SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Cooper Davis seemed poised to record his 12thconsecutive buckoff on Friday night during the first round of the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational.
It appeared as if Davis was about to be flung down over Flip Out a second short of the 8-second mark, but the 20-year-old rookie was able to squeeze his bull rope an extra bit tighter and hang on for a desperately needed qualified ride after beginning the season 0-for-11.
Davis was awarded 86.5 points, which was good enough for a third-place finish in Round 1.
If you weren’t paying attention, it may have been easy to have missed Davis nod his head as he was looking for the gate by the time he tied his hand in.
“I know I have been thinking about everything too much, and I decided to come in here today and get out of the chute as fast as I could,” Davis said. “I got in there and got out and didn’t have time to think about it. I just reacted to the bull. Maybe that is what I have to keep on doing.”
The ride was the rookie’s first of the season and third of his career.
More importantly, it helped Davis – the 2013 PRCA Rookie of the Year – move three spots up in the world standings to No. 27 and give him a tad bit of a breathing room (48.75 points) ahead of Douglas Duncan and the No. 30 position.
Davis, who added that he has been struggling with a riding-hand injury, said he didn’t mind the pressure of holding one of the final few guaranteed spots in the draw, but he is aiming much higher than just being a fringe rider.
“It hasn’t been bothering me, but I would like to be in the Top 20,” he said. “You would like to be up there toward the top. It is bull riding. Anybody that hasn’t been through a slump hasn’t been doing it long enough. Everybody is going to go through it and you just have to be tougher.”
Round 1 winner and four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris has known Davis for many years and says he thinks part of the problem Davis has been struggling with is something he taught Davis to do more of at a bull riding school he coached at in Mesquite, Texas, a few years ago.
“That kid can ride freaking really good,” Harris said. “I think his biggest problem here lately is he just hasn’t been spurring him. That kid rides so good when he spurs.”
Harris remembers how he and Clayton Foltyn were trying to teach Cooper that if he is going to spur, “spur him hard and mean it.”
“He rides too good to go this long without a ride and I was glad he finally got it,” Harris added. “I think he was kind of letting it get to him a touch, getting bucked off a few. It is all uphill for him now. You will start seeing the real Cooper Davis and it will be fun watching him.”
Davis has proven he can compete with some of the top riders in the PBR –he won the 2014 Touring Pro Division Finals – and used a combined 12-for-20 performance (60 percent) on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and in the Touring Pro Division to earn 227.5 of his 277.5 points in the world standings.
Travel mate and fellow rookie Bryan Titman agreed with Harris that there is no doubt Davis is better than he has shown.
Titman chatted with Davis last week in the Fresno Yosemite International Airport following the Fresno Invitational about his buddy’s struggles and helped convince him to take a couple days off. Titman thought it would be better for Davis to relax and not worry about getting on practice bulls before Sioux Falls.
“When he is thinking about it, he is making it bigger than what it is,” Titman said. “Now that he has a little confidence, his motor is pushing him. I am proud of him. He has been fighting his head a lot and I hope he wins this deal.”
Davis added, “(The buckoff streak) is in the back of your mind, but you just need to take it one bull at a time. When you have that in your mind and you think about it so much, you put so much pressure on yourself to do good. You don’t need to do that. You need to go in there and ride the bull you got and have fun doing it.”
There was no doubt that Davis was pumped to get that first ride of the season out of the way. After he jumped off Flip Out, he looked up at the scoreboard and clapped his hands together.
He has drawn Live Action (2-3, BFTS) for Round 2 on Saturday night.
Davis doesn’t want to have to head back to the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and fight his way back to the BFTS if he doesn’t have to.
“Anytime you can get some round points and help you stay on tour, it is a good night,” Davis said. “If your performance slacks you are going to have to go back down to the BlueDEF and all of that stuff and work your way up.
“I don’t want to do that. I want to be here.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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