By: Justin Felisko
August 23, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – It isn’t often that the word “sticky” best captures the essence of 2015 World Finals event winner Cooper Davis, but that was certainly the case Saturday night in Nashville.
Davis left the bucking chute aboard Red Moon during his third-round matchup against Paulo Lima and remained stuck on the bovine athlete, despite Red Moon’s best attempt to throw him over the frontend.
Red Moon spun aggressively away from Davis’ hand before lowering his center of gravity and steamrolling around the corner. Once he realized he was unable to dislodge Davis over the top, Red Moon rocketed forward and hopped and skipped down the front of the bucking chutes with Davis hanging on just long enough.
The duo scored only 83.25 points, but if not for his handiness aboard Red Moon, it is very much likely that Davis would not have been able to go on to win the Frontier Communications Music City Knockout, presented by Cooper Tires, and move up to a career-best third in the world standings.
“I remember as soon as the gate opened, I felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be,” Davis said on Tuesday morning while driving to the bank to figure out the best way to invest his $83,000 winnings. “I kept saying, ‘Well, I need to kick loose and get around this corner and make another jump. Then just track him.’ It wasn’t long before I was going over his head and looking up and the clock said eight.
“It was definitely not the prettiest ride I have ever made, but definitely the toughest.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said after the event he wasn’t a fan of the Music City Knockout format, but credited Davis for making the most of his opportunities.
“Cooper Davis is tough,” Lambert said. “He is going to be right in the mix for a World Championship this year. His total effort on Red Moon was impressive. Cooper was pretty impressive.”
It was one of three qualified rides posted by Davis, who has now tied a career-high with 24 qualified rides this season.
Davis – the No. 8 seed in the 36-rider tournament – began his weekend with an 82.5-point ride on Bad Finger to eliminate No. 32 Kurt Shephard. Davis then rode Red Moon to eliminate No. 5 Lima in Round 3 before setting himself up for a showdown against two-time World Champion and No. 2-seed J.B. Mauney.
The Music City Knockout became a battle of mental fortitude for Davis as he had to shake off a series of unexpected circumstances in two of the final three rounds.
First, Davis was able to bounce back when he was awarded a re-ride afterBig Sky fell over just past the 7-second mark. It may have been a blessing in disguise for Davis because he needed to defeat Mauney’s 87.5-point ride and his Big Sky ride was likely not going to be enough. Instead, Davis came through with an 87.75-point ride on Fast Talker.
“When things are going that fast, and they are like, ‘Hey you are next,’ you don’t have time to sit there and think about what you need to do,” Davis said. “When I had seen what bull I had, I knew it probably wasn’t going to be enough bull to beat J.B. head up. So I knew I needed to put a few spur licks on him and get a few cowboy points. All of that runs through your head real fast and you really don’t have time to process. You just have to go do it.”
Davis and Mauney’s bulls were each scored 42.5 points, but Davis earned a higher rider score to earn the edge.
Things only got more hectic for Davis when he thought he was eliminated from the tournament when he bucked off Who Dey in 3.19 seconds in the semifinals. However, Fabiano Vieira had dislocated his left shoulder and was unable to attempt Pearl Harbor in the championship round.
Therefore, Davis had to quickly erase his frustration and recompose himself to take on a bull that had previously dominated him in 1.75 seconds and 3.98 seconds this year.
Davis was unable to ride Pearl Harbor, but his 4.21 seconds was enough to propel him to his first regular-season event win when world leader Kaique Pacheco was bucked off by Jared Allen’s Air Time in 2.54 seconds.
It was a huge victory for Davis and the win carried with it major world standings implications.
Instead of Pacheco only gaining 500 world points, he would have picked up 905 points and opened up a 565.33-point lead on No. 2 Mauney. Even more so, instead of Davis being just 390.33 points behind Pacheco, he would have trailed Pacheco by 1,200.33 points.
“We only have so many events left,” Davis said. “If I want to keep that World Championship race close, then this was the one to step up and do it. The race wouldn’t be near as close right now than it is if it would have went the other way. It dang sure makes it fun for everybody to watch.”
Davis will need to improve his performance (1-for-9) aboard bulls scored 45-points or higher heading into the final nine events of the BFTS regular season, including this weekend’s Express Employment Professionals Classic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Davis is also currently tied with Shane Proctor and Wallace De Oliveira for the lowest amount of qualified rides in the championship round (1-for-13) among Top-10 riders.
However, Davis did convert two 92.5-point rides this summer on Beaver Creek Beau and Set ‘em Up Joe.
“I think it is just a growing period,” Davis said. “Just like it is from getting to the Built Ford Tough Series. Then there is that little extra you have in the short round. This summer I made a big step toward figuring that out.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who will be the lead CBS Sports commentator for this Sunday’s 1 p.m. CBS 15/15 Bucking Battle broadcast, said prior to Nashville he believed Davis could make a run at the world title. He also had selected Davis to win the Music City Knockout.
“I think Cooper and Jess (Lockwood) will finish ahead of those guys that are hanging on off an early win,” McBride said. “I think they ride really good and will make up a lot of ground. Cooper and Jess are going to end up challenging the top guys for it.”
It has now almost been one year since Davis began a diet to lose 24 pounds before the World Finals after Lambert and J.W. Hart called him overweight.
“A year ago, I wouldn’t have put myself in the shoes to win a world title,” Davis concluded. “Now I got in the right shape and I have to give a lot of credit to that. I would have just been a bubble guy forever if Lambert didn’t say something.
“I have to take it all in at times and stay calm, but it is time to hit the gas pedal and go get that gold buckle.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.