Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. – After throwing 49 passes, it would be natural to assume that Sam Bradford would have appeared at least a little bit weary.
One would assume that a third-degree shoulder sprain sustained a month ago would have called for some ice or liniment or some kind of sign of fatigue after Bradford’s first game back. The quarterback completed all but one offensive series in the Sooners’ convincing 33-7 victory over Baylor.
“It feels good, really good,” Bradford said. “I think it was very important to get back there. Like Coach said, it was important to get back, but I wanted to be ready. I felt like I had a good week of practice. And to have throws like I made today really gives me some confidence.”
His first contest back after his season-opening injury represents a tangible starting-over point for the Sooners as they prepare for their pivotal South Division showdown with Texas next week. Hopes for an unprecedented fourth straight Big 12 title hinge on a strong game from Bradford.
Bradford passed for 389 yards on 49 pass attempts – tied for the second most in his career. He punctuated his game with a 3-yard TD pass to Adron Tennell – his only touchdown pass of the game -- on his final play.
And his numbers could have been a lot better. Bradford was victimized by 11 dropped passes, including three by Oklahoma receivers in the Baylor end zone.
“He might have thrown for more than 600 yards without all those drops,” Oklahoma receiver Dejuan Miller said. “That shows the kind of player he was if he can come back and play like that. He’s Sam Bradford, what more can you say.”
After being limited to less than 40 throws per practice earlier this week, Bradford was under a throw count on Saturday. It explained why he didn’t throw much with his teammates before the game and even retreated to the locker room during part of his team’s pregame workouts.
“He’s a great competitor,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “Right now, he doesn’t have any discomfort and that is encouraging. He will only get better from this. In practicing, he will trust it more. In another week, he will get stronger with his throws and he’ll continue to get better.”
There were worries – mainly from his coaches – about how Bradford would handle his first solid hit from an opposing lineman. He did that after two roughing-the-passer penalties and even played through the aggravation of a nagging calf injury from fall practice that flared up after Oklahoma’s first possession.
And there was concern over whether he could get some continuity back into a flagging offense that had scored only three touchdowns in the two losses since the injury.
Consider all of those challenges answered and then some after the Sooners kept the ball for 99 plays – the most since their 1975 season opener.
“He played really well,” Stoops said. “To have been off as much as he has and to go out there for his first go and to play as well as he did, I thought he was just great.”
Bradford was just happy to be playing with his teammates after struggling with the idleness of his rehabilitation.
“It was extremely gratifying to get back on the field,” Bradford said. “Just to get back with the guys I put so much work with was fun. The simple things like handoffs. It was just exciting to be back.”