Getty Images

Hollywood heads to NFL as Oklahoma loses top receiver

3 Comments

For the second time in as many days, Oklahoma has lost a starter on the offensive side of the ball.

New Year’s Day, starting right tackle Cody Ford utilized Twitter to announce he was foregoing his final season with the Sooners and making himself available for the NFL draft a couple of months down the road.  A day later, teammate and leading receiver Marquise Brown used the same social media site to make the same announcement.

Brown topped a 1,000 yards receiving each of the past two seasons, totaling 1,318 in 2018 and 1,095 in 2017.  He’ll finish his collegiate career with 132 receptions and 17 receiving touchdowns.

None of those stats came in the College Football Playoff loss to Alabama as a foot injury suffered in the Big 12 championship game limited him significantly against the Crimson Tide.

Alabama rolling over Oklahoma in Orange Bowl

Getty Images
22 Comments

Alabama’s offense has played to its potential, as expected. But it was the Crimson Tide defense, angry after a month of hype for their counterparts, that dominated the first half of Saturday night’s Orange Bowl, allowing No. 1 Alabama to jump out to a 28-0 edge en route to a commanding 31-10 halftime lead over No. 4 Oklahoma.

Oklahoma won the toss and chose to put its defense on the field first, and Alabama immediately punished them for it when Tua Tagovailoa hit Devonta Smith — the same connection that won last season’s national championship — for a 50-yard gain. Damien Harris converted a 3rd-and-5 with a 15-yard reception, putting the ball at the OU 5-yard line. He then appeared to fumble the ball away at the 1, but the play was overturned upon review and he barreled in for a touchdown on the next snap. It marked the 41st time in 48 tries an Oklahoma opponent found pay dirt on a red zone penetration, the worst ratio in the country.

Trailing 7-0, Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense took the field for the first time — and went three-and-out. After a 3-yard keeper on first down, Murray was sacked by Anfernee Jennings on second down and engulfed by Christian Miller on third.

After Austin Seibert‘s punt — a short one, just 35 yards — Alabama knifed 45 yards in seven plays, with Tua completions of nine, 13 and 11 yards, setting up a 10-yard scoring lob to Henry Ruggs III on third-and-goal and putting Oklahoma in the danger zone at 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

Oklahoma managed to achieve a first down on its second possession, but a 5-yard loss by Trey Sermon and two incompletions to Marquise Brown forced another Seibert punt. Tua hit Jerry Jeudy for a 40-yard bomb two plays later and all of a sudden the Tide were in the OU red zone again. After two Jalen Hurts touches put the ball at the 1, Harris powered in for his second score, putting Alabama up 21-0 at the 1:33 mark of the first quarter.

To that point, Alabama wasn’t just shutting Oklahoma out on the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide led in total yardage 191-0.

Oklahoma pushed into positive yardage on its third possession but, sensing any shot at a comeback hung in the balance — with 10 seconds to play in the first quarter, mind you — Lincoln Riley decided to go for a 4th-and-4 from his own 48. Murray’s pass was incomplete.

Taking over in Sooners territory, Alabama needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-0. On a 3rd-and-6 from the OU 27, Tagovailoa hit a wide-open Josh Jacobs on a swing route, who ran untouched until he demolished Sooners safety Robert Barnes at the goal line, who had to be helped off the field.

Down four touchdowns, Oklahoma’s offense finally got off the mat. Keyed by a 39-yard catch-and-run completion to fullback Carson Meier, Murray pushed the ball to the Alabama 2 with a 32-yard strike to CeeDee Lamb, allowing Sermon to put the Sooners on the board at the 11:48 mark of the second quarter.

Sparked by that score, Oklahoma’s defense forced its first stop — a three-and-out, no less — allowing the Sooners to take over at midfield, but Murray threw incomplete for Grant Calcaterra in the end zone on a 3rd-and-5 from the 8, forcing a 26-yard Seibert field goal and pulling OU within 28-10 at the exact midpoint of the second quarter.

Alabama leaned on Oklahoma’s forgiving run defense on the ensuing drive, consuming 7:01 of the remaining 7:30, but a false start prevented Nick Saban from going for a 4th-and-1 from the OU 15, forcing a 38-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal.

In a pair of stats that tell the story, Murray was 6-of-13 for 122 yards, while his Heisman runner-up counterpart was 15-of-17 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Murray led all runners with 46 yards on nine carries, barely edging out Jacobs’ nine carries for 45 yards, though Jacobs also caught three passes for 47 yards and a thundering touchdown.

Oklahoma will receive to open the second half.

CFT Previews: College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl

Getty Images
12 Comments

WHO: No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (13-0)
WHAT: The 85th Capital One Orange Bowl (and the second College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl)
WHEN: 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Fla.
THE SKINNY: Tempting as it may be to center the game around Tua Tagovailoa‘s right knee, that is not the most important lower body injury heading into this game. That would belong to Oklahoma wideout Marquise Brown, who injured his foot/ankle in the Sooners’ Big 12 Championship win and did not return. While OU would still boast a good-to-great offense without its All-American wide receiver (75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns) at full strength, Brown’s speed provides a third dimension that pushes the Sooners’ attack from great to world class.

And make no mistake, Oklahoma’s offense will need to be at world class level to beat Alabama.

Remember, Oklahoma racked up 289 passing yards, 242 rushing yards and 41 points (seven came from the defense) in last year’s Rose Bowl, and it still wasn’t enough to hold off Georgia. Even if Tagovailoa doesn’t play (and it appears that he will) or isn’t at full strength (to be determined), Alabama will still likely move the ball on OU’s defense. While the Sooners have proven an ability to make the plays when they need them — recall the two touchdowns to beat West Virginia and the same-changing safety against Texas — they won’t match up well with Alabama’s offense even if Jalen Hurts is taking the snaps.

So the question becomes what do Lincoln Riley and Kyler Murray have up their sleeves for Nick Saban and his defense? The Heisman Trophy winner will be a challenge unlike the Tide have ever faced — a Johnny Manziel-like running ability, but quicker, and with a stronger, more accurate arm. Murray averaged 311 passing yards and 68 more on the ground. Those numbers may need to be closer to 350 and 100 — and it still may not be enough.

THE PICK: Alabama 45, Oklahoma 35

Kyler Murray leads AP All-American team; Tagovailoa named to second team

3 Comments

Associated Press Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was named First-Team All-American by the AP on Monday. Murray was one of 10 players from a College Football Playoff team named an All-American player by the AP, including Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, and Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love.

Alabama led all teams with six players named to either the first, second or third team All-American rosters by the AP, four of which being named to the first team to also lead all schools. Clemson and Oklahoma each landed four All-Americans and Oklahoma had two players named to an All-American team by the AP.

Below is the full list of first, second and third All-American teams released by the AP for the 2018 season:

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Kyler Murray, junior, Oklahoma

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, sophomore, Wisconsin; Darrell Henderson, junior, Memphis

Tackles — Jonah Williams, junior, Alabama; Mitch Hyatt, senior, Clemson

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, senior, Wisconsin; Bunchy Stallings, senior, Kentucky

Center — Garrett Bradbury, senior, North Carolina State

Tight end — Jace Sternberger, junior, Texas A&M

Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, sophomore, Alabama; Marquise Brown, junior, Oklahoma

All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, freshman, Purdue

Kicker — Andre Szmyt, freshman, Syracuse

DEFENSE

Ends — Clelin Ferrell, junior, Clemson; Sutton Smith, junior, Northern Illinois

Tackles — Quinnen Williams, junior, Alabama; Christian Wilkins, senior, Clemson

Linebackers — Josh Allen, senior, Kentucky; Devin White, junior, LSU; Ben Burr-Kirven, senior, Washington

Cornerbacks — Deandre Baker, senior, Georgia; Julian Love, junior, Notre Dame

Safeties — Grant Delpit, sophomore, LSU; Deionte Thompson, junior, Alabama

Punter — Braden Mann, junior, Texas A&M

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa, sophomore, Alabama

Running backs — Travis Etienne, sophomore, Clemson; Trayveon Williams, junior, Texas A&M

Tackles — Dalton Risner, senior, Kansas State; Andrew Thomas, sophomore, Georgia

Guards — Dru Samia, senior, Oklahoma; Michael Dieter, senior, Wisconsin

Center — Ross Pierschbacher, senior, Alabama

Tight end — T.J, Hockenson, sophomore, Iowa

Wide receivers — Tylan Wallace, sophomore, Oklahoma State; Andy Isabella, senior, Massachusetts

All-purpose player — Greg Dortch, sophomore, Wake Forest

Kicker — Cole Tracy, senior, LSU

DEFENSE

Ends — Montez Sweat, senior, Mississippi State; Jachai Polite, junior, Florida

Tackles — Jerry Tillery, senior, Notre Dame; Gerald Willis III, senior, Miami

Linebackers — Devin Bush, junior, Michigan; David Long Jr., junior, West Virginia; Joe Dineen, senior, Kansas

Cornerbacks — Greedy Williams, sophomore, LSU; Byron Murphy, sophomore, Washington

Safeties — Taylor Rapp, junior, Washington; Amani Hooker, junior, Iowa

Punter — Mitch Wishnowsky, senior, Utah

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks — Dwayne Haskins, sophomore, Ohio State

Running backs — Benny Snell, junior, Kentucky; Eno Benjamin, sophomore, Arizona State

Tackles — Andre Dillard, senior, Washington State; Cody Ford, junior, Oklahoma

Guards — Terrone Prescod, senior, North Carolina State; Chris Lindstrom, senior, Boston College

Center — Michael Jordan, junior, Ohio State

Tight end — Noah Fant, junior, Iowa

Wide Receivers — A.J. Brown, junior, Mississippi; David Sills V, senior, West Virginia

All-purpose player — J.J. Taylor, sophomore, Arizona

Kicker — Matt Gay, senior, Utah

DEFENSE

Ends — Chase Winovich, senior, Michigan; Jaylon Ferguson, senior, Louisiana Tech

Tackles — Jeffery Simmons, junior, Mississippi State; Ed Oliver, junior, Houston

Linebackers — Paddy Fisher, sophomore, Northwestern; David Woodward, sophomore, Utah State; Te’Von Coney, senior, Notre Dame

Cornerbacks — Hamp Cheevers, junior, Boston College; Lavert Hill, junior, Michigan

Safeties — Andre Cisco, freshman, Syracuse; Jonathan Abram, senior, Mississippi State

Punter — Jason Smith, sophomore, Cincinnati

Red River Revenge: No. 5 OU moves to CFP doorstep with Big 12 title win over No. 14 Texas

Associated Press
20 Comments

In their 59-56 win over West Virginia last week, the Oklahoma defense gave up yards in chunks (700 of them, in fact), but made plays when they needed to be made, registering two defensive touchdowns to put the Sooners in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship.

Again on Saturday, Oklahoma got a defensive score when they needed one. This one wasn’t a touchdown but did the trick just the same, as Tre Brown sacked Sam Ehlinger in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, turning what could have been a 34-30 Texas lead into a 32-27 OU lead and putting Kyler Murray and company back on the field.

Given a chance to salt the game, the Big 12 championship, a College Football Playoff berth and perhaps the Heisman Trophy away, Murray came through with a touchdown pass at the 2-minute mark to hand the Sooners a 39-27 win.

Murray once again dazzled, completing 25-of-34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 39 rushing yards, making up for the 2-turnover performance that allowed Texas to earn a 48-45 win in October.

With the SEC and Big Ten championship games looming, Oklahoma (12-1) can now argue it has beaten every team it’s played on their march to their fourth straight Big 12 title and perhaps their third Playoff trip over that span.

But before Oklahoma could make its Playoff argument, the Sooners first had to emerge with another hard-fought win.

Texas opened the game by rolling 75 yards in nine plays — going 3-of-3 on third down for 64 yards, including Ehlinger’s 16-yard touchdown run. The Longhorns appeared to have OU stopped on its first possession when Caden Sterns snared a deflected interception in the end zone, but the play was erased by Kris Boyd‘s facemask penalty on Marquise Brown, his second such foul of the drive. Still, Texas kept Oklahoma out of the end zone when Gary Johnson stuffed Trey Sermon on a 3rd-and-goal run from the 1 for a loss of two yards.

After forcing a Longhorns punt, Oklahoma again marched — methodically, needing 13 plays over more than five minutes — into the Texas red zone but the defense again held when Boyd knocked the ball away from Brown’s grasp in the end zone on third down, forcing Austin Seibert‘s second short field goal.

Given a second chance to punish an OU field goal, this time Texas capitalized. Keyed by a 23-yard completion to Collin Johnson on 4th-and-4, the ‘Horns again moved 75 yards in nine snaps, and again scored on an Ehlinger keeper, giving Texas a 14-6 lead at the 11:22 mark of the second quarter.

On its third possession of the game, Oklahoma was again held out of the end zone. Murray appeared to hit Brown for a 45-yard gain over the middle on 2nd-and-9, but review showed Texas cornerback Davante Davis jostled the ball loose before Brown could secure the catch. On third down, Davis nailed Brown on a screen pass short of the line to gain, forcing an Oklahoma punt, but the OU defense answered by forcing its second punt.

Thanks to two penalties, Oklahoma had its worst field position of the day, beginning its next drive at its own 13, but for the first time the Sooners’ offense looked like the typical OU offense, knifing the required 87 yards in six plays, two of them to CeeDee Lamb — a 46-yard gain on the first play of the drive, then a 28-yard score to pull OU within 14-13 with 5:01 left before halftime. Another key play on the drive was a missed false start on right tackle Cody Ford on a 4th-and-1 from the Texas 32, which ended in a 4-yard Sermon rush.

After another Texas punt, Oklahoma rolled 80 yards in five plays and just 41 seconds, taking its first lead on a 6-yard toss from Murray to Grant Calcaterra with 18 seconds left in the first half.

Oklahoma received the ball to open the second half and picked up where it left off, moving 75 yards in eight plays to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 27-14 lead. Needing a score to stay in the game, Texas leaned on Collin Johnson, who caught passes for 25, 21 and, finally a 27-yard touchdown to end the OU run. Johnson set a Big 12 Championship record with 177 receiving yards on eight catches.

The Texas defense, which seemed lifeless in allowing three straight touchdown drives covering 242 yards in 19 plays, rallied by sacking Murray, stuffing Sermon behind the line and then forcing a Murray throw away to avoid another sack, giving the Longhorns’ offense the ball back with a chance to re-take the lead. Over an 11-play, 64-yard drive, Texas got the touchdown it needed, a 3rd-and-goal 5-yard strike to Lil'Jordan Humphrey, but the Longhorns did not take the lead because Cameron Dicker‘s PAT was blocked, leaving the score tied at 27-27 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.

Oklahoma moved into the Texas red zone to open the fourth quarter, but again the Longhorns stiffened, forcing a 31-yard Seibert field goal that bounced off the left up right and in.

On the ensuing drive, Texas converted a 3rd-and-10 when Parnell Motley interfered with Johnson but, on a 3rd-and-9, the Sooners got a stop when Tre Norwood got away with a clear pass interference on Humphrey.

Looking for a touchdown to put the game away, Oklahoma appeared in position to have it when Lamb broke free of Davis down the sideline, but Gary Johnson raced down the field to force the ball free from behind, and Jones hopped on the loose ball at the Texas 13.

Now needing to make a play of its own, the Oklahoma defense got one when Norwood screamed in touched to nail Ehlinger for a safety, stretching the OU lead to 32-27 and putting the Sooner offense back on the field with 8:27 remaining.

Given a chance to clinch the game, the best offense in college football came through with a perfect drive. On two separate third downs, Murray found high school teammate Lee Morris — playing on the same field the pair won three high school state championships — then hit Calcaterra on a 3rd-and-10 for an 18-yard touchdown drive, capping a 11-play, 65-yard drive that put the Sooners up 39-27 with exactly two minutes remaining.

Humphrey returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the play was called back for a penalty; it was the ‘Horns 13th flag, totaling 128 yards. Ehlinger moved Texas to the red zone, but the last-gasp drive ended when Norwood picked him off at the OU 5. Battling a bum shoulder, the sophomore completed 23-of-36 passes for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing a team-high 15 times for 42 yards and two scores.