The Sooners have been waiting and waiting for a program-affirming victory, to show the world they belong back among college football’s best.
That wait is finally over.
Thursday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Sooners bludgeoned Alabama, the game’s preeminent program of the past five years. With their 45-31 victory, they also sent a message.
Oklahoma football is back.
Alabama was repeatedly pushed around, run by and slammed to the ground against an Oklahoma team that struggled to find its identity until late in the season.
The team so used to mistake-free football saw all of the demons that plagued it in some form or fashion this season attack all at once. The secondary couldn't keep up, the offensive line broke down, T.J. Yeldon fumbled and AJ McCarron had two uncharacteristic interceptions. O
klahoma's makeshift offensive line stuffed the biggest line it had seen all season. Alabama struggled to put consistent pressure on quarterback Trevor Knight, who picked the Tide apart for 348 yards and four touchdowns, after being the on-again, off-again guy at the position all year.
In Saban's first six seasons at Alabama, no quarterback threw four touchdowns against Alabama in game. Now, two have in this season (Johnny Manziel’s five being the other one).
Yeah, so this game wasn't pretty. The writer has some interesting sentiments here, which I'll address at the end of the Jumbo Package, but *SPOILER ALERT* I don't disagree.
The Heisman trophy runner-up deduced his reasoning with some simple math. Alabama QB AJ McCarron talks after Tide's Sugar Bowl loss - Jan. 3, 2014 Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron talks with reporters after the Crimson Tide's Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
"I had two turnovers, ended up scoring 14 points, and we lost by 14," McCarron said. "It happens. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but I'll definitely take the loss and definitely take the blame, because a lot of it is probably my fault."
No sense piling on the guy, but the first interception was really a back breaker. Bama was poised to go up two scores in the opening minutes of the game and really kill Oklahoma's will early. Instead, we gave the ball right back and gave the Sooners a glimmer of hope that they ran with (for days, it seemed).
Henry ran for 100 yards on eight carries and caught a huge 61-yard touchdown pass with Alabama down two scores and 6:22 on the clock. Needing a lift in the third quarter, he broke a 43-yard touchdown to cut a two-touchdown lead in half.
"It was a dream come true," Henry said in his first interview since National Signing Day. "As a kid you always dream of playing college football when you're playing football as a youngin. Going out there and just being a freshman and putting on for your team, and helping them try to get a victory, I was just very thankful for my teammates for the opportunity that I got."
If there was a big positive to takeaway from the game, it was definitely Derrick Henry's coming out party performance. Glad this kid will be around for a couple more years.
Alabama running back Kenyan Drake didn't play a down on offense, but his attitude was upbeat after the Crimson Tide's Sugar Bowl loss Thursday to Oklahoma.
Drake, apparently after seeing or hearing rumors about him making possible transfer, wrote he's "not goin anywhere" on his Twitter account shortly after Alabama's locker room cleared out.
I'm not goin anywhere. Miss me with all this transferring mess. Much love to all my teammates and coaches. We doin big things next season
— Kenyan Drake™ (@KDx17) January 3, 2014
"I say this not out of pity for myself, but I say this because I can take it," he said. "I'm still going to be the beast I know I can be. There's a beast inside of me, and it's going to come out. Nobody's going to stop me.
"Just like Scarface said, man, 'Say hello to the bad guy.' I'm going to be the beast I know I can be. I'll tell you that right now."
Asked specifically whether he'd be a "beast" at Alabama as a senior next season, Kouandjio repeated what he said throughout the week. He'd yet to focus on it, but would soon meet with his family, friends and coach Nick Saban before he makes a decision on whether to enter the NFL Draft.
A performance like Thursday's will be factored into the decision, Kouandjio said.
Misquote aside*, I hope CyKo can really get to the level that he's capable of. I'd still be surprised if he decided to come back for his senior year, but if he's factoring in last night's performance, that can only help Bama.
*the actual quote is "Say goodnight to the bad guy". Maybe this was a subliminal message that he's gone?
AJ McCarron, asked after Alabama's 45-31 Sugar Bowl loss about a report that he will not play in the Senior Bowl, said he's "not thinking about that right now."
"I'm trying to enjoy this last moment with my teammates and enjoy this time with my family," he said. "When I announce it, you'll hear it."
This is one of the strangest storylines out there for me. How int he world is there even a remote possibility that AJ could end up not at the Senior Bowl? He's a Mobile native that has gone to the game since he was a little kid. He's also a national championship-winning state hero senior quarterback that would benefit greatly from having his face and personality exposed to all of the NFL scout's/GMs/Coaches that stay down in Mobile for game week. So how is this even a debate?
Final total after a last-minute sack, strip, scoop and score: Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31.
Final verdict: For all of its talent, for all of its accomplishments, this wasn’t a championship Alabama team.
Scarbinsky can be as big of a troll hack as anyone out there, but I have to say, he's not wrong here. By halftime, I realized that the game seemed much more like Bama was being exposed, rather than they were playing flat or uninspired. This team was good, no doubt. But after giving up 34 and 38 points and over four hundred yards in the past two games, it's hard to imagine that this unit was ever in the conversation as being the best in the country.