MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Sam Bradford came to the line of scrimmage with 10:45 left in the game. Probably left in his college career. The Sooners trailed Florida 17-14 Thursday night, and anyone who watched the Oklahoma offense this historic season of 2008 had to believe OU was in prime position to win its eighth national championship.
The ball in Bradford’s hands Or not. Anyone who has watched Oklahoma football in these salad days of Bob Stoops, this decade, when winning once again became a Sooner birthright, had to feel trepidation. Had to worry. Had to wonder if indeed Bradford could get the Sooners to the end zone or darn close, in order to kick a tying field goal. For the truth is, Sooner Magic has gone missing in action, and the 24-14 loss to Florida is only the latest example. Late-game dramatics in which OU found a way to pull out a near-lost cause? A staple of the wishbone era, when Thomas Lott (Ohio State) or J.C. Watts (Florida State) or Jamelle Holieway (Nebraska) would produce glory from the jaws of despair. But the jaws won Thursday night. The Florida chomp clamped down on yet another OU title bid, and the Sooner offense — which always is good and often spectacular — again went splat at crunch time. That’s the strange trend in the Stoops era, particularly in quarterback-rich years. OU has become Quarterback U. — two Heisman winners and a runner-up in the past nine seasons — but on the few occasions when the Sooners have needed clutch play in the fourth quarter, their quarterbacks rarely produce. There’s the occasional Jason White against Texas A&M in 2004, or Josh Heupel against Ole Miss in 1999. But for the most part, OU’s greatest quarterbacks haven’t discovered Sooner Magic. The Sooners win from the lead, or they don’t win at all. Hard to blame Bradford against Florida. The interception that ended OU’s best-hope drive hardly was Bradford’s fault. A deep pass found the hands of Juaquin Iglesias, who didn’t secure the ball, and Florida safety Ahmad Black pulled the pigskin free. But right or wrong, that’s one way, one major way, quarterbacks are judged.