No. 4 Sooners rebound with 45-31 win over Kansas
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—By the time he’s done, Sam Bradford may erase Josh Heupel’s name from the Oklahoma record books entirely.
Bradford passed for an Oklahoma-record 468 yards and had three touchdown passes to help the No. 4 Sooners bounce back from their first loss by beating No. 16 Kansas 45-31 on Saturday.
Despite losing top receiver Manuel Johnson to a first-quarter arm injury, Bradford cleared the Oklahoma record of 429 yards set by Heupel in 1999 against Louisville. Bradford has already matched a record held by Heupel and Jason White with five touchdowns in a game, and he passed Heupel’s career touchdown total earlier this season.
“I knew that he was a great player here and a very smart football player, so I knew that I was going to have an opportunity to learn a lot from him,” Bradford said. “And him having the experience at this program, it just added to what I could learn from him.”
Bradford turned the knowledge from Heupel into big numbers again, benefiting from the time to pick apart the Kansas secondary while the Jayhawks’ Todd Reesing spent his day running from tacklers until he just couldn’t get away anymore.
It made all the difference in a meeting of two of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
“I’m really impressed with Sam Bradford. He’s everything they said he would be and more,” Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. “Just pinpoint accuracy, good poise. He scrambled for a couple big plays and then you look at some of the guys he’s throwing the ball to … They’ve just got a lot, a lot of depth on offense. They’re shuttling guys around and doing a good job with it. We just weren’t able to keep up with it. We just weren’t.”
Reesing was able to keep the Jayhawks (5-2, 2-1 Big 12) in the game into the third quarter by dodging pressure but Oklahoma (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) prevented a repeat of last week, when Texas’ Colt McCoy used a series of successful scramble drills in a Red River Rivalry win that vaulted the Longhorns into the Sooners’ old No. 1 spot
Once Kansas got within 31-24, Oklahoma sacked him on three of the next four drives in forcing four straight punts.
Jeremy Beal got the first hand on Reesing, knocking the ball free to force a long third down, and two of the next three drives ended after Gerald McCoy and Auston English sacked Reesing on third-down plays.
“The first half, we were getting close to him. And then the second half, we came out and we started to get to him a lot more,” Beal said.
With the defense starting to click, Bradford and the offense were able to create some breathing room.
DeMarco Murray scored his second touchdown of the game on an 8-yard run in the third quarter, and Bradford found reserve tight end Kolby Smith for a 2-yard touchdown pass as Oklahoma stretched its lead to 45-24 with 12:02 to play.
The win was Oklahoma’s 21st straight at home, matching the second-longest streak in school history—a run that occurred during Barry Switzer’s back-to-back national championship seasons in 1974 and 1975. The only longer streak was a 25-game span that was part of Oklahoma’s NCAA-record 47-game win streak under Bud Wilkinson in the 1950s.
It also keeps the Sooners right in the thick of the national championship chase.
“Either we could have come out here and just been really disappointed about last week and let it affect our play, or we could have come out and played well tonight,” Bradford said. “I felt like we did come out and we responded to the loss from last week.”
The teams combined for more than 1,000 yards through three quarters as Oklahoma got its ground game back going against the nation’s 11th-best run defense but couldn’t slow down the Jayhawks with a mixed-up lineup following middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds’ season-ending knee injury.
The changes looked shaky at first, as Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe hooked up nine times for 193 yards in the first half. Cornerback Brian Jackson fell down after jamming Briscoe at the line on a 69-yard TD catch, but Briscoe had little trouble even when his defenders were standing.
Oklahoma stayed ahead as Juaquin Iglesias broke school records with 10 receptions for 178 yards in the first half. Bradford threw his first scoring pass to Matt Clapp from 12 yards out, and Murray and Chris Brown each ran for scores as the Sooners built up a 21-10 lead.
Bradford, who also had a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham to make it 31-17, ended up completing 36 of his career-high 53 attempts without an interception. Bradford is quickly erasing his coach’s name from the record book, although Heupel still has that 2000 national championship to his credit.
“That’s the only time I get pulled in here,” Heupel said. “Before we had a starting quarterback, I got pulled in here and asked questions about it. Now I get pulled in here only when a record gets broken. That’s a good thing.”
Reesing broke the Kansas records for completions and total offense in a career that both had been set by Frank Seuer.
He was 24-for-41 for 342 yards with two touchdowns and his first two-interception game since the Jayhawks’ loss to Missouri in the regular-season finale last year.
Briscoe finished with 12 catches for 269 yards, breaking the school record of 221 yards receiving set by Quintin Smith against Louisville in 1989.