"Just when I thought our chance had passed, you went and saved the best for last." - Vanessa Williams
I couldn't think of any words more fitting to the manner in which the Oklahoma Sooners concluded their 2013 season, than those in the chorus to Vanessa Williams' 1992 hit single, "Save The Best For Last". If there was a more perfect way to describe it, then I must admit that I fall short.
If you compared the resumes of both Oklahoma and Alabama over the previous four seasons (five, if you count the 2013 regular season), and in the lead up to this game, you'd understand why the Crimson Tide were favored to win by 17 points. These two programs were worlds apart.
Come kickoff, and as the game progressed, it was clear that there was one team running the show; It was NOT Alabama.
The Sooners finally settled on Trevor Knight at QB, and he responded by having what was clearly his best game, AND the best game of any Sooner QB in a while. If there was any time for him for him to have his coming out party, why not in the place called "The Big Easy?" Knight ran the offense to perfection, passing for 4 touchdowns, en route to Offensive MVP honors
The running game has been a staple of Oklahoma's offense this season, but Alabama held the Sooners to 81 yards on 30 rush attempts. While the numbers may not be exactly eye-catching, the Sooners ran it well enough to be able to open up passing lanes.
Defensively, Oklahoma did a lot of things right. They gave up over 500 yards, but managed to force 4 turnovers (2 interceptions, 2 recovered fumbles), each of which resulted in a touchdown going the other way. Other than a 67-yard touchdown reception by DeAndrew White, the Sooners didn't give up any big plays down field. The defensive line managed to put enough pressure on QB, AJ McCarron, sacking him 7 times; quite a feat when you consider that Alabama doesn't give up that many sacks.
24 of Alabama's 31 points came on big plays that resulted from poor tackling. Most of the times, there were players in position to make the plays, while other times, they were so out of position, and couldn't recover fast enough to make the stops.
On Alabama's second play, receiver Amari Cooper turned a short pass into a 53-yard gain, capped off by TJ Yeldon's rushing touchdown. DeAndrew White also turned a short pass into a 63-yard gain, before Oklahoma DB Aaron Colvin was able to make a stop. That drive ended in a Cade Foster FG for Bama. Freshman RB Derrick Henry broke off a 43-yard TD run, and 61-yard TD reception in the 3rd and 4th quarters respectively, with hardly a defender within sight.
Had the Sooners been able to make the stops as needed, the final score might not have looked as good as it did for the Crimson Tide.
TIP OF THE HAT:
Trevor Knight finally came to life, showing the kind of playmaking ability that had initially led to him being named as the team's starting QB prior to the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. Better late than never.
Eric Striker managed to get 3 sacks, with the last one forcing a fumble that was recovered and returned for the game-clinching TD by Geneo Grissom. When he wasn't able to get to McCarron, he still managed to send him running for his dear life.
Geneo Grissom had himself quite the game as well; two sacks, a tipped pass, 2 recovered fumbles, with one returned for the game-icing score. Take a bow.
Derrick Henry ran for 100 yards and a TD on just eight carries, and turned his first career reception into a 61-yard TD score. The SEC, and the rest of America has been put on notice.
You'd have to look way back to Stoops' earlier seasons to find the last time Oklahoma put on such a dominant performance in a bowl game. Given the caliber of the opponent they faced, you can understand why Sooner fans will be beaming for a while.