Was Landry Jones Really Why Oklahoma Lost?

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Was Landry Jones Really Why Oklahoma Lost?
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

When you read any article about the Oklahoma vs. BYU game, the first thing you'll read is that Sam Bradford got injured, and the article will hint at, without directly stating, that this injury was the only reason Oklahoma lost. 

However, there was a lot more to this game than Sam Bradford and his injury. 

In fact,  Mr. Bradford played the whole first half, getting sacked on third down inside BYU's 10-yard line with around eight seconds left to play in the first half, which caused his injury. 

However, this sack brought up a long fourth and goal that would have resulted in OU kicking a field goal, regardless of whether Bradford was healthy or not (which OU did, and went up 10-7).

I have often said that Sam Bradford was a product of an amazing offensive line last year; the inflated stats coming against slow defenses from the offensively-minded Big 12.

Anyone who watched Sam Bradford in Big 12 play last year witnessed this; he had hours in the pocket, waiting for his receivers and Jermaine Gresham to get open, and would always deliver an accurate pass. 

However, anyone who saw Bradford play against Texas and Florida last year saw a much more mistake-prone QB; one who was pressured by a good defensive line and baited into throwing two very uncharacteristic interceptions in each contest. 

BYU's defensive line was very strong (or OU's line was weak; either way, it leads to the same result). OU's blue-chip offensive line recruits couldn't keep the pressure off Sam Bradford, and he was hit and pressured many times before the clean hit that injured him. 

As a result, he came nowhere close to the video game stats he usually posts, going 10 of 14 for 97 yards, and a TD in the first half, not exactly what one would expect from the Heisman Trophy winner going against a defense last seen getting sliced apart by Willie Tuitama and the Arizona Wildcats to the tune of 325 yards passing (24 of 35 attempts) and 2 TDs through the air (as well as 17 more points in a 21-31 loss).

But back to Sam's injury. After the half and a scoreless third quarter, OU's replacement for Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, drove the Sooners up to BYU's 1-yard line and had 3rd and 1 for the TD. 

Of course, Oklahoma's "best in NCAA history" offense has this beautiful system of "look over to the sideline for hours and we'll tell you what to do", which Jones, faithfully living up Bradford, did (remember that BCS title game, where Sam kept staring at the sidelines?) instead of running a simple play (like maybe a QB sneak). 

Well this system never fails; Jones stared too long and was assessed with a delay of game penalty that forced OU to kick a field goal to go up 13-7. As if OU wouldn't have tried to relay the same messages from the sidelines if Bradford was still there. 

After Max Hall pulled through on many clutch plays in a drive that led BYU to its 14-13 lead, OU had one more chance. It ended up in a fourth and 14 in BYU territory that would lead to a 54-yard field goal attempt, but the consensus I heard from the broadcasters was that if OU had Sam Bradford, the Heisman winner would just pull through in the clutch and march his team to victory. 

After I watched OU miss that field goal, I wondered to myself when Sam Bradford had ever pulled through in the clutch, or even led a fourth quarter comeback. I looked it up and found that Bradford had one fourth-quarter comeback to his credit, a 2007 41-31 victory over Missouri where he trailed 24-23 late in the third and finished that drive in the fourth. 

Otherwise, in any type of close game, Sam Bradford has been anything but clutch. Sure he looks great when his team is orchestrating some blowout against an overmatched defense, but when he's under pressure, he isn't that robo-QB everyone makes him out to be. 

I won't pretend that Landry Jones isn't a step down from Sam Bradford, but I would like to point out that Bradford would not have been some kind of God that would overcome all adversity and lead OU to victory, especially with his penalty-happy new O-line, which also made a nice habit of letting guys break in through the middle and edge. 

Maybe OU would have won with him, maybe it wouldn't have.  It still doesn't change the fact that even when he was in there, OU had been outgained both in the passing and rushing game, or even that by the end of the game, Max Hall had thrown two picks (as opposed to Bradford and Jones' zero) and had missed tons of scoring opportunities.  

Or even Harvey Unga, BYU's top RB, not being able to play or Matt Bauman, BYU's defensive leader (and best defensive player, being the team's leading tackler in 2008), going down before Bradford. 

Never mind any mistakes made by BYU or any injuries suffered by them; it was only Sam Bradford's absence that led to Oklahoma's loss.

Hey, let's ignore that Max Hall was able to pass for 329 yards, BYU's backup RB was able to still grind out tough yards, and that the BYU offense hit its stride under huge pressure late in the game to win against a team returning from the BCS title game. 

Not to mention, the BYU defense's ability to keep the Sooners to 13 points, despite two costly interceptions thrown by Max Hall. Underdogs aren't supposed to beat top-tier teams unless they play mistake-free football, which BYU certainly did not do. 

But instead of applauding the BYU team for a heroic effort, resilience, and clutch plays to defeat a team with far superior talent (and let's face it, the OU backups, and even those new O-linemen were far more highly recruited than anyone BYU has), people blame the loss on Bradford's injury, which to me, is disgusting. 

Even if Mr. Bradford had never even been scheduled to play this game, OU would still have been heavily favored going in; there are other talented players on the OU roster who were unable to defeat a tough, physical BYU team.

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