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October 10, 2009

Sooners Find Their Way to Victory

NORMAN, Okla. (AP)-Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford wasn't sure how his injured shoulder would hold up to a full day's work.

After 49 throws in No. 19 Oklahoma's 33-7 win against Baylor on Saturday, Bradford is ready for next week's rivalry game against No. 2 Texas in Dallas.

"I think that's something that we were all curious around here is how I would react to 3 1/2 -4 hours in my pads, on and off, not throwing the whole time, kind of sitting on the bench, coming back and making some throws," Bradford said. "I felt like my arm responded great, and I felt good out there."

Bradford threw for 389 yards and a touchdown after missing the last month with a sprained AC joint in his right, throwing shoulder. It was the 14th 300-yard passing game of his career, matching the school record set by 2000 Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel.

And he could have had even bigger numbers if the Sooners' receivers didn't have trouble handling his passes. Bradford had a career-high 22 incomplete passes, most of them coming on flat-out drops or passes that at least hit his receivers' hands.

"To have been off as much as he has and go out there in his first go at it to play as well as he did, I thought he played great," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "He stays away from the poor, the negative plays or the bad plays and he had a great night.

"If you add in seven, eight, nine drops-you could cut that and say there's five legitimate that are dead right in their hands-he has an incredible night."

There had been concern that Bradford's shoulder wouldn't have the stamina to hold up to a full game, but he ended up matching the second-most passes he'd thrown in his career with a 27-for-49 performance. The only time he had attempted more passes was when he threw 53 against Kansas last season. He had never had more than 19 incomplete passes in a game.

"I was disappointed in the drops, but again I think a lot of that is just inexperience," Stoops said. "We've got all kinds of yardage and big plays if we'd just catch the ball better. I'm hopeful and I believe that the ability is there. It's just time, time on the field for those guys to make improvement and make those plays when they're there to make."

Bradford skipped part of Oklahoma's pregame routine while the rest of the team's quarterbacks were practicing throwing and then jogged to the locker room while his teammates were stretching as he tried to keep from wearing his arm out before the game even started.

Then came a real scare when trainers huddled around Bradford after he stepped awkwardly on an incomplete pass on his first drive and aggravated a right calf strain that first bothered him in two-a-days.

Bradford, who didn't miss a play, called that injury "no big deal." The shoulder is looking that way, too, after he went through a month of frustration not knowing exactly when he'd be able to come back.

"It's extremely gratifying just to get back on the field, just to be out there with the guys that I've put in so much work with in the offseason," Bradford said. "Just the simple things-handoffs, everything out there. It's just exciting to be back really."

Brown's touchdown runs of 1 and 4 yards in the second quarter put Oklahoma up 14-0, but the Sooners (3-2, 1-0 Big 12) couldn't get into the end zone on their first four trips inside the 20-yard line in the second half.

Jimmy Stevens hit four field goals to tie a school record held by Jeremy Alexander and Garrett Hartley before Bradford finally connected with Adron Tennell in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard score with 4:03 to play.

"I felt good just the way my arm responded, the way I was able to play four quarters and the way I was able to make some throws in the fourth quarter that had some heat on them," Bradford said.

Brandon Caleb caught seven passes for a career-best 139 yards after moving inside to replace injured slot receiver Ryan Broyles, who is out 2-4 weeks with a hairline fracture of his left shoulder blade. DeMarco Murray added 107 yards rushing on a season-high 24 carries.

Oklahoma racked up a season-high 592 yards, with 203 on the ground to go with Bradford's big day.

"Sam has that inspiration on the team. He's a captain and everyone follows him and vibes off of him, and it's definitely a good thing that he's coming back," receiver Cameron Kenney said. "He just made good plays today, and he was just real relaxed."

Third-stringer Nick Florence started at quarterback for Baylor (3-2, 0-1) for the second straight week, following a season-ending knee injury to Robert Griffin III. He threw for 220 yards on 22-for-41 passing with one touchdown and one interception.

Blake Szymanski, the backup who had sat out last week with a bruised shoulder, replaced him on Baylor's final series in the fourth quarter and threw a 42-yard completion and an interception in the back of the end zone on consecutive plays.

Jay Finley, the Bears' top rusher, also returned after missing two games with an ankle injury but had just two carries for minus-1 yard.

The Sooners have won all 19 games in their series against Baylor and won for the 27th straight time at home.

"Of course, there's room for improvement," Bears coach Art Briles said. "We knew today would be a measuring stick. We knew today would be a chance to show how good our guys can be."


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