DECATUR, Texas – Cooper Davis sat down atop Jared Allen’s Air Time with all of the confidence in the world late Saturday night at the Wise County Fairgrounds, but Davis quickly learned that he needs a lot more than just confidence to solve this year’s 2016 World Champion Bull contender.
Davis failed to convert aboard Air Time for a $50,000 payday after Air Time made him his latest lightning strike victim by flinging Davis off his back in 2.58 seconds during the Young Guns Challenge at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event.
“To be honest with you, that first jump he bucked, but it wasn’t as powerful as I thought,” Davis said. “I was a little bit behind and then a lot behind. If I could have gotten my elbow down and back around there he would have been alright. You just can’t be late on bulls like that because they will make you pay for it.”
Davis is the seventh consecutive rider Air Time has bucked off in less than 4 seconds. Air Time was marked 45.5 points, which gives him six consecutive outs with a bull score of 45 points or higher at all levels of PBR competition.
“He is what you expect to get on,” Davis added. “He had that big roll. I knew if I could get past that we would be alright, but he beat me fair and square.”
Stock contractor Matt Scharping told Davis after the attempt that this weekend was a good learning experience for the second-year rider.
Scharping expects Davis to one day join 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes as riders that have conquered his buckoff savvy bovine athlete. Nunes is still the only rider in 28 outs, including non BFTS-events, to have made 8-seconds on Air Time.
“He bucked,” Scharping said. “He was good with everything, not knowing what the ground was going to be like, and those variables. Everybody did a good job making sure the arena was good. Coop did a good job too. I just told him this is a good experience for you. I said, ‘You are going to ride him. You have to just get a little bit of experience on him and see what it is like just sliding up in the chute on him. He is just a little bit different. He is just a little more high-strung.’”
Davis earned the $50,000 showdown against Air Time thanks to his sensational 88-point ride on Who Dey in the bonus round. The 2015 World Finals event winner was not deceived by Who Dey’s speed, agility and change of direction and was able to hang on to the bitter end despite getting his bull rope being ripped loose in the waning moments.
Davis earned $10,000 for the winning ride on Who Dey.
“He was really good and kind of wanted me in there a little bit today and the ground was a little bit boggy,” Davis said. “He went back left and started to work me by the time the whistle blew. He was everything I was hoping for. I knew coming into it I didn’t pick the hardest bull to stay on or the bull I could be the most points on, but statistically it was a bull I could be 88-91 points.”
Scharping added, “Making that ride on Who Dey was a great bull ride. That is Cooper. Just like I expect a lot out of my bull. You look at Coop, that kid is so talented. I know he expects a lot out of himself. I was tickled to have him on Air Time and he is going to ride him eventually.”
Davis’ pick of Who Dey was a smart one as the other four young guns all got roughed up by their bovine selections in the bonus round.
Jess Lockwood (6.57 seconds on SweetPro’s Bruiser), Kurt Shephard (5.42 seconds on Time Bomb), Derek Kolbaba (4.75 seconds on SweetPro’s Long John) and Jorge Valdiviezo (no buckoff time against Hy Test) all failed to make the 8 second-mark.
Stock contractor Kenny McElroy, who owns both Who Dey and Time Bomb, was extremely pleased with his bulls outs.
McElroy was hoping to see Davis cap the night with a historic ride aboard Air Time.
“I was hoping Cooper could have gotten Air Time rode tonight,” McElroy said. “The kid works his butt off. He is a good, young kid and he can get on any of my bulls. He is going to be showy and flashy. That was a good ride on Who Dey. He got loose. The bull bucked and you can’t ask for anything more. It worked out for both.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said Davis was simply “amazing” on Saturday night.
Davis has quickly risen up Lambert’s list of World Champion contenders this season and Lambert made a bold prediction about Davis following the event.
“Who Dey really tried to throw him off and then he tried to leave him and Cooper just wasn’t giving up,” Lambert said. “That is why I think he will be the World Champion this year. He has to go through J.B. Mauney to do it, but I think he will do it.
“I have been having this discussion a lot with my inner circle, my family and Justin McBride and a few other guys. I have been telling them I think he is going to win it and I am going to come out and say it.”
Davis is currently eighth in the world standings and was bucked off by Acting Crazy in the BlueDEF Tour event earlier in the evening.
The 22-year-old admitted he was gassed after getting on two bulls prior to Air Time and hopes next time he attempts Air Time he has a little more energy.
“I am still trying to catch my breath right now, but I guess I probably shouldn’t have entered the bull riding (earlier),” Davis said. “You can’t get points if you don’t enter it though. Air Time definitely bucked and I will just have to go at him with a different game plan next time.”
Davis plans on competing in the next BlueDEF Tour event on June 17-18 in Bismarck, North Dakota, and at some additional Touring Pro Division events before the Built Ford Tough Series resumes on Aug. 19-20 in Nashville.
The Jasper, Texas, bull rider is only 767.83 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco, and Davis hopes to crack the Top 5 of the standings before the end of the summer break.
“Yeah that would dang sure help kick off the second half of the season,” Davis said. “It is still pretty wide open for the Top 10 or Top 15. You don’t want to go so hard that you are tired when it starts back off, but you don’t want to take so much time off that you kind of forget what you are doing.
“Take it easy, but at the same time don’t take off. Don’t get rusty.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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