Oklahoma football: Bradford’s 2008 Sooners face Mayfield’s Cinderella 2015 Sooners

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Oklahoma Sooners fans cheer during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated TCU 38-20. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 11: Oklahoma Sooners fans cheer during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated TCU 38-20. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Baker Mayfield and his 2015 Oklahoma football team had knocked off two higher-seeded teams in the Sooner Football 2000s Playoff and needed just one more win to walk away with the unofficial title as the best of the OU teams of the first two decades of the new millenium.

Related Story. Baker Mayfield leads two underdog teams in OU 2000s Playoff semifinals. light

That would have to come against the No. 2 seed, the 2008 Oklahoma Sooner team quarterbacked by Sam Bradford.

The road to the championship final for the 2015 Sooners included wins over the top-seeded 2000 OU national championship team and a semifinal victory over Jason White’s 2004 Oklahoma team. Meanwhile, Bradford led the 2008 Sooners to a first-round win over Jalen Hurts and the 2019 Oklahoma team, and followed that up with 58-26 win over Mayfield’s 2017 Sooners.

Could the Cinderella 2015 team, the lowest seed among the eight Sooner 2000s Playoff teams, complete its miracle run to the championnship by knocking off arguably the second-best team in the Bob Stoops era, or would Bradford’s high-scoring 2008 Sooners prove to tough an obstacle to overcome?

Samaje Perine’s 36-yard touchdown run brought the 2015 Sooners within a point, 10-9, at the end of the first quarter. Mayfield and Company tacked on another 17 points in the second quarter and took a 26-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.

A touchdown run by DeMarco Murray early in the third quarter cut seven points off the lead and made it 26-24, but a four-yard touchdown run by Mayfield at the 4:38 mark in the third quarter extended the lead back out to 33-24. And that’s the way the quarter ended.

That set up a dramatic race to the finish over the final 15 minutes.

A 90-yard kickoff return by Juaquin Iglesias to begin the fourth quarter again cut the 2015 team’s advantage to two, at 33-31. With 7:27 to go, Murray broke off a 41-yard TD run to give the 2008 team its first lead since the first quarter, 38-33. The momentum had definitely shifted in the 2008 team’s favor, but it would prove to be short-lived.

With 4:03 remaining in the game, Mark Andrews caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to regain the lead for the 2015 team, if only by a point, 39-38. The extra-point try by Austin Seibert failed, so the lead remained at one.

Forty-five seconds later, Chris Brown broke through the line, shook off a couple of tackles and outraced the secondary for a 73-yard touchdown run, creating another lead change. A two-point try failed, but the 2008 team had jumped back out in front, 44-39.

On its next possession, Mayfield led the 2015 team on an 81-yard touchdown drive, converting four third-down opportunities. With just 0.08 seconds remaining in the game, Joe Mixon scored from four yards out to put the 2015 team back in front 45-44. A two-point attempt to try to expand the lead to three points failed, leaving the door open for Bradford and the 2008 team, but with only eight ticks left on the clock in which to pull off a miracle.

The ensuing kickoff by Seibert uncharacteristically and inopportunely went out of bounds at the 10-yard line. The subsequent penalty placed the ball at the 35-yard line. An 18-yard sideline pass to Ryan Broyles moved the ball to the 47-yard line of the 2015 team, but with just 0.02 seconds left on the game clock.

So it all came down to one play. Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming: one all-or-nothing Hail Mary attempt by Bradford.

The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner took the snap in a shotgun formation, dropped back a couple of steps, then moved to his right to avoid the up-the-middle rush and let it fly on a high-arching line toward the back of the end zone. Awaiting anxiously at the other end were a cluster of potential receivers and defenders, each battling to make the critical play to save the game and decide who wins or losses.

The ball was deflected off one defender and, for a split second that seemed like minutes as the outcome of the game hung dramatically in the balance, was still up for grabs when the outstretched arm of Manuel Johnson of the 2008 Sooners was able to get enough of his hand on the ball to direct it downward, enabling him to secure it with one, then both arms to cap off the miracle victory.

Bradford’s 24th pass, 15th reception and third touchdown throw of the game was the deciding factor. Johnson ended up with 107 receiving yards, with 47 of that total coming on the game’s final play.

Mayfield was not as sharp with his passes in this game, but he still was able to complete 26 of 33 for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Perine averaged 6.7 yards per carry and gained 208 yards rushing, including two touchdowns, and was named Player of the Game.

Joe Mixon also ran for a pair of touchdowns for the 2015 Sooners. Sterling Shepard caught eight of Mayfield’s passes to lead the 2015 receivers with 82 yards.

DeMarco Murray had 91 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the 2008 Sooners, and Chris Brown contributed another 92 yards on the ground.

So there you have it, Sam Bradford and the 2008 Sooners have laid claim to the crown as best team of the first two decades of the new century — at least in our fantasy simulation.

The reality is all of the Oklahoma teams involved in this what-if, make-believe playoff were great teams in their own right. And as they say, “On any given day…”