NEW ORLEANS — During a telephone interview last month with The Oklahoman, Dee Stoops was asked for her initial reaction to Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl matchup with Alabama.
“I said, ‘Oh no,'” she responded. “But I feel very confident in Bobby's body of work, so I'm not counting the Sooners out.”
Yes, Bob Stoops' mother was concerned about the Sooners' chances against the mighty Crimson Tide, winners of three of the last four national championships.
As it turns out, though, she was right to be confident in her son, who coached Oklahoma to a stunning 45-31 upset victory Thursday night in the Superdome.
Less than two months ago, Oklahoma was embarrassed 41-12 on national television at Baylor, and needed a miracle fourth-quarter comeback to best No. 6 Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale.
Meanwhile, Alabama missed a chance at a third straight national championship after a freak field-goal return for a touchdown gave Auburn a stunning victory Nov. 30.
The Crimson Tide, a 17.5-point favorite over the Sooners, appeared well on their way to a rout after the game-opening drive. Alabama went 75 yards in four plays and scored first, taking a 7-0 lead less than two minutes after the opening kickoff.
After Alabama intercepted Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight on the ensuing drive, the very pro-Crimson Tide crowd began chanting, “S-E-C! S-E-C!”
Just one play later, though, Oklahoma's Gabe Lynn picked off Alabama's AJ McCarron, and the Sooners scored on a quick 45-yard touchdown pass from Knight to senior Lacoltan Bester to even the score and firmly state that they weren't backing down.
Oklahoma led 14-10 after the first quarter, and held a stunning 31-17 lead at halftime. At the break, Knight had completed 18 of 23 pass attempts for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
But Alabama is college football's preeminent power for a reason, and it showed why after halftime, when the Crimson Tide defense forced the Sooners to punt on all four of its third-quarter drives.
Meanwhile, McCarron — the Heisman Trophy runner-up — and Alabama running back Derrick Henry began to find their offensive rhythm in the third, pulling within seven points of the Sooners entering the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma scored another touchdown on its first fourth-quarter drive, though, when Knight scrambled around and eventually found Sterling Shepard for a 9-yard score with about 10 minutes remaining.
Alabama scored again to pull within seven points, and had one more shot when it took over possession with a minute remaining on the game clock, but linebacker Eric Striker forced a McCarron fumble that Geneo Grissom returned for a game-clinching touchdown.
Knight finished completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
The Sooners and Crimson Tide finished the season with identical 11-2 records.