Sam Bradford's shoulder injury is dominating the fallout surrounding BYU's shocking upset of Oklahoma, which is to be expected when the reigning Heisman winner goes down in such catastrophic fashion. That's a big story, but as far as the game itself goes, it's the wrong one.
Bradford plays in the second half of the game, and OU probably wins. So what.
Bradford's absence wasn't the difference on Saturday night. The Sooners came up short thanks to their own sloppy play. Penalties, dropped passes, poor ball protection--name a way to hand a game to a decent opponent, and OU managed to do it.
(And let's make no mistake: BYU is a decent team, but it's way too early to proclaim the Cougars to be an upper-echelon squad.)
For a group of young receivers, most of whom were seeing their first significant action, a collective case of the dropsies is understandable. The fumbles and prolific penalties are a different story.
No one could reasonably expect the Sooners to replicate the outstanding ball protection of the 2008 team, which only lost two fumbles all season. However, the carelessness with which veterans Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray gave the ball away to kill promising drives was disappointing. Even though the fumble was recovered, backup quarterback Landry Jones muffing a snap on third and short in the fourth quarter was tough to stomach, too.
The most disconcerting aspect of OU's performance against BYU had to be the never-ending string of penalties called against the offensive line. While the game statistics show a relatively even split between the two teams for the game (BYU: 10-87; OU: 12-93), the OU o-line seemed to pick the most inopportune times to draw a flag. The three false starts on the opening series really stood out, as did the false start on OU's final drive that turned third-and-nine from the BYU 32 into third-and-14 from the Cougars' 37. A somewhat manageable field goal opportunity was transformed into a hope and a prayer.
The Sooner defense didn't escape this game blameless, either. Missed tackles and what appeared to be busted assignments sparked BYU's biggest plays in the game.
In the end, all those miscues boil down to discipline and composure. They're the kind of mental aspects of the game that OU coach Bob Stoops harps on frequently in public. It may be a cliché, but the line between winning and losing in football is razor-thin, and a major reason why great teams always seem to stay on the right side of it is disciplined execution.
It's still early, and in the court of public opinion, Bradford's injury certainly took a little heat off the team's overall poor performance. But even with a healthy Bradford, the Sooners looked nothing like a "great" team last weekend. Just "good" even sounds like a stretch.