Badet makes most of second chance
TNORMAN — he game was over, the Ohio State Buckeyes were conquered and Jeff Badet went looking for someone to hug.
Not anyone to hug. Someone in particular to hug. He found coaches Cale Gundy, Dennis Simmons and Lincoln Riley.
“I just told ‘em thank you for giving me the opportunity to come here, for calling my phone and telling me they want me to be an Oklahoma Sooner,” Badet said.
Badet’s thanks go deeper than that summer invitation. It goes to Saturday night itself in Ohio Stadium, where Badet made huge plays down the stretch but could easily have been on the bench without faith from the coaches.
On the first play of the second quarter against
the Buckeyes, Badet took a lateral and acted like the ball came straight from a sticker patch. He bobbled it once, then bobbled again. Looked like he was trying to catch a cat. Ohio State fell on the fumble and drove to a field goal, its only points of the first half.
Made you wonder if the stage was too big for Badet, a transfer from Kentucky, where football is a diversion until basketball season starts. Couldn’t be the crowd — Badet has played in front of packed coliseums
at Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Had to be the stakes.
And considering the Sooners benched tailback Abdul Adams after a first-quarter fumble against Ohio State, it certainly seemed possible that Badet might encounter the same fate.
But no. The Sooners stuck with Badet, and such decisions often make or break a game. On the next possession, Badet took another swing pass and danced to a 29-yard gain. In the third quarter, Badet speared a pass for a 16-yard gain to help OU get out of the shadow of its goal line.
Then in the fourth quarter,
Badet came up really big. He took a short pass and turned it into a 12-yard gain, igniting a touchdown drive that gave the Sooners a 24-13 lead. Then Badet made a circus catch, falling on his back to grab a 22-yard reception from Baker Mayfield that set up yet another touchdown, and the rout was on.
“Just want to thank the coaches for believing in me after the mistake I did,” Badet said.
That’s what the Sooners hoped for when Badet arrived in June, a graduate transfer from Kentucky seeking a bigger stage. Just like at Ohio State, Badet’s start as a Sooner was slow.
Not until August camp was past the midway mark did Badet begin to show the big-play ability he displayed at Kentucky, where Badet last season led the SEC in yards per catch.
“It was kind of hard to adjust, just being in a different culture, from what I was at Kentucky and what OU does here,” Badet said. “Finally feel like I’m at home here. So everything’s going good now.”
Badet said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was “fine” with the transfer, but how could he be? Stoops lost perhaps his best playmaker, and even if it helped his brother’s program, that’s no consolation.
Badet called it a “tough decision. But you can look at it as like getting a second chance.” Unlike coming out of high school in Orlando, Fla., Badet said, “You kind of know how college is. Not like a young guy. I wanted to go somewhere that already was established. Had a tradition of winning. That’s why I’m here.”
And Badet quickly found himself on a stage unlike he found at Kentucky. Sure, he’s accustomed to big venues. But Kentucky football hasn’t been around big stakes like this in 60 years.
Riley and staff saw past the early bobble.
“Badet’s been there,”
Riley said, referring to those games in SEC cathedrals. “We don’t have as much depth there, especially with guys going down. And he was making plays.”
Badet, given another chance, made many more plays, and soon enough the Sooners had beaten the Buckeyes. And in a sea of celebration, Badet had extra reasons to give a hug.