Badet makes most of sec­ond chance

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - Berry Tramel btramel@oklahoman.com

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.

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