Running back Brandon Whitaker trys to shake free in the second quarter. (AP)
Nov. 10, 2007
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - The whole concept of "style points" irks Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, but if style is what the Sooners need to move up in the Bowl Championship Series standings, DeMarco Murray provided it on Saturday night.
The freshman running back scored four touchdowns, one on a 91-yard kickoff return, as No. 4 Oklahoma beat Baylor 52-21. Oklahoma (9-1, 5-1 Big 12 Conference) has not lost to Baylor (3-8, 0-7) in 17 meetings between the teams.
"I get a little tired of hearing about that," Stoops said when asked if Oklahoma's win was a "pretty" one. "You win 52-21, and then, well, what's pretty? I don't get that. ... We're in pretty good shape right now."
The good news for the Sooners began in the moments before kickoff, as No. 1 Ohio State lost 28-21 to Illinois. When that game's final score flashed on the Owen Field, the crowd roared.
Then Oklahoma, fifth in the BCS standings, went out and presented its case for moving up. Murray contributed two highlight-reel plays, a 25-yard first-quarter scoring run and his kickoff return, which came moments after Baylor had pulled within a touchdown late in the first half.
Murray, who had 13 rushes for 95 yards, is the first Oklahoma freshman to score at least three touchdowns in one game on three separate occasions. He has 15 touchdowns this season, tying the school record for freshmen set by Adrian Peterson.
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes, two to Manuel Johnson, who caught four passes for 126 yards and had the first multiple-TD game of his career.
Bradford finished 20 of 25 for 353 yards with one interception.
"I'm not sure Sam was pressured the entire night," Stoops said. "We did a great job protecting the quarterback and when we ran. When we are persistent running the ball, it opens up some of those big plays that we hit tonight."
"They played hard and they played with a lot of emotion," Morriss said of the Bears. "Unfortunately, we didn't execute quite as well as we had hoped to and gave up too many plays on the defensive side of the ball."
Baylor senior fullback Brandon Whitaker, who is from Edmond, Okla., starred in his return to his home state, rushing 15 times for 149 yards and catching 10 passes for 68 yards.
He had an early 57-yard run to the Oklahoma 3, but Reggie Smith, a teammate of Whitaker's in high school, intercepted a pass on the next play, ending the threat. Whitaker reeled off a 46-yard touchdown run on the Bears' next possession, putting Baylor ahead 7-0.
Murray's 25-yard touchdown run, on which he sidestepped a defender at the line of scrimmage and broke three tackles, tied the game. After Baylor went three-and-out, Bradford connected with Malcolm Kelly on a 51-yard touchdown pass, giving Oklahoma a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
A 43-yard pass from Bradford to tight end Jermaine Gresham set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Murray, making it 21-7. After Oklahoma failed on a fourth-and-2 from the Baylor 26 late in the half, Baylor's Blake Szymanski hit Thomas White on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Murray quickly returned the momentum to Oklahoma. Baylor tried a short, bouncing kickoff, and Murray eventually corralled the football at his own 9. He went backward and reversed field twice before breaking into the open. Juaquin Iglesias blocked the last potential Baylor tackler moments before Murray reached the end zone, giving the Sooners a 28-14 halftime lead.
"I overpursued the ball and it bounced back," Murray said. "As soon as I got it, I went left, and there were guys there. Then I reversed field, and I saw (blockers), so I figured if I could get outside then, I could make something happen.
"I felt my hamstrings burning a little bit. It felt like summer workouts - just keep running and try to make it to the end zone."
It was Murray's second kickoff return for a touchdown this season.
Bradford and Johnson connected on scoring passes of 60 and 13 yards in the third quarter.
"I felt comfortable tonight throwing the deep ball," Bradford said. "I think each week I gain more comfort with our wide receivers' timing."
Szymanski hit White on a 42-yard touchdown pass to pull Baylor within 42-21, but the Bears never threatened again. Murray's final touchdown, a 21-yard fourth-down run, came with 2:48 left. Szymanski completed 25 of 42 passes for 280 yards with two interceptions. The Bears had 307 yards of offense in the first half and 450 in the game.
The Sooners had 533 yards of offense.