BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2010
11/25/10 at 3:24 AM
Take part in a live chat with World editors and writers during Saturday’s game.
Bedlam 2010: The series.
OSU notebook: Blackmon update.
Bedlam 2010: Ticket information.
Most anticipated bedlam games.
Putting the giving in Thanksgiving.
ESPN’s GameDay crew
in Stillwater for Bedlam.
Looking back: The 2004 Bedlam game in Stillwater.
STILLWATER - Considering that he didn't play football during a span of six years, and then had an eight-year gap between starts at quarterback, Brandon Weeden's ascension to national relevance qualifies as decidedly improbable.
"This is the most fun I've ever had in anything I've ever done," Weeden said this week, seeming not the least bit rattled by his Saturday assignment - quarterbacking 10th-ranked, 10-win Oklahoma State against No. 14 Oklahoma in a 7 p.m. ABC-televised Bedlam spectacle at Boone Pickens Stadium.
With a victory, the Cowboys would celebrate their first Big 12 South title and advance to next week's Big 12 Championship game in Arlington, Texas.
As a 27-year-old junior and OSU's first-year starter at QB, Weeden ranks No. 2 nationally in passing yards (3,780) and touchdown passes (30).
School records have fallen like dominoes. While completing 68 percent of his attempts, Weeden has become OSU's single-season leader in total offense, passing yards, pass completions and passes attempted. With one more TD pass, he will match Josh Fields' 2002 school single-season record of 31. Against Baylor, Weeden broke OSU's single-game passing-yards record with 435.
And now he has positioned his team for a shot at something never before achieved at OSU - an 11th victory.
Among the 50,000 or so in attendance Saturday will be Weeden's wife of 16 months, Melanie Weeden, and his parents, Robbie and Shari Weeden of Edmond.
"I don't know that it's all settled in yet," Robbie Weeden said. "All the success that the team has had and Brandon has had. Last year they were good, too. But to do this with so many inexperienced guys - it's just amazing."
Asked about the stress of watching his son play in such a high-profile Bedlam game, Robbie Weeden said, "It will be crazy. Regardless of what happens, OSU has had a heck of a year. You have to remember who you're playing and what's at stake. You're thinking about that the whole time."
As a 10-year-old, Brandon Weeden played football. At 11, he retired from football. From that point, he became obsessed with baseball. As a 14-year-old, he pitched and played shortstop and second base for a team - known, by the way, as the Oklahoma Sooners - that played 121 games.
As a 6-foot, 140-pound sophomore at Edmond Santa Fe High School, during an indoor flag football game, Weeden fired passes with velocity and accuracy. A varsity coach noticed and asked the obvious question: "Shouldn't you be playing football?"
"They told me, 'Come give it a shot. If you don't like it, you can quit,' " Weeden recalls. "I've always been able to throw the football, and then by my junior year I had grown to 6-3."
And so, after an absence of six years, Weeden returned to football and quarterbacked the Wolves in 2000 and 2001.
"His senior year, our coaches always said that Brandon had the best arm in the state of Oklahoma - including the college teams," said Roger Pfieffer, a former OSU tight end who is the Edmond Santa Fe offensive coordinator. "He hadn't been playing the game for very long, but his physical talent was second to none."
Weeden's skill set attracted college football recruiters, but he made it known that he was a baseball guy. In June 2002, he was selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the draft. He was given a signing bonus of $565,000. He spent five years in the minors with the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals organizations.
Back to the gridiron
During spring training one year, Weeden and teammates were tossing a football. One teammate asked, "Have you ever thought about playing college football?"
When a shoulder injury made it apparent that Weeden's path to the major leagues had dead-ended at the Class-A level, he decided to walk on at Oklahoma State. While the injury affected his fastball mechanics, it hadn't diminished his over-the-top delivery of a football.
Weeden was redshirted in 2007, then settled in as Zac Robinson's backup for two seasons. In hindsight, it seems remarkable that Weeden was OSU's No. 3 quarterback late in the 2009 season, trailing Robinson and Alex Cate. But when Weeden came off the bench to rally OSU past Colorado in the final home game of the 2009 season, it was obvious that he had been blessed with a unique ability to pass the football.
In April, as OSU neared the end of spring practice, first-year offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was asked to compare Weeden to quarterbacks he had coached previously - high-level performers like Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Houston's Case Keenum.
"Brandon is better from an arm-strength and accuracy standpoint," Holgorsen replied. "... And the biggest question is, how does he react when the bullets fly?"
Apparently, Weeden has reacted well. On Sept. 4, in his first football start since the 2001 season at Edmond Santa Fe, Weeden connected with wide receiver Justin Blackmon for three touchdowns. It was a sign of things to come.
All season, Weeden's coaches and teammates have raved about his leadership and poise.
"His mental makeup has been improving every week. That's every bit as important as the footwork, accuracy and physical stuff," Holgorsen said this week. "(Leadership) wasn't natural to him at the beginning - having to step up and talk. He has embraced that role."
Said Cowboy senior defensive tackle Shane Jarka: "I think (Weeden's) maturity and knowledge and wisdom have helped the team. He took over the offense and immediately earned the respect of the players. I think he is a confident, championship quarterback."
When Oklahoma State won at Kansas State in spite of the suspension of Blackmon, it was apparent that Weeden had become - in a matter of only a few weeks - an extremely effective college quarterback.
"I didn't have spectacular numbers, but overall it may have been my most complete game," Weeden said.
"I got a lot of confidence in that game - without Blackmon."
If any one of Weeden's 289 completions ranks as his most impressive, it might have been a 29-yarder to Tracy Moore during OSU's 33-16 triumph at Texas. While rolling to his left, Weeden was grabbed by end Sam Acho, Texas' best defensive player. The 6-4, 220-pound Weeden remained upright and fired a strike to Moore near the Cowboy sideline.
"If I was (Acho), I would have called it quits at that point," Holgorsen said.
"He had Brandon with one hand on the back and he had his legs tied up, and Brandon dragged him for about 2 yards and then completed the pass. (Acho) is a great player. He did everything he could, and Brandon still somehow kept the play alive."
Longhorn coach Mack Brown's assessment: "Weeden was unbelievable."
If Brandon Weeden beats the Sooners on Saturday night, Brown's comment might become a catchphrase in Stillwater.
Sept. 4: Washington St. W, 65-17
Sept. 11: Troy W, 41-38
Sept. 18: Tulsa W, 65-28
Sept. 30: Texas A&M W, 38-35
Oct. 8: at La.-Lafayette W, 54-28
Oct. 16: at Texas Tech W, 34-17
Oct. 23: Nebraska L, 51-41
Oct. 30: at Kansas St. W, 24-14
Nov. 6: Baylor W, 55-28
Nov. 13: at Texas W, 33-16
Nov. 20: at Kansas W, 48-14
Nov. 27: OU (KTUL-8) 7 p.m.
Bill Haisten 581-8397
OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden ranks No. 2 nationally in passing yards (3,780) and touchdown passes (30). MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden, shown this season against Washington State, was No. 3 on the Cowboys' depth chart late last season. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World