GLENDALE, Ariz. — In Oklahoma's Nov. 6 loss at Texas A&M, neither Cameron Kenney nor Pryce Macon hardly stepped on the field.
Jimmy Stevens was supplanted on the field goal team.
Austin Box played sparingly, still recuperating from a preseason back injury.
Yet in remarkable turnaround stories, all four players proved to be instrumental to OU's late-season surge, which culminated with Saturday's 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
They “made a big difference,” coach Bob Stoops said.
No one more than Kenney, one of the Sooners' most valuable players the last three games.
On Saturday, Kenney capped his magical, out-of-nowhere emergence with another monster performance. He reeled in a career-high seven catches for a career-high 154 yards, including a 59-yard third-quarter touchdown — the longest bowl reception of the Stoops era.
“I told him before the game, ‘You're going to have another big night,'” Stoops said. “But I didn't know how big.”
Entering the regular-season finale at Oklahoma State, Kenney totaled just 14 catches and one touchdown.
He finished the year with 33 catches and four touchdowns, and furnished three of OU's biggest plays of the season: the fourth-quarter score at OSU, the third-and-forever grab against Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and the Fiesta touchdown that basically put the game out of UConn's reach.
“Never give up on anything,” Kenney declared after the bowl win. “And whenever you get your chance, just go at it.”
Stoops said Sunday morning in all his years of coaching he's never had a player emerge like that so late in the season.
“I kept telling him I was so pleased for him, his games here down the stretch, he's just been huge,” Stoops said. “It finally clicked for him. Confidence is a big thing and understanding to run your routes, running them in a way you know they're going to work. That little step-and-go, he just hit it perfectly. Just fun to watch. A guy that really gets it. It's sad he doesn't have more time, because it's finally clicked for him in the last few weeks.”
Kenney wasn't the only Sooner who started clicking late in the season.
Both Macon and Box were indispensable to the defense down the stretch.
Like his first four-and-a-half years in Norman, Macon had a quiet Fiesta Bowl. But the senior defensive lineman was huge in the Big 12 Championship, with five tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles, spearheading OU's come-from-behind victory over the Huskers.
“You love that,” Stoops said. “A fifth-year guy that hung in there and made an impact.”
Box finally showed what he could do when healthy. He entered the starting lineup at middle linebacker at the beginning of OU's five-game winning streak and solidified a previously shaky run defense.
On Saturday, Box set the tone early, stuffing running back Robbie Frey behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 to end a 55-yard drive on UConn's second possession.
“I was real fortunate with how things worked out with my back,” said Box, who finished the Fiesta Bowl with eight tackles.
“I just feel fortunate I was able to produce and contribute to this team.”
Stevens was also clutch after temporarily being supplanted by Patrick O'Hara as the field goal kicker in College Station.
Stevens nailed all four field goal tries in the six-point win over OSU. Then, he made three of four in the three-point victory over Nebraska.
“It's OK, he doesn't have a 50-yard leg,” Stoops said. “As long as you make everything from the mid- to low-40s, then you're OK.”
On Saturday, Stevens nailed both attempts, including a 41-yarder in the second quarter that put the Sooners up two scores for good.
Said Stoops: “Jimmy was awesome.”