My e-mail and text message inbox offered a sobering glimpse into the Sooner psyche after OU coach Bob Stoops announced Friday morning that 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford would be suiting up this weekend.
After a rough start to the season and legitimate fears that the Bradford era was over in Norman, you’d think fans would have been euphoric at the news. But no.
“Hard to get excited,” read one.
“Doesn’t matter. No one to throw to,” said another. (Full disclosure: I had to paraphrase this one.)
“Bad move. This line will get him killed,” one opined.
Hold up, I though to myself. This is Slingin’ Sam, the guy we’ve all been dying to see get back on the field for weeks now. He had possibly the best season for a quarterback in college football history last year. OU has to get better, right?
Yesterday’s 33-7 victory over Baylor proved that although the Sooners are definitely better off with Bradford than without him, his presence is no panacea for all of OU’s problems.
The headlines have singled out Bradford’s 389 passing yards as the big story in what probably looked like a solid Sooner win to anyone who didn’t actually watch the game. In fact, though, he could have thrown for about 500 yards had it not have been for at least 10 drops by a callow receiving corp.
In completing 27 of 49 attempts, Bradford certainly showed his fair share of rust. However, time and again, Bradford found the open man, only to see the ball slip through a receiver’s hands. Short passes, deep throws, timing patterns-it didn’t matter. Even Brandon Caleb, one of OU’s more reliable wideouts other than the injured Ryan Broyles this year, flubbed what looked like a sure six.
The typically demure Bradford frequently had trouble hiding his frustration with both himself and his teammates’ inability to execute. It was reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s post-Bulls period with the Washington Wizards. With Bradford in the lineup, the star power was still there, but the product on the field only showed glimpses of predecessors’ performances.
Bradford can’t make the catches himself. Likewise, he can’t block and play quarterback at the same time. Few would mistake Baylor’s front seven for that of the Baltimore Ravens, and yet the OU offensive line still struggled to open holes consistently for running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. In the end, the Sooners ran for a solid 200 yards on 50 carries. Most of that total came in the second half, though, as the Sooners sought to salt the game away and wear down the Bears’ defense.
Senior left guard Brian Simmons sustained what looked like a serious knee injury, which should further hamstring the o-line.
Unfortunately, the problems with the receivers and offensive line don’t look like they can be fixed within a week. After all, they’re the same as they’ve been since week one, only now the two units are missing key personnel.
Oh, and next up? Texas.