OU QB Benefits As Talented Receiving Corps Matures

Sunday, September 2nd 2007, 6:59 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ With Malcolm Kelly snagging every ball within arm's reach and Juaquin Iglesias turning every catch into a chunk of yardage, Sam Bradford appeared nearly flawless in his debut as Oklahoma's starting quarterback.

Bradford had the most prolific opener of any quarterback in Sooners history, exiting a blowout in the third quarter with 363 yards and three touchdowns. Then he gave credit to the teammates who made him look like anything but a freshman.

``I played all right, but they made me look really good,'' said Bradford, still humble after completing his last 18 passes. ``They probably made me look a lot better than I actually was out there.''

Iglesias turned in the best game of his career, catching seven passes for 128 yards and also picking up 44 yards on a screen pass that was ruled to be a lateral. His only two 100-yard receiving games have come in his last two outings.

Kelly had two touchdown catches, one on a 65-yard fly route down the right sideline and the other on a jump ball that Bradford lobbed into the front corner of the end zone. Kelly also came down with another incredible leaping catch along the right sideline that was called back because he'd stepped out of bounds earlier on the play.

But those type of highlight reel plays are more commonplace from Kelly and Iglesias as they age, distancing themselves from the young players who were unable to help out when Oklahoma was last breaking in a brand new quarterback and lost to TCU 17-10 to start the 2005 season.

Iglesias played, but didn't make a catch in that game. Kelly didn't even get onto the field. This time, they were a major reason the Sooners opened with a 79-10 win against North Texas. When they weren't scoring, they were setting up DeMarco Murray for some of his five touchdown runs.

``I think what we had hoped would happen was that our receivers would step up and make more big plays, and I think you're seeing that,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ``These guys that you've been watching, now most of them are third-year guys that are very sure of their self and confident in what they're doing.

``I hope and believe that that will continue. They're capable of making big plays.''

It also helped that North Texas made it easier on Bradford and his brigade of receivers. The Mean Green sold out to stop the run, leaving cornerbacks isolated against Kelly and Iglesias. Sooners offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said North Texas also didn't use a lot of disguised coverages, ``so for a quarterback it was pretty easy.''

``They kind of played the way they played in the high school package they had shown. That puts a lot of stress on individuals in the secondary, and Malcolm and Juaquin and those guys can make plays,'' Wilson said. ``Sam delivered it, and we kind of just rolled.''

The Sooners' schedule takes a difficult turn this week, when Miami will bring a more talented defense and more complex scheme for Bradford to figure out. But it will help if Iglesias can continue to put up numbers alongside Kelly, who led the Sooners with 993 yards on 62 catches last season.

``He's a really good player, and he's really coming into his own,'' Stoops said. ``We need that to keep happening because you get two or three of them out there making those kind of plays, it's hard to isolate for the defense on any one guy.''

It will also take some of the pressure off Bradford, who realizes his 21-for-23 performance will be difficult to duplicate no matter the opponent.

``The quarterback's just part of that offense. He needs to do his job. The guys around him have got to help him,'' Stoops said. ``The guys around him I thought helped him a lot (Saturday) and he took advantage and played in a great way.''