point, and the Seminoles won 30-18.
A year later, Georgia's D.J. Shockley threw for 277 yards and three scores in the Sugar Bowl and West Virginia nearly blew a 28-0 lead before winning 38-35.
West Virginia ranked 109th against the pass a year ago and kept up the ineptness in the Gator Bowl. Georgia Tech's Taylor Bennett, making only his second career start, passed for 326 yards and three scores, but the Mountaineers rallied from 18 points down to win 38-35.
West Virginia has been able to overcome great passing games and win twice this season.
Brian Brohm, Louisville's 4,000-yard passer, threw for 345 yards and helped Louisville erase a 17-point deficit against West Virginia, but he was intercepted twice and sacked four times.
Cincinnati's Ben Mauk threw for 323 yards - 80 yards more than his average - and two TDs against the Mountaineers.
Now comes Bradford, who has thrown for 2,879 yards with 34 touchdowns - an NCAA record for a freshman - and seven interceptions. He's the main reason why the third-ranked Sooners (11-2) won the Big 12 championship.
Bradford's quarterback rating of 180.53 was higher than even Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida.
``He's really efficient. He manages the game very well and he knows how to get the ball to his playmakers,'' West Virginia free safety Ryan Mundy said. ``Once he gets older, he'll be in much more control of his game.
``I feel like they don't necessarily rely on him to win the game. But they have so much talent around him that all he has to do is deliver the ball in the right place at the right time and they'll be all right.''
Juaqin Iglesias leads Oklahoma with 60 catches and 854 receiving yards, including four TDs. Malcolm Kelly has 821 receiving yards and Jermaine Gresham led the Sooners with 11 scoring catches.
No. 11 West Virginia (10-2) must get pressure on Bradford to have a chance.
``He's calm in the pocket, and that's what we're going to have to do,'' West Virginia linebacker Marc Magro said. ``We're going to have to get to him and make him feel our presence so he can't sit back there and pick us apart.''
Bradford was sacked nine times this season. The Mountaineers have 37 sacks, six more than last season.
``Guys are getting off blocks and making plays,'' Magro said. ``The defensive staff has done a great job in getting matchups.''
The secondary has improved, too. Opponents threw for 184 yards per game against the Mountaineers, down 59 yards from a year ago.
Mundy is one of the reasons why.
He transferred to West Virginia from Michigan and was eligible immediately, taking advantage of a now-rescinded rule that allowed him to complete a master's degree program in athletic coaching administration that Michigan didn't offer.
Mundy went 0-4 in bowls with the Wolverines, and slowing down Bradford could go a long way toward snapping that streak.
``I'm just trying to go out with a win against a very good opponent. It's going to take a lot,'' Mundy said. ``I'm just preparing myself daily, doing everything I can do to go out there Jan. 2 and give my all.''