A game that keeps percolating back is the OU-Southern Cal Orange Bowl. The Sooners’ 41-13 Cotton Bowl embarrassment against Texas A&M has brought back memories of that wild night in Miami, when one minute the Sooners harbored national championship dreams, and the next minute they were getting beat by an historic margin.
So which beatdown was worse? Were they similar? Let’s take a look.
* OU was within 14-13 of A&M at halftime and trailed the Trojans at 38-10 at halftime. So it seems like a goofy question.
But was it? No one really remembers this – certainly I had forgotten – but OU led USC 7-0 in the first quarter, and it was still 7-7 late in the first quarter when the Sooners forced a punt.
Of course, you know what happened next. Mark Bradley went chasing a bouncing punt inside the 10-yard line, fumbled and set up USC for a six-yard TD touchdown drive. That set off the avalanche.
* But the feeling of the game. In that first quarter in Miami, even into the second quarter, you got the feeling the Sooners were right there. Got the feeling that if Mark Bradley wouldn’t chase bouncing punts, these teams were even.
That was not the feeling in Arlington. Even with OU down just 14-13, its margin of error was razor thin. Landry Jones was moving the Sooners with pinpoint passing. Meanwhile, the Sooners held their breaths every time Johnny Manziel took a snap. It seemed like OU was going to have to play a near-perfect game to win, while the Aggies merely had to snap the ball to the Heisman Trophy winner to keep things humming.
* USC had 14 possessions. The Trojans scored seven touchdowns and kicked two field goals. That’s 57.1 percent efficiency. Which is phenomenal. (As a point of reference, OSU’s touchdown efficiency in the 58-14 blowout of Purdue – 62.5 percent).
OU had 12 possessions against USC, with two TDs and one field goal. That’s an efficiency of 20.8 percent.
Fast forward to the Cotton Bowl. A&M had 11 possessions and scored six touchdowns. That’s 54.5 percent efficiency, which is very close to USC in the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, the Sooners had 10 possessions against A&M, with one touchdown and two field goals. That’s 20 percent efficiency.
OU offense: 20.8 and 20.0 in those two bowl games. OU defense: allowed 57.1 percent efficiency and 54.5 in those two bowl games. Remarkably similar.
* When the games ended, they ended quickly.
In the Orange Bowl, with 12 minutes left in the second quarter, USC led 14-7. With 9:17 left in the second quarter, USC led 28-7. Matt Leinart threw a 54-yard TD pass to Dwayne Jarrett, Jason White threw an interception and Leinart hit Steve Smith with a five-yard TD pass.
And just to end all suspense, the Trojans scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the first half.
In the Cotton Bowl, it wasn’t so much an explosion as a cascade. Three straight three-plays-and-punts for OU, three straight Fort Worth-to-Dallas touchdown drives for the Aggies – 91, 89 and 71 yards.
So at first glance, the Orange Bowl seemed far worse. Game over in the second quarter, compared to a 14-13 halftime game.
But here’s what it comes down to. The Orange Bowl seemed competitive, then suddenly it was over in the second quarter. The Cotton Bowl seemed shaky for the Sooners, then suddenly it was over in the third quarter.
If you make me pick, I’d say the Orange Bowl was worse. But the Cotton Bowl was little better.