BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Sunday, September 07, 2008
8/20/09 at 10:03 AM
Bradford's 5 TD tosses lead OU past Bearcats
NORMAN — Sam Bradford was like a surgeon's scalpel, precise and lethal. The Sooner defense, meanwhile, swung sledgehammers.
That was the third quarter Saturday at Memorial Stadium as No. 4-ranked OU both sliced and smashed its way past Cincinnati and achieved a 52-26 victory.
"That's what playing football as a team is about," said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "They're working in concert. When you can do that — and shore up your special teams — you're pretty good."
Special teams got left behind as the Bearcats racked up 265 yards and a touchdown on kickoff returns. It was that 97-yard runback by UC's Mardy Gilyard in the third quarter that cut OU's lead to just eight points, but the Sooners overcame some rocky moments in the first half with a dominant effort everywhere else to turn the game into a rout.
"I think when you don't play well, it's sometimes because the offense hasn't helped the defense and vice versa," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "To me, they go hand in hand. I thought we played together really well."
Quarterback Sam Bradford threw two interceptions in the first half, then came out in the third quarter and completed 12-of-13 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. The Sooners produced 239 yards on four third-quarter possessions. Those possessions produced 21 points and set up an early fourth-quarter field goal.
OU's defense, meanwhile, which had given up 245 yards in the first half, surrendered just 26 in the third quarter.
On offense, Bradford finished 29-of-38 for 395 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions — all career-highs. His five TDs tied the school record he shared with Jason White and Josh Heupel. His yardage total was the third-best in school history, behind only 429 and 420 from Josh Heupel, his quarterbacks coach.
Most impressive of all, though, was Bradford's penchant to ignore the two interceptions and play better than ever.
"Coach Heupel tells me all the time you've got to have a short memory at quarterback," Bradford said. "You can't remember the good things, and you can't remember the bad things. You've got to play each play for what it is, just one play. Play the next play and that's what I tried to do today."
It didn't hurt that he had a new toy for the "next play." That was Ryan Broyles, the electrifying wide receiver from Norman High who sat out all of last season following an arrest for stealing gas and last week's season opener for an undisclosed offseason transgression. Broyles had the most prolific debut for an OU wideout, catching seven passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also turned in a key third-quarter play, a running, leaping catch of a Bradford pass that might have otherwise been intercepted that netted 43 yards.
"We just made a 180 turn after that," Broyles said. "I'm just glad I put forth something. ... It feels great. "
Bradford and Broyles did their best work against a Cincinnati secondary that last season was among the national leaders, with 26 interceptions.
"They were a good secondary, and they had a lot of experience and a lot of guys back on defense," Bradford said. "But that really wasn't going to change the way we game plan for 'em."
Said UC coach Brian Kelly, "I thought their play in the second half was extremely impressive.
"They resemble a championship football team. They have that championship demeanor to them."
John E. Hoover 581-8384
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OU quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 395 yards and five touchdowns Saturday against Cincinnati. MichaeL Wyke/Tulsa World