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October 6, 2007
DALLAS ? Since he's only 19 and was playing just his sixth college game, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford can be excused for thinking he can do things most quarterbacks wouldn't even try.
Like calling an audible on third-and-14 from his own 12 amid the roar of Texas fans. Or going long on third down to a guy who spent the last few series getting treatment for a sore hamstring.
Then again, Bradford is proving to be not-your-ordinary quarterback.
Facing a tough foe in a hostile setting, Bradford looked as comfortable as he did in his record-setting first few games against overmatched opponents, throwing for three touchdowns and hardly making a mistake while steering the No. 10 Sooners past the No. 19 Longhorns 28-21 in their annual grudge match Saturday.
"Sam, for as young as he is, has a lot of confidence and a lot of cool to him," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "He doesn't make too much of a situation. He trusts the guys around him to make plays."
Bradford, a redshirt freshman, came in as the nation's most efficient passer, but his numbers were piled up against inferior competition. This was his big test, coming off a 1-for-8 second half in a loss at Colorado and center stage in the 102nd meeting between these Red River rivals.
This game was all about survival in the Big 12 race after losses by both teams last weekend put them way behind in the national title chase.
Bradford was 21-of-32 for 244 yards, which might not sound great unless you consider the importance of his three touchdown passes - putting OU up 7-0, 14-7 and 28-21. He also completed 12 straight passes between the second and fourth quarters.
Most importantly, he was clicking when Oklahoma (5-1, 1-1) really needed it.
"He always tells you, 'Let's get this.' That's his favorite quote,"' receiver Malcolm Kelly said. "No matter how bad we're getting beat or how we're not getting anything going, his demeanor never changes. He always let's us know we have a chance. And with Sam, you've got a chance."
Bradford went 5-of-5 on the first scoring drive, with completions of 14, 34, 39 and 41 yards, then a 1-yarder to Jermaine Gresham in the end zone. The 14-yarder came on the audible teammates could barely hear as they were surrounded by screaming fans in burnt orange.
The winning drive began at the 6 after Texas (4-2, 0-2) tied it and Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray picked up the ensuing kickoff at the 2 even though it appeared to be spinning out of bounds. Instead of bemoaning the field position or worrying about a mistake, Bradford came out firing - and coaches trusted him to do so. He went 7-of-8; the only incompletion was a drop and the next snap was a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kelly, who missed most of the third quarter because his right hamstring cramped up.
"I think the coaches did a good job of getting us in good situations," Bradford said. "We had a good plan and when we got out there, things just got rolling."
The Longhorns, who were ranked seventh before a 20-point loss to Kansas State last weekend, could be in jeopardy of ending a national-best, 114-week stint in the AP poll. A bigger obstacle is being 0-2 in conference play - plus the embarrassment of having such a stumbling start for the first time since 1956, the year before Darrell Royal arrived.
It didn't have to happen. Texas had four possessions after Bradford's go-ahead pass to Kelly, but Colt McCoy only got the Longhorns across midfield on two plays. He threw an interception on one, then never even got off the second because of a false start.
"We just couldn't finish," said Jermichael Finley, who had four catches for 149 yards, the most ever for a Texas tight end. He had gains of 55 and 58 yards that set up Texas' first two touchdowns, the first going to Jordan Shipley and the second TD to Finley, putting the Longhorns ahead 14-7.
"We've just got to look over this and keep on going, keep on rolling," Finley said.
McCoy, who showed signs of a concussion while getting battered last weekend, played with his throwing arm bandaged from mid-forearm to biceps. While his body held up and his stats were pretty good (19-of-26 for 324 yards) this just wasn't his day.
He couldn't even get officials to throw a flag when he was thrown down from his blind side on a play that had been whistled dead. His lone interception went through the hands of running back Jamaal Charles, who also lost a fumble inside the Oklahoma 5 in the third quarter.
Charles apparently forgot the anti-fumbling advice he's been getting from new workout buddy, Texas great Earl Campbell.
"I just saw the end zone and was trying to do too much," Charles said of his critical fumble. "I had a good hold on it."
Murray took over as Oklahoma's featured back after starter Allen Patrick was hurt in the third quarter and had a 65-yard touchdown run, which he got to celebrate on the sideline with former OU star Adrian Peterson, visiting during the Minnesota Vikings' bye week. Murray finished with 128 yards.
Kelly caught five passes for 105 yards and Juaquin Iglesias had 99 yards on six catches. Gresham caught two TD passes.
Charles ran for 79 yards and Vondrell McGee went 1 yard for the Longhorns' final score.