For one half it looked as though we went back in time watching some of the great Oklahoma teams from the earlier part of the Bob Stoops era. In the second half Stoops found a way to keep his Sooners in front of Nick Saban‘s Alabama Crimson Tide and held off any possible rally in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma shocked the two-time defending BCS champions with a 45-31 victory, Alabama’s first loss in a postseason bowl game since the 2009 Sugar Bowl upset to Utah. Alabama lost five turnovers, which turned in to 35 points for the Sooners.
Leading 31-17 at the half, Oklahoma got off to a poor start in the second half. Alabama eventually picked up the first score of the second half with a touchdown run by Derrick Henry from 43 yards midway through the third quarter to bring Alabama to within one score. Things looked to be going Alabama’s way, but the Sooners extended their lead in the fourth quarter when Trevor Knight rolled to the right side and then threw back a little to his left to find Sterling Shepard for a touchdown. The score made it a double-digit lead, 38-24. Alabama managed to score once more with AJ McCarron tossing a short pass to Henry, who then ran right up the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown to make it a once-score game. Once Oklahoma got their hands back on the football though, Alabama’s defense could not get off the field with enough time to work with on offense. Oklahoma punted away with 1:02 to play but without any timeouts Alabama failed to drive the length of the field to tie things up.
On the first play from scrimmage, McCarron dropped back and had the ball knocked out of his hand by Eric Striker. The loose football was picked up by Okla Geneo Grissom, who then stretched his body to reach for the goal line and one last touchdown. The 15-point underdog won by 14 as a result of the seventh sac of the night by Oklahoma’s defense.
Trevor Knight ended the night with 348 yards and four touchdowns while Alabama’s McCarron ended his collegiate career with 387 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in addition to the late fumble. The Crimson Tide actually out-gained Oklahoma 516-432 but were uncharacteristically careless with ball protection with five turnovers, which as mentioned above resulted in 35 points for Oklahoma.
Next season Oklahoma will open the season knowing Trevor Knight will be the main guy running the offense. If the Sugar Bowl and the regular season finale against Oklahoma State was any indication of what to expect from the Sooners in 2014, watch out in the Big 12. Oklahoma showed signs of improving as the season went along, so if they can carry that momentum in to the spring then they could be in store for a successful season next fall. The schedule is certainly favorable with home games against Tennessee, Baylor and Kansas State. The Sooners pen the 2014 season at home against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, August 30.
As for Alabama, it is back to the drawing board. For the first time in a few years the Crimson Tide will officially open a quarterback competition for the starting job in 2014. With McCarron moving on, Alabama will have a new starting quarterback but they could also be set to lose a running back. Fortunately the position is stocked. The focus should also be on the defense that had cracks all year and started to be beyond repair in the final games of the season. Alabama is not going anywhere though as far as the national title picture is concerned. With four spots up for grabs in the new college football playoff model starting next season, the Crimson Tide will continue to be a contender as long as Nick Saban is in charge.
Alabama opens the 2014 season in Atlanta against West Virginia on Saturday, August 30.