Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Sooners receives among best

NCAA FOOTBALL Texas A&M is about to face second-ranked Oklahoma and its core of first-rate pass catchers in Division I-A action this weekend

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICEAND AP , NORMAN, OKLAHOMAAND MEMPHIS, TENNESSEEAP, GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA

Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, center, breaks away from the Oklahoma State defense for an 80-yard touchdown run during the third quarter in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Oct. 30. At left in the background is Oklahoma quarterback Jason White signaling the score. Second-ranked Oklahoma faces Texas A&M today.

PHOTO: AP

Mark Bradley said his juggling-act catch on a play that turned into a 72-yard touchdown pass against Oklahoma State last week was no big deal.

"It's not like it's anything real big, nothing highly praiseworthy," he said. "We're here to make big plays in critical situations."

The Oklahoma wide receiver's matter-of-fact attitude has cause for justification. Each of the Sooners' talented pass catchers has big-play capability, as Bradley's turning of an 8-yard crossing pattern into a long-distance touchdown illustrates.

And that disturbs Texas A&M defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, who must fine-tune a unit that has given up six passing touchdowns in the past two weeks in time for today's 2:30pm kickoff against the second-ranked Sooners.

"They are outstading athletes that not only catch the ball well and block extremely well, but they are able to do a lot of damage with the ball after the catch," Torbush said. "And that's the thing that scares you to death about those guys.

"And they're not just limited to two or three. They've got five guys they can alternate in there, and they all do a nice job."

They're doing as good a job as any group of receivers coach Bob Stoops has had at OU. That includes the group that quarterback Josh Heupel threw to during the 2000 national championship seaon.

"Nothing against those guys," Stoops said. "But this group is even better. And I'm always careful to compare players, because I appreciate what the 2000 group did. But this group is much more athletic, faster and they have more ability for big plays. Without question."

The national championship corps was led by Antoine Savage, Curtis Fagan, Andre Woolfolk (later to move to cornerback) and Josh Norman. All caught between 31 and 48 passes in 2000 and all averaged more than 12.5 yards per catch. Mark Clayton was a redshirt as a freshman that season and not only watched those players from the sideline, but worked out daily with them.

"They were a group that weren't actually receivers," Clayton said. "They came in as quarterbacks and defensive backs and were converted to receivers, and they did really good just taking on that position at the time.

"Now we have guys coming in who have learned the trade from junior high on. Our group has pure receivers. We have a great grop of guys who can all makes plays. Mark Bradley comes up big (against OSU), but any one of us can have a game like that any day."

More than likely, Clayton is the one who does. But Bradley's four catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-35 victory over the Cowboys marked the third time in eight games that someone other than Clayton has led the Sooners in receiving yards. It was the fourth time someone else led in number of receptins. Travis Wilson has done it twice, and he leads the group with seven touchdowns. Clayton has scored five times, Bradley four. Brandon Jones has a pair of TDs and Will Peoples one among the wideouts.

"The beauty of this offense is that someone emerges every week," offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. "Guys know it could be their turn this week and they'd better be ready for it.

"It also enables us to keep flexible. It keeps people more spread out and balanced on defense. It also keeps them from double-teaming Mark Clayton and hels our running game."

Led by Clayton's school-record 2,916 career receiving yards, OU boasts three career thousand-yard receivers. Jones has 1,143 and Peoples 1,043. The 2000 team would have four, but that included tight end Trent Smith and running back Quentin Griffin. Eight receivers have reached the career thousand-yard plateau under Stoops.

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