20) Oklahoma (3-2) at (3) Texas (5-0)
As fierce as the Red River Rivalry is, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford insist they are friends.
That friendship will be put aside Saturday as No. 3 Texas (5-0, 2-0) and No. 20 Oklahoma (3-2, 1-0) renew acquaintances at the Cotton Bowl with the marquee signal callers drawing all the attention for the perennial Big 12 contenders.
The Sooners’ Bradford edged the Longhorns’ McCoy last year for the Heisman Trophy, thanks to a spectacular 50-touchdown season. The quarterbacks got to know each other through the college awards circuit, with Bradford winning the Davey O’Brien Award and McCoy earning the Walter Camp Player of the Year. Their friendship blossomed over the summer as they roomed together at the Manning quarterback camp.
“I think that probably from a fan’s perspective and people outside of the game think that it’s crazy that I could be friends with Sam or that Sam could be friends with me, but we are and he’s a great guy,” McCoy said. “We’ve got a lot in common. But we both understand this is a huge game.”
It wasn’t certain the two would meet when Bradford sprained his right shoulder in Oklahoma’s season-opening 14-10 loss to then-No. 20 Brigham Young on Sept. 5. Bradford missed the next three games before returning last Saturday to complete 27 of 49 passes with one touchdown in a 33-7 victory over Baylor.
“We didn’t anticipate him throwing 49 balls, but we didn’t anticipate him getting 100 snaps either,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “In the end, it just worked out. We kept in touch with him throughout the game to see how he was feeling and he was feeling fine, so that’s a positive. We only expect him to make some improvement this week.”
McCoy, who sent a text message to Bradford the night of the injury, says he’s happy the Sooners’ All-American is healthy again. Bradford appreciated the gesture.
“Colt’s a great guy and I think him sending me a text message after I got hurt, telling me that he was praying for me, to stay with it and keep my head up, that just says a lot about the type of guy he is,” Bradford said. “I think a lot of people see us going to rival schools, you know, and probably wouldn’t have done that.
“For him to do something like that and to keep encouraging me, it just says a lot about who he is.”
This is the third time the quarterbacks have met. They’ve split the first two matchups. Texas won 45-35 last year despite Bradford’s matching a career high with five touchdowns passes and throwing for 387 yards.
That win gave the Longhorns a leg up in their bid for a BCS championship, but Texas later blew its Big 12 South advantage with a 39-33 loss to Texas Tech. Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech finished in a tie for the division title, and the Sooners were awarded the spot in the conference title game due to a tiebreaker.
Texas, though, is not using the controversial ending to last season as motivation for this matchup.
“You go back and people constantly ask me for what they did last year,” coach Mack Brown said. “All OU did was win all their games after they played us. They didn’t do anything to us. It wasn’t about them. Our problem was we lost to Tech, and we put the decision-making process back in the BCS computer ranking’s hands and the Big 12 tiebreaker’s hands. It had nothing to do with OU.”
McCoy leads the nation with a 73.4 completion percentage, and has 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 32 of 39 passes last Saturday as Texas rallied from a four-point halftime deficit for a 38-14 victory over Colorado.
While Bradford and McCoy are drawing the headlines, both coaches are aware that Saturday’s game also pits the two best defenses in the Big 12, with Texas ranking fourth in the nation and Oklahoma ninth.
The Longhorns were able to control the line of scrimmage last year, gaining 161 rushing yards compared to 48 for the Sooners. Texas held the ball for more than 37 minutes.
Oklahoma feels it can limit Texas’ running game this year. On the other side of the ball, it feels it can take advantage of the fact the Longhorns lost three 2008 defensive starters in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
“We look at the tape of last year all the time and we remember the mistakes we made and the things we didn’t do to win the game,” Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We know we have to change those this year.”
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer