Sooners' Bester turning into offensive force
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)
A former quarterback himself, Oklahoma wide receiver Lacolton Bester was looking to pass in the third quarter against Texas Tech when he saw his primary receiver - quarterback Blake Bell - was covered.
Bester took off running. Thirty-five yards later, he was celebrating after a momentum-shifting touchdown scamper that gave the Sooners the lead for good in a 38-30 win over their previously undefeated foe.
As Bester's senior year progresses, No. 13 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) is finding creative ways to use his talents - be it catching, throwing or running with the football. Heading into Thursday's showdown at No. 5 Baylor (7-0, 4-0), Bester has turned himself into one of the Sooners' primary offensive weapons.
''The light kind of came on for Lacolton late spring last year and that's when you could start to see that maybe he'd have a chance to make an impact and he had a great summer,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''I could tell when we got him in two-a-days he was in a lot better shape than he'd been.''
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Bester, from Scooba, Miss., played quarterback in high school before transitioning to receiver during two years at East Mississippi Community College. As a sophomore, he caught 70 passes for 1,042 yards and 17 touchdowns before signing with Oklahoma.
But he struggled to gain traction in his first season, relegated mostly to special-teams duty and catching only three passes for 29 yards. His solution entering this season? Put in the time to get better.
''Coming from Mississippi, nothing's ever given anyway,'' he said. ''I knew I had to work hard and do everything right, from blocking all the way up to catching. I knew that it would take everything that a receiver had to do for me to play.''
His playing time soon increased. As a regular in the Sooners' rotation at receiver, he's caught 14 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown and his 13.8 yards-per-catch average is tops on the team.
He's one of 10 FBS players - including three wide receivers - who have recorded a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown this season. Bester is the first Oklahoma player to record that trifecta since Joe Wylie in 1970.
All three of his touchdowns have come at critical moments. The touchdown catch, a 26-yarder from Bell, came in the final minute before halftime at Notre Dame and gave the Sooners a 21-7 lead in a game they'd go on to win 35-21.
Against Kansas, the Sooners trailed 13-8 in the second quarter before Bester took the ball from Bell and lofted a 49-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard. It was a play the Sooners had thought about running earlier in the season, only to check out of it at the last moment.
''Lacolton, gosh, did he throw a great ball,'' Stoops said. ''I mean, I told him, giving him the game ball in there, he needed to give the quarterbacks some lessons. It was just a beautiful pass.''
Stoops said after the Kansas game that the Sooners would give Bester ''some more chances'' on similar plays, and sure enough, a week later with Oklahoma trailing Texas Tech, they again called on him. His touchdown came on his first career carry.
''You know what he said?'' Stoops said. ''He had the confidence he'd put it in there, but he was worried about having to lead Blake too far to turn him into a receiver. . He did it right. If there's any question, it's always a good play, pull it down and take off and get what you can. He sure did that. He did a great job cutting back and I thought the entire team did a really great job hustling downfield and blocking for him.''
After a season of being mostly an observer, Bester is enjoying his recent run of success.
He said his teammates last season ''always encouraged me and told me, `Good times will come to those who'll be patient.' I've waited my time and I feel like it's now.''