CFN: Bradford injury hurt OU, but BYU earned win

Sam Bradford’s injured shoulder will be the main storyline for many, but BYU’s 14-13 stunner over the No. 3 Sooners is the real story from Saturday. Now the No. 20 Cougars have put themselves in the chase for the national title. The CFN writers give their thoughts on the game that has already shaken up the season.

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Give BYU credit

There will be a lot of talk about how BYU won this game only because Sam Bradford got hurt, and that might be true. Even BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall admitted that the game changes if the Heisman winner is in.

But give credit where credit is due. Oklahoma still has a pair of future NFL running backs in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, and it still has a defense that has the talent to be among the best in America, even if it didn’t play like it in the clutch.

There’s no question that the Sooners played a bit down when their superstar went down, but this was supposed to be when everyone else stepped up their game. Even with Landry Jones under center, Oklahoma is still better and more talented than BYU (sorry Cougar fans, but it’s true), but it didn’t matter. Max Hall still had a great 329-yard performance and came up with the drive he had to in the fourth quarter to make the upset possible.

Also give credit to a defense that held the Sooner ground game to 118 yards. Give credit to a BYU offensive line, which was supposed to be the weak link coming into the game, that held an NFL-style Sooner defensive line in check. Now the table is set for BYU, and now it’s time to talk national-title shot even though it’s only Sept. 5. This wasn’t Boise State beating Oregon at home, this was beating Oklahoma in Dallas. Welcome to the 2009 college football season. It’s on.

Big win for MWC

Does it get any better than this for the Mountain West?

Eight months after Utah stunned Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, BYU knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma, two of the biggest wins in the history of the upwardly mobile conference. The argument for an automatic BCS bowl berth has never been stronger than right now for commissioner Craig Thompson.

Forget the fact that Sam Bradford missed more than a half with a shoulder injury. Of course it hurt the Sooners’ chances of avoiding the upset, but when he went out, it was only a three-point game. The Sooners never looked right in Dallas, and the Cougars deserve plenty of the credit for that. As hard as it is to believe, BYU out-Boised Boise State this weekend, taking over the mythical pole position in this year’s race to be a BCS buster. It’s a long way to December and the Cougs still must play Florida State, TCU and Utah, but if both of those schools remain unbeaten, have fun trying to decide which one earns the Fiesta Bowl bid.

Stoops to blame?

1. Some words will be used talking about an injured fella named Bradford, but if you want to look at this game alone, and why it was won and lost, look no further than the head coaches.

Twice, Bob Stoops and Oklahoma should have called a timeout in the fourth quarter. The first occasion came when the Sooners, up 10-7, had fourth and goal on the BYU 1 early in the quarter. Naturally, a team in that position needs to go for the touchdown to get a two-possession lead; if it fails, the opponent is still on its own 1. Stoops, though, allowed a delay-of-game penalty to take place, and when BYU scored, the Cougars had a one-point lead.

The second occasion came just before BYU’s quick-snap fourth-down play on its winning TD drive. As soon as the Cougars rushed to the line, a timeout should have been called. It wasn’t, BYU converted a fourth and 4, and the rest, as they say, was history. Bronco Mendenhall owned Stoops down the stretch; don’t assign this loss to Bradford’s injury — BYU earned it with superior coaching (and play).

2. 11-1 BYU > 12-0 Boise State. Just remember that in early December, if indeed such a scenario emerges.

Sooners not done

There is no underestimating the impact of Sam Bradford’s injury on Oklahoma’s performance against Brigham Young Saturday night, but Bradford doesn’t play defense, and even if he had been healthy, he couldn’t have done anything to keep the Cougars from taking more than nine minutes off the clock on their decisive scoring drive.

This is a monumental win for the BYU program and the Mountain West Conference and might set the stage for a BCS berth down the line. At the same time, it is hardly a death knell for the Sooners, who have the luxury of 11 more games and perhaps a 12th, if they reach the conference championship game. If Bradford’s shoulder is just sprained, he’ll be back, and OU could well run the table. As for the Cougars, they host Florida State in a few weeks and then gird themselves for a tough conference run — and perhaps great things next January.