Oklahoma wins without Bedlam knockout punch

Sooners Illustrated Editor Jay C. Upchurch grades the Sooners' 38-35 win over Oklahoma State. Pictured above: Senior receiver Mark Bradley pulls in the first of his three touchdown catches against the Cowboys. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

STILLWATER — If the 99th edition of Bedlam would have been contested in a prize fighting ring, it might have come to screeching halt after Adrian Peterson delivered what looked to be a thunderous knockout punch via an 80-yard touchdown run midway through the third round, er, quarter.

The longest jaunt of Peterson's young career put the second-ranked Sooners on top by 14 points and momentarily took the home-crowd advantage away from a staggered Oklahoma State squad.

But the 20th-ranked Cowboys showed their resiliency by marching 87 yards on their ensuing possession. And when Vernand Morency capped the drive with a 2-yard run, the battle was anything but over.

That was the Bedlam story on Saturday, as the two rivals went toe-to-toe from start to finish and a clear winner was not determined until a 49-yard field goal attempt by OSU's Jason Ricks sailed wide left with 11 seconds remaining. Only then could the Sooners breath a sigh of relief for what turned out to be a 38-35 triumph.

"My stomach was aching when I was standing there behind (Mark) Bradley watching that last field goal," said OU receiver Mark Clayton. "I was so happy when I saw it hooking. This is such a huge win that obviously keeps all of our goals in front of us."

Indeed, Oklahoma marches on with a perfect 8-0 record, including a 4-0 mark in the Big 12 South. And while OSU may have fallen to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in league play, the Cowboys undoubtedly gave the visitors their best shot.

"It builds (confidence) when you respond to adverse situations," said Bob Stoops, whose Sooners rolled up 488 yards of offense behind another huge performance from Peterson. "Last year, we made everything look so easy, we never were really challenged in those difficult situations. This season, we have been and our guys have (responded)."

The Sooners did respond with some big plays at Boone Pickens Stadium after literally handing the lead over to the Cowboys with several key blunders during a six-minute span of the second quarter. And when the contest turned into a battle of momentum in the second half, OU managed to weather every punch and make it to the final bell standing — just barely.

But sometimes just barely is good enough.

"I reminded the guys that our 2000 national championship run team won 12-7 here and went on to finish it out," added Stoops. "A lot of it sets up similarly here."

While the win moved the Sooners a step closer to a possible repeat of that feat, exactly what kind of grades did they earn against their Bedlam rivals. Check it out in our weekly report card:

Adrian Peterson has fast become the teacher's pet, and deservedly so. The kid is phenomenal and he demonstrated that again Saturday en route to a career-best, 249-yard rushing effort.

The Sooners used the Palestine, Texas, product to set up a very productive passing attack in the opening half. And once they established a lead, the hosts received a steady diet of the most prolific freshman back in OU history. Peterson earned that title when he surpassed De'Mond Parker's freshman rushing mark of 1,184 yards in the third quarter.

"When (Adrian) showed up at training camp, we had a great idea he was going to be a great ball player. That was from day one," offered offensive coordinator Chuck Long. "How good, we didn't know — but we fully expected and thought he'd have a great career (at Oklahoma)."

Peterson is well on his way to doing just that. He's rushed for 100-plus yards in each of his eight games as a Sooner, including his two biggest — vs. Texas and Oklahoma State — where he topped the 200-yard mark.

In what was billed as the battle of the running backs — Peterson vs. OSU's Vernand Morency — he again stole the show. And while it took him a half to get fully revved up, Peterson was almost unstoppable once he did.

"It was more of the same A.D. He continues to amaze me," said quarterback Jason White.

White had his usual up-close view as Peterson raced 80 yards to help OU regain a 14-point advantage with 8:33 left in the third quarter. Then one possession later, Peterson snapped off a 56-yard run to help set up a Trey DiCarlo field goal, which proved to be the winning margin.

Peterson has now matched the NCAA record for consecutive 100-yard games by a freshman running back with eight, originally established by New Mexico State's Ron James in 1968.

"It's tough to believe he's a freshman," said OSU coach Les Miles.

It was another big day for OU's offensive line, as Kejuan Jones also turned in a solid effort (8-49) to help the Sooners finish with 267 yards on the ground.

It was a tale of two halves for White and his receiving corps, as they went from electrifying to curiously absent in the course of one quarter.

After throwing for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half, White was limited to one completion over the final two quarters when OU was content to feed the Cowboys a steady diet of Adrian Peterson.

It was a move that almost backfired in the closing moments when the Sooners had a chance to possibly run out the clock. With OSU focused on Peterson, OU failed to go up top and put the game away.

Early on, the highlights were centered around the Jason White and Mark Bradley show. The two hooked up four times for 172 yards, including three plays that went for touchdowns.

"They were dropping off in coverage and leaving the under routes wide open and (Mark) did a great job after he caught the ball," said White, who finished 14 of 26 for 221 yards and three touchdowns.

White and Bradley hooked up on a 4-yard scoring toss to give OU a 7-0 lead and they connected twice more for TDs in the closing four minutes of the half — one from 72 yards that may have been the highlight of the game as Bradley initially batted the pass into the air before running under it and racing the distance in front of a stunned OSU secondary.

"I was just hoping he'd make a diving catch on it, but he did something incredible by turning it into a touchdown," smiled White.

For Bradley, who grew up learning about Bedlam from his father (Danny) who played quarterback for the Sooners in the early 1980s, it was a dream come true.

"My dad told me he had a dream (Thursday night) where I was going to score about three or four touchdowns. Now, every time he tells me something I'm going to have to believe it," explained Bradley. "It's special, just being a part of what my dad played in and being a part of Bedlam. They gave me an opportunity to make plays (today) and I made the most of them."

Only three OU wide receivers caught passes on the day, including Clayton who led the team with five receptions.

Meanwhile, Bradley's third TD catch of the first half — a 23 yarder with 46 seconds to go — gave the Sooners a 21-14 edge at the intermission.

"I liked what we did on offense. We had no turnovers and very few penalties," said Long. "Mark did a great job again for us. He's a guy who has proven he can make plays and that's what he did today."

If not for Mark Clayton's 50-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave OU a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter, this could have been more like a "D" — as in dreadful.

It only takes one or two mistakes on special teams to potentially cost a team the game, and the Sooners have somehow managed to dodge a few bullets the last two weekends.

The first mishap came from a very unlikely source as Clayton foolishly mishandled — or did he? — a punt deep in OU territory. The turnover gave the Pokes new life and they took advantage by tying the game on a 3-yard keeper by Donovan Woods three plays later.

"First of all, I didn't touch the ball," said Clayton, wanting to set the record straight. "But something just told me to go after (the ball) because I thought I saw a crease. It wasn't a very good play on my part, but I hoped I'd get a chance to make up for it, and I did."

Clayton's chance for redemption came at the 10:40 mark of the third when Cole Farden's punt settled into his arms at midfield. The OU senior used a wall of blockers to spring himself free and then weaved his way the final 30 yards for his first career return for a score.

OU's second botched special teams play came just one series after the first and it came from a familiar source — punter Blake Ferguson, who for the second straight game dropped a perfect snap without provocation. The play resulted in an OSU touchdown and staked the hosts to a 14-7 lead.

Trey DiCarlo was solid enough kicking the ball, and Ferguson, when he wasn't dropping the ball, was good. The coverage teams were stingy, as usual, but the kick return unit left the Sooners in less-than-desirable field position at least twice.

Oklahoma State came in averaging almost 270 rushing yards per game, while OU was surrendering less than 80. Something had to give.

It was the Cowboys and their star running back Vernand Morency.

The Sooners front seven held Morency to 93 yards on 17 carries, almost 72 yards below his season average. The junior back never developed into a real factor, instead giving way to quarterback Donovan Woods who was the driving force behind the Pokes' offense.

Linebacker Lance Mitchell seemed to shadow Morency's every move during the contest. Among his team-best eight tackles were several crushing stops of OSU's go-to back.

"Lance was really solid all day. He was all over the field and was a big factor in helping us put the clamps on OSU's ground game," said co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

OSU finished with 150 yards on the ground, but managed only 3.7 yards a carry. Morency had rushed for 100-plus yards in nine straight games before Bedlam.

Linebackers Rufus Alexander and Demarrio Pleasant, playing for an injured Clint Ingram (ankle), were good in the gaps, while OU's front four did a solid job of absorbing blocks and leaving little running room.

Mo Dampeer came off the bench again to impact the game. His efforts alongside Lynn McGruder helped OU bottle-up the potent Cowboy ground attack.

"Winning isn't easy on the road in any conference, let alone the Big 12. I really believe the adversity we faced today will help us in a lot of ways," said Venables. "We felt we could have played some things better overall, but I thought we did a good job of limiting their big-play ground attack."

The Sooners limited Donovan Woods to just eight completions on the afternoon, but it seemed each of those went for substantial yardage. In fact, the OSU freshman averaged over 25 yards per completed pass against a Sooner secondary that struggled at times.

Woods opened the game by misfiring on five of first six passes, one of which was dropped by OU's Brodney Pool. In fact, OSU's signal caller was 2 of 8 for 13 yards in the opening half. He looked frazzled at times and guided his team to just 78 total yards.

But that began to change with a 46-yard hookup with his brother, D'Juan. After Jonathan Jackson recorded his second sack of Woods on the ensuing play, the young QB hit Prentiss Elliott with a 39-yard TD pass over cornerback Eric Bassey.

"The first ones against Chijioke were really just good throws and catches, then we let them get behind us a couple of times, and the one on Eric — he wasn't playing good technique," said Venables.

It simply wasn't a great day for the OU secondary, which gave up 128 yards to D'Juan Woods, reminiscent of efforts turned in by older brother Rashaun in past Bedlam battles.

The Sooners dropped three potential interceptions and made OSU's rookie QB look better than he should have on several throws. But it was also evident that once Woods found his legs, he was able to produce some big plays for the hosts.

In the closing seconds, Wood moved the Cowboys to the OU 32, setting up Ricks' potential game-tying field goal attempt. A key tackle by Pleasant on a keeper by Woods helped stall the drive.

"The key is not riding the waves of the game and then finding ways to make plays at the end. We did just enough of that today," added Venables.

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