FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The game is still three days away, but Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu already wishes he could change something about his first trip to the BCS Championship.
"I just wish," Madu said Monday, "that I'd have brought a camcorder."
January sunshine, palm trees, flashy cars and beautiful women roller-blading past Oklahoma's beachfront hotel. Madu said he's been "wide-eyed" all week.
"I could come here to live some day," the sophomore said. "This something I don't ever want to forget."
Exciting as his experience has been off the field, Madu hopes to make even better memories on it when Oklahoma takes on Florida in Thursday's BCS title game at Dolphin Stadium.
A season-ending injury to starter DeMarco Murray in last month's Big 12 Championship has thrust Madu and teammate Chris Brown into the spotlight for the Sooners, who say their rushing attack won't miss a beat with the pair of former backups.
"At most schools, [Brown and Madu] would be the best players on the field," offensive lineman Phil Loadholt said. "We hated to lose DeMarco, but we're going to be just fine."
That was certainly the case after Murray injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Sooners' 62-21 victory over Missouri on Dec. 6. Subbing for their injured teammate, Brown (122 yards) and Madu (114) combined to rush for 236 yards in Oklahoma's blowout victory.
Both players know it might be far-fetched to expect similar numbers against Florida, but it's not as if they don't think they can be effective. After all, Madu said, two is better than one.
"Football has evolved into a two-back game," Madu said. "Look at the good teams in the NFL. Most of them use two backs. Things are getting rougher and rougher out there. It always helps when you bring in a fresh set of legs."
Especially when those legs can do different things.
Madu says he excels in the open field by making people miss while Brown is more of a hard-nosed, downhill runner who isn't tentative when it comes to pounding his way through an offensive line that includes the 337-pound Loadholt and Duke Robinson, a 335-pounder who's expected to be a first-round draft pick.
Oklahoma averaged 205.5 yards on the ground in 2008, but those numbers might not have been as gaudy if not for a wake-up call against TCU, when it gained just 25 yards on 36 carries. Brown said the performance drew criticism from the media – and rightfully so.
"The offensive line … those guys got fed up seeing all those clippings about how we couldn't run the ball," Brown said. "They were offended and we were, too. We've had good running backs coming through here for years and years and years. We don't want that to stop now."
Brown and Madu might not be a threat to Adrian Peterson's legacy, but both seem more than capable of sparking the Sooners against Florida.
Even though Murray started all but one game for Oklahoma last fall, it was actually Brown who led the team in rushing with 1,110 yards. Murray had 1,002 while Madu tallied 463.
Brown is accustomed to stepping in for injured players. In 2006 he filled in for Peterson and Allen Patrick and averaged 109 yards in three games. Last season Brown rushed for 611 yards and nine touchdowns while backing up Patrick and Murray.
"People keep asking me if it's hit me that I'm going to play a lot [Thursday]," Brown said. "It hasn't and it won't. I'm used to this. It's not a big deal to me. I'm ready.
"Losing DeMarco was devastating to the team. I feel for the guy. I'd love for him to be out there with us, but it didn't work out."
Thursday's opportunity couldn't have been scripted any better for Madu, a Norman native who hadn't rushed for more than 65 yards in a single game before last month's victory over Missouri. Madu said he got chills as he walked into Dolphin Stadium for Monday's media session.
"It's a crazy feeling," he said. "I looked up into the stands and thought, 'Man, I made it.' "
- Chris Brown