Oklahoma scores 35 points off five Alabama turnovers in Sugar Bowl win

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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.

Alabama confirms handful of staff changes, including addition of Miami’s DL coach

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An offseason of upheaval on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has apparently come to an official end.

Early Thursday afternoon, the Crimson Tide announced the additions of two new assistant coaches as well as the promotions/new responsibilities for others on the staff last season.  As previously reported HERE and HERE, the new hires are Dan Enos as quarterbacks coach and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach.  Both coaches, who come to Tuscaloosa from Michigan and Miami, respectively, will also carry the titles of associate head coach.

“We are pleased and happy to have Dan Enos joining our coaching staff at The University of Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “He brings a wealth of knowledge with five years of head coaching experience and numerous stops as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Dan is a bright football mind and an outstanding recruiter who will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best chance to be successful.”

In addition to those hirings, Saban also confirmed that Mike Locksley (HERE) has been promoted to offensive coordinator and Tosh Lupoi (HERE) has been promoted to defensive coordinator.  Locksley replaces Brian Daboll, who left after one season in Tuscaloosa for the same job with the Buffalo Bills last month, while Lupoi takes over for Jeremy Pruitt, who left after Alabama’s win in the national championship game to take over as the head coach at Tennessee.

As had previously been announced, Jeff Banks will serve as special teams coordinator while also being in charge of the Tide’s tight ends.  Josh Gattis, who was confirmed as the new wide receivers coach late last month, will also carry the title of co-offensive coordinator, while Pete Golding, in addition to his duties as inside linebackers coach, has been given the title of co-defensive coordinator.

And, finally, Burton Burns will step away from his longtime role as running backs coach and take on an unspecified off-field position.  Replacing Burns in his on-field role is Joe Pannunzio, who had been in charge of tight ends.

NCAA grants Houston LB Austin Robinson another season of eligibility

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As it turns out, Houston will have the services of Austin Robinson a little while longer than originally expected.

The football program announced Wednesday that the NCAA has granted Robinson a sixth season of eligibility. While the school wrote in its release that the linebacker “received a legislative relief waiver” from The Association, the specific reasoning behind the waiver being granted is unclear.

With the NCAA’s decision, Robinson will now have eligibility he can use in both 2018 and 2019.

Robinson began his collegiate career at UT-San Antonio in 2014, playing in eight games as a true freshman before transferring to UH and sitting out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He then played in 11 games in 2016 and 12 this past season, starting four contests in 2017.

This past campaign, Robinson was credited with 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also had a pair of quarterback hurries on his statistical resume.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI

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An off-field situation for one playing member of the Arkansas football program that began during the 2017 regular season has taken yet another step toward winding its way to a conclusion.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while intoxicated.  While the quarterback was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 89 of those days were suspended while he was given credit for time served for the other.  Additionally, the Democrat-Gazette wrote, the 20-year-old Kelley “was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety class and pay $720 in fines and court costs.”

Kelley was arrested for DWI and reckless driving in November of last year. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game; he was subsequently reinstated after serving what amounted to a one-game suspension.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the 2017 season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with a healthy Allen returning to his starting role for the remainder of the year.

On the season, Kelley completed almost 58 percent of his 151 passes for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  The rising redshirt sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job in 2018 under new head coach Chad Morris.