Bedlam showdown features nation's top 2 receivers
If not for a pressure-packed change of heart, Ryan Broyles and Justin Blackmon could be playing on the same team instead of against each other in a Bedlam showdown between the nation's top two receivers.
Broyles initially committed to Oklahoma State before getting a late scholarship offer from Oklahoma that he only decided to accept on signing day, creating a Biletnikoff Award showcase three years down the road.
Broyles leads the nation with 106 catches this season, while Blackmon is second in receptions and first in receiving yardage with 1,560. The two are among the finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver, along with South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
This Saturday night, they'll be competing for a different prize: a rivalry win and a berth in the Big 12 championship game. No. 10 Oklahoma State (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) can reach the title game for the first time with a victory, while the 14th-ranked Sooners (9-2, 5-2) need a win and help from a tiebreaker.
''There's a bunch of hype about this. ... I'm not playing against the guy, so it doesn't matter to me,'' said Broyles, who has 1,309 yards receiving and 12 TDs. ''I'm going to go out there doing my job, just like he's going to do his job.''
Broyles dismisses the notion that he could've created one amazing receiving tandem with the Cowboys if not for the Sooners' decision to come after him in the final days of the recruiting process - and after he'd agreed to play in Stillwater.
But consider this: Oklahoma State could have had Broyles, Blackmon and NFL first-round pick Dez Bryant together in the same receiving corps if Broyles hadn't wavered.
''I felt like when I committed to Oklahoma State that that was the right decision, and then OU comes in and you just have mixed emotions. ... It was a bunch of just jumps and then I felt like I had a word with Oklahoma State so I wanted to go back there,'' Broyles said.
''I slept on it and then on signing day, I didn't feel like that was the right thing to do - and it's paid off.''
Since deciding to go with the tradition-rich program in his hometown, Broyles has claimed just about every receiving record at Oklahoma. He has 241 career receptions, 33 career touchdowns and a 208-yard game. He needs 117 yards to pass Mark Clayton's record for receiving yardage in a season, and 126 to claim the career record.
''I had people doubting me from the start, saying I'm not going to make it here at OU,'' said Broyles, who got overlooked because he didn't develop into a playmaking receiver until his senior year of high school.
''I had confidence in myself that I was going to go in anywhere and learn the playbook and make plays. I'm sure some guys might shy away from competition, but I'm not one of those guys.''
Blackmon can tie an NCAA record with an 11th straight 100-yard game with a touchdown catch, and he needs 113 yards to break Larry Fitzgerald's record for the most productive season ever by a sophomore. His take on playing opposite Broyles is unknown, as he's been off-limits to reporters the past four weeks since a suspension for his arrest on a DUI charge.
He's also been limited in practice this week by a foot injury suffered in a win last week at Kansas.
''When you turn the tape on on both of those guys, they make amazing plays all over the field,'' Sooners safety Quinton Carter said. ''I enjoy watching Ryan on Saturday, and I'm pretty sure their players enjoy watching Blackmon.''
Blackmon has come out of nowhere after catching just 20 passes for 260 yards last season. Once Bryant left early to enter the NFL draft, he sensed an opportunity to become the Cowboys' go-to receiver and has blossomed in first-year offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's offense.
Blackmon has 94 catches and leads the nation with 17 touchdown receptions - including six of 40-plus yards, four of 60-plus and two of 80 or more. He also has a 69-yard touchdown run.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops talked this week about wishing he had offered Blackmon a scholarship, blaming former receivers coach Kevin Sumlin - Houston's head coach - for opting not to do so.
''We're going out there to make plays. We have to shut him down or play our best defense on him,'' Carter said. ''Of course, we want our guy to win any and every award he's up for. So, we're going to be fighting for our statistics on our side as well as his.''
While Blackmon has shown a penchant for the deep ball, much of Broyles' damage has been by running after he catches bubble screen passes at the line of scrimmage.
''He's a tremendous receiver,'' Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. ''The thing is, it's not just him. They've got two or three other guys that can run right by you, catch the ball and make you miss.''
At the end of the night, though, it'll matter more which player's team has more points than who has accumulated more catches and yards.
''It's not a competition between me and anybody,'' Broyles said. ''It's a competition to win.''