Sooner reserve gets chance
Published: Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 1:55 p.m.
NORMAN, Okla. — In recent years at Oklahoma, if one running back is injured, it seems there's always another ready to take his place. Mossis Madu is the latest chapter in that Sooners story.
Impressed with Madu's talent, Oklahoma coaches spent much of the season trying to work him into the offense, but he was stuck on the depth chart behind the Sooners' two primary backs, DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown.
But when Murray went down on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 championship game against Missouri, Madu stepped right in to rush 15 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns, complementing Brown's 27-carry, 122-yard, three-TD effort in the Sooners' 62-21 romp.
Madu's success didn't surprise his teammates.
"I think he's capable of more," senior center Jon Cooper said. "We see it from him every day. That was kind of his first chance. Wait until he gets into rhythm and I think he'll do even better."
Murray needed surgery to repair a partially ruptured tendon in his left hamstring, meaning he won't play when No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) meets No. 1 Florida (12-1) in the BCS championship game on Jan. 8 in Miami. The 6-foot, 196-pound Madu is likely to again share time with Brown.
"I knew my time would come," said the sophomore from Norman.
"People just tell me to be patient all the time. God has a plan for all of us and things will work out if I just keep being patient and work hard."
When Madu arrived on campus in 2006, the Sooners' depth chart at running back was nothing short of daunting. Adrian Peterson — now an NFL star — topped the list, followed by Allen Patrick and Jacob Gutierrez, who even as a third-stringer in 2005 had an 173-yard game (while filling in for an injured Peterson) to his credit.
Then there was the freshman class that also included Brown and the highly recruited Murray.
"I knew coming in that I was going to have to fight, work hard, work my butt off, but I saw that as a good opportunity," Madu said.
When Peterson suffered a broken collarbone in 2006, Patrick stepped in to carry the rushing load, and when Patrick went down, Brown earned two late-season starts while Murray and Madu redshirted.
"Guys get hurt and no one feels bad for you. You've got to play the next guy," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We feel fortunate that we have had quality players that have stepped up and have really answered the call in a lot of those situations when we've had guys go down."
Last season, Patrick, Murray and Brown rotated in the backfield, limiting Madu to 40 carries for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
Even with Brown (1,110 yards, 20 TDs) and Murray (1,002 yards, 14 TDs) faring well this season, coaches thought enough of Madu that he had 96 carries for 349 yards and three touchdowns before the Missouri game.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said that considering Madu's talent, he probably has been as slighted as anyone on the Oklahoma roster when it comes to playing time.
"But when the opportunity has been there, he's played in a solid way and I think that was evident the other night," Wilson said.
While Oklahoma players and coaches have said there's no way the team won't miss Murray, Madu seems to have skills similar to the injured star. He is speedy, a solid receiver — lining up either in the backfield or in the slot — and can return kicks.
"Mossis has been as good a back as the other two backs," senior offensive lineman Phil Loadholt said. "He doesn't get a lot of time because those other two backs are who they are and they're good, too. But Mossis is definitely a guy who can make a lot of people miss and get up and down the field."
Brown said he's as comfortable sharing backfield duties with Madu as with Murray.
"There's no panic or nothing like that going on," Brown said. "It's just doing what we do and what we've learned over these years. With the experiences that he does have, just because he hasn't played as much, he still knows what's going on."
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