NEW ORLEANS (AP) — AJ McCarron got up slowly and walked alone to the sideline with the full weight of another dispiriting loss weighing him down.
His fumble on a sack turned into an Oklahoma touchdown with 47 seconds left, sealing the Sooners' 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night.
In a painful twist, McCarron ended his illustrious college career by losing twice in a row after going 36-2 in his first 38 games at Alabama. Oklahoma, a 17-point underdog, scored two touchdowns off his interceptions in the first half before capping the upset by returning his third turnover for a score.
"You put it all on me," a disconsolate McCarron said. "I had two turnovers, they ended up scoring 14 points, and we lost by 14. You know, it's football. It happens. I'll definitely take the loss and definitely take the blame, because a lot of it is probably my fault."
History repeated itself in the worst possible way for Alabama (11-2), which followed a stunning, last-play loss to rival Auburn with a disheartening defeat in the Superdome. It was strikingly similar to what happened in 2008, when the undefeated Crimson Tide lost to Florida in the SEC championship game and followed with a flat performance against Utah in the Sugar Bowl, losing 31-17.
Alabama had not lost two in a row since, winning BCS championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012 before coming oh-so-close to a shot at an unprecedented third consecutive national title this season.
Wide receiver Kevin Norwood immediately jumped to McCarron's defense after the quarterback pointed the finger at himself, saying it was not a one-man game and everyone could have helped him out more. The Crimson Tide had plenty of blame to go around despite outgaining the Sooners 516-429, getting 387 yards passing from McCarron and a combined 162 yards rushing and receiving from true freshman running back Derrick Henry.
Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, who had completed 47 passes all season, set a Sugar Bowl record with 32 completions in 44 attempts for 348 yards and four touchdowns. His scoring strikes included passes of 45 yards to Lacoltan Bester, 43 yards to Jalen Saunders and 9 yards to Sterling Shepard after the Sooners overcame a first-and-30 situation.
Oklahoma (11-2) rolled up 270 yards in the first half, when neither team punted, converting on its first five third-down opportunities.