Bradford, Sooners disappointed with outcome


Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 2:24 a.m.

MIAMI Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with some of the most impressive statistics ever put up by a college quarterback. But in the biggest game of his career, he and Oklahoma's high-powered offense looked ordinary.

He wasn't all that bad. He just wasn't good enough.

Bradford continued a trend of subpar performances by Sooners quarterbacks in BCS bowl games. He threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns but had a pair of interceptions at critical times in No. 2 Oklahoma's 24-14 loss to top-ranked Florida in the BCS championship game Thursday night.

"Obviously it's very disappointing to end your season on a loss, especially in a game that we felt like we had a chance to win," said Bradford, who completed 26 of 41 passes.

Bradford's mediocre performance extended the Sooners' BCS losing streak to five in a row, and added his name to the list of Heisman winners who have struggled with the national title on the line.

Bradford's numbers were respectable for just about any other quarterback, but well short of expectations following a season in which he threw for 4,464 yards and 48 touchdowns with six interceptions.

The championship game was only the third time this season he was held to fewer than 300 yards passing, and his third game with multiple interceptions.

The result was an Oklahoma offense that hardly looked like it led the nation with a 54-point average and was the first in more than nine decades to score 60 points or more in five straight games. Before the championship game, the least the Sooners had scored was 35 points in a loss to Texas.

"We're not going to place the blame on the offense," safety Nic Harris said. "That's something we're not going to do."

What's next for Bradford is still uncertain. He has a week to decide whether he'll leave for the NFL draft after his sophomore season, or come back and try to win a national title.

"I think he's a great quarterback, either way he goes," receiver Juaquin Iglesias said.

Bradford simply hadn't faced a defense of Florida's caliber all season long in the scoring-happy Big 12.

After getting sacked only 11 times in Oklahoma's first 13 games, Bradford was harassed by the Gators' speedy defense and forced to work on the move. He was sacked on a rollout pass to snuff out the Sooners' first drive, and even a string of 12 straight completions in the first half produced only one score on a 6-yard toss to tight end Jermaine Gresham.

"As far as being just on a whole different level from the defenses we saw in the Big 12, I wouldn't go that far," Bradford said. "But I would say that they are a very good defense."

Bradford made just enough mistakes to let 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow outshine him in only the second meeting ever between two Heisman winners.

"Tim's a great player. He did a great job tonight when his team needed him," Bradford said.

But Bradford's coach, Bob Stoops, quickly came to his defense.

"Tim Tebow had a couple of turnovers, too," Stoops said, referring to Tebow's two first-half interceptions. "Playing good teams, it's going to happen. I don't fault him."

Bradford looked defeated after a Sooners' turnover with just under 10 minutes left that should have been a big gain. Iglesias hauled in Bradford's 25-yard pass down the middle, but then had the ball snatched out of his arms by Florida safety Ahmad Black.

"If I would have made that play, that was a game-changing play," Iglesias said. "But it happens."

Bradford slowly walked to the sideline afterward, bending over before he watched the replay on the big screen in bewilderment with quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel.

After an amazing season, this kind of night was hard for Bradford to fathom.

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