You may not believe in miracles, but you gotta believe in Sooner Magic. Other than the fact that Oklahoma had a brilliant game plan for its BCS Sugar Bowl matchup with No, 3-ranked Alabama and that the Sooners executed that plan flawlessly Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a heavy dose of Sooner Magic may be the only way to explain the biggest upset thus far in the final season of the Bowl Championship Series era.
Oklahoma shocked the college football world, not to mention heavily favored Alabama, handing the Crimson Tide a stunning 45-31 knockdown and their worst loss since October 2010.
The odds couldn’t have been more stacked against Bob Stoops’ Sooners heading into Thursday night’s Sugar Bowl showdown with arguably the best team in college football for the past three seasons. Think about it: Alabama was the two-time defending national champion behind senior quarterback A.J. McCarron, whose career record as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback was a sensational 36-3 over the past three years. The Crimson Tide are, and have been, one of the country’s best defensive teams, playing in what is believed to be the best football conference in the country, the SEC. Alabama was the second-best team in scoring defense this season, holding its 12 opponents in 2013 to an average of 11.5 points per game.
Oklahoma came into the game an underdog by as many as 17 points, the biggest point spread against the Sooners in Stoops 15 season as head coach. Contributing to that high lack of confidence in OU’s chances against the mighty Crimson Tide was the fact that the Sooners were playing without a number of key players who were out for the season or not available for the Sugar Bowl because of injuries and other undisclosed reasons.
While the Alabama quarterback is an All-American and runner-up in this year’s Heisman Trophy balloting, the Sooners were going with a redshirt freshman who was starting just his fifth game as a collegian and in front of a sellout crowd in excess of 72,000. The OU offensive line, aside from being much smaller in size and short on experience compared with the Alabama defensive front, had only one player in the same position he had played all season.
The Sooners’ young quarterback, Trevor Knight, easily played the best game of his young college career, lighting up the once-thought-invincible Alabama defense for 348 yards passing, a Sugar Bowl-record 32 pass completions and four touchdowns. Knight entered the game, mind you, having completed only 47 passes all season and a completion percentage of just over 50 percent. Two of his four touchdown passes in the game were for more than 40 yards. Knight competed 32 of 44 passes, a 73 percent completion rate. It certainly was no surprise afterward that Knight was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Alabama actually rung up more yards of offense than their Big 12 opponent – 516 total yards to 429 for Oklahoma – but the Sooners’ converted a highly uncharactertic four Alabama turnovers into 28 points, which turned out to be the decisive factor in the game. The Crimson Tides’ McCarron had been sacked only 10 times all season coming into the Sugar Bowl game, but the aggressive OU defense recorded seven sacks and caused numerous hurries and throw-aways by the exceptionally talented Alabama quarterback, the winner of the Maxwell Award as college football’s best player this season.
The improbable two-touchdown win by Oklahoma over the best the SEC has to offer was the second time in BCS bowl history that the Sooners have come out the winner after going into the game as a double-digit underdog. OU also was the underdog in its 2000 national championship season, when the Sooners beat Florida State 13-2 for the national title in Stoops’ second season in Norman. Ironically, Oklahoma was tabbed the favorite in four of its five BCS bowl losses.
Other Noteworthy Notes & Quotes From the 2014 BCS Sugar Bowl
OU head coach Bob Stoops, on the impact this win will have on the Oklahoma program and the future:
“Well, I don’t – Maybe the outside world will make that of it. We never were in a position where the outside world tried to portray us many weeks ago. That wasn’t us. So this isn’t going to change us. These guys and us in the locker roon, you see them nodding their head, we know who we are. These guys held it together. No one flinched. Everybody kept improving. But it’s not easy when you’re losing some key players like we have. But I would say this: With the young team we have, building on it is going to be big and make a huge difference.”
Bob Stoops on Trevor Knight:
“Trevor was exceptional. I think he showed the whole country what we’ve been watching for two years in our practices and our scrimmage and things like that. The game has started to slow down for him where he’s really starting to feel comfortable in what we can do when he is. He’s got a very live arm with great legs.”
- With this Sugar Bowl win, Bob Stoops became the first head coach to win at all four BCS bowl sites and win at all four (2000 national championship in the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl win over Washington State in 2002 season, Fiesta Bowl win over Connecticut in 2010 season and Sugar Bowl win over Alabama in 2013 season).
- The 31 first-half points by Oklahoma were the most allowed by Alabama in the opening half this season and the most by the Sooners since November 2012 against West Virginia.
- The Sooners have won 41 consecutive games when leading at halftime.
- Trevor Knight’s four touchdown passes are the most in a bowl game in Oklahoma football history.
- OU wide receiver Jalen Saunders, who caught two touchdown passes in the game, finished the 2013 season with 61 pass receptions and 739 yards, tying him with former OU receiver Kenny Stills (now in his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints) for 13th all-time in a single season.
- Sooner defensive back Gabe Lynn had a team-leading four interceptions this season, including one in the Sugar Bowl va. Alabama. On three of those four picks this season, the Sooners scored touchowns on the ensuing possession.