NORMAN, Okla. —For a kid who grew up practically in the shadows of Owen Field, Ryan Broyles’ chance to play for Oklahoma seemed to be a long time coming.
It turned out to be well worth the wait.
Broyles set an Oklahoma freshman record with 141 receiving yards, Jermaine Gresham caught two of Sam Bradford’s five touchdown passes and the fourth-ranked Sooners extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 20 games with a 52-26 victory against Cincinnati on Saturday.
Broyles went to Norman High School but kept flip-flopping between whether to play for the Sooners or their in-state rival, Oklahoma State. His decision didn’t come until signing day, and even then he hadn’t cleared the final roadblock to play in crimson and cream.
He was arrested for stealing gas from a Norman gas station the day before Oklahoma’s season opener last year, eventually pleading no contest, and took a redshirt behind a loaded group of receivers.
Then his debut was delayed another week when he was suspended for last week’s season opener against Chattanooga.
“Just growing up in Norman and seeing how big everything is around here, and now finally getting a chance to play, it’s a great feeling,” Broyles said.
Broyles had a 27-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and extended a key second-half drive with a leaping 43-yard catch to allow the Sooners (2-0) to start pulling away with 24 consecutive points. His receiving total was the most by any Sooners player in his debut and surpassed Tinker Owens’ record of 132 receiving yards by a freshman.
“I just don’t let it get to my head really. This is the first game I’ve been out there, so I think I have a lot to prove,” Broyles said.
Oklahoma’s home winning streak, which started after TCU snapped the Sooners’ 19-game stretch in the 2005 opener, is the third-longest in school history and the first that long since a 20-game stretch that lasted from 1976 to 1980.
Bradford overcame only the second multiple-interception game of his career to throw for a career-best 395 yards and five touchdowns, the third time he’s reached that mark and also tying the school record held by 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White and 2000 Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel.
He was glad to have Broyles on the field on a crucial third-and-9 play with the Sooners leading only 28-20 in the third quarter. Bradford lofted a lob deep down the right sideline, and Broyles jumped to take it away from two defenders for a 43-yard catch.
“I want to thank him for that, for bailing me out, because if that was incomplete I was going to get an earful coming to the sideline,” said Bradford, whose only other two-interception game was in last season’s upset loss at Colorado. “That’s just a great play.”
Four plays later, Bradford extended the drive again with a successful sneak on fourth-and-inches, and DeMarco Murray finished the drive by going untouched up the middle for an 11-yard TD run.
Then things started falling apart for Cincinnati (1-1), which was bidding for its first win against a top five opponent.
First, Bearcats coach Brian Kelly’s bag of tricks backfired and then he lost his quarterback.
Kelly had already run a botched wide receiver pass and a failed Statue of Liberty play—reminiscent of Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl win in 2007 against Oklahoma—near the goal line and when J.R. Bryant jumped to bat down punter Kevin Huber’s pass on a fake.
Bradford hit Gresham across the middle on the next play, and the 6-foot-6 tight end bullied through a defender on his way in for a 23-yard score and a 42-20 Oklahoma lead.
Two drives later, quarterback Dustin Grutza had to be wheeled off the field on a cart after his right leg was broken at the bottom of a pile of Oklahoma players following a sack.
Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard said officials apparently didn’t see Oklahoma players twisting and rolling on Grutza’s ankle after linebacker Travis Lewis and defensive linemen Cory Bennett and Jeremy Beal.
“I watched it all happen. It was really hard to watch our quarterback go down and get hurt,” Gilyard said.
Grutza went 19-for-29 for 218 yards, throwing for one touchdown and running for another on a 1-yard sneak—both set up by interceptions. He also had one interception, ending a promising Bearcats drive on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line.
Grutza is expected to miss at least four weeks.
The highlight of the game for Cincinnati was Mardy Gilyard, who broke the school record with 365 all-purpose yards, including a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that snapped one of the longest runback droughts in college football.
The last score by the Bearcats on a kickoff return came in 1995, and only two schools had gone longer than Cincinnati’s 145 games without one. Gilyard also had 119 yards receiving on seven first-half catches.
He still got overshadowed by Broyles, who caught a 27-yard pass on his sixth collegiate play and a 31-yard TD pass on the next play.
The key now is to stay away from perils that will keep him from getting back on the field.
“It’s just like a lot of young guys have to learn, and he is, and he’s doing a lot of good things in a lot of areas,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “It just needs to keep happening.”