NEW ORLEANS — Oklahoma leads Alabama 31-17 at halftime of the Sugar Bowl inside the Superdome.
Here are a few quick thoughts, things to watch and statistics from the first half.
THREE THINGS THAT STOOD OUT
* Trevor Knight: Who is wearing the Sooners’ No. 9 jersey and what has he done with Trevor Knight? The redshirt freshman from San Antonio has been absolutely sensational through two quarters. He’s completed 18 of 23 pass attempts for 206 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. Knight looks remarkably comfortable against a tough Alabama defensive front, which really speaks to the job his offensive line is doing. Knight’s one interception wasn’t really his fault; the ball bounced off Jalen Saunders’ hands, although it might’ve been thrown a little high.
* Resilience: Who out there actually thought this wasn’t going to be a complete Alabama blowout after the Crimson Tide’s opening drive? When Bama took a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, everyone’s reaction was the same: “Here we go.” But the Sooners were incredible resilient and fought back. I’m not sure Alabama was ready for that.
* Pressure on McCarron: Geneo Grissom has been disruptive the entire game, and sophomore linebacker Eric Striker got in on the action with a sack late in the first half. The Sooners’ defensive front has really been impressive, and the secondary even bounced back from its early struggles as time went on.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH IN THE SECOND HALF
* Alabama adjustments: Nick Saban is the best coach in college football for a reason. You know he and his staff are making adjustments right now in the halftime locker room, so I’d say it’s very unlikely Oklahoma will continue to roll in the second half. Of course, I didn’t think the Sooners had much of a chance to win at all, and they’ve scored 31 first-half points and are winning by two touchdowns, so what the heck do I know?
* Stoops gambles: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops pulled out all the stops in the Sooners’ Bedlam victory at Oklahoma State last month, and if OU is going to indeed shock the world and beat Alabama, I’d imagine it will require some gutsy calls. Stoops has already made at least one, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 45-yard line. On the very next play, Knight hit Jalen Saunders on a beautiful 43-yard touchdown pass.
* Zack Sanchez: The redshirt freshman was being abused by Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron early in the first half, but he kept his cool and looked much better as the game went on. Sanchez picked McCarron off with 1:12 left in the first half, and Sterling Shepard scored a play later to put OU up by 14. How Sanchez plays in the second half will go a long way toward determining the outcome.
Offense: QB Trevor Knight; HB Brennan Clay; FB Aaron Ripkowski; WR Jalen Saunders;WR Lacoltan Bester; WR Sterling Shepard; OT Bronson Irwin; OG Nila Kasitati; C Gabe Ikard; OG Dionte Savage; OT Daryl Williams.
Defense: DE Chuka Ndulue; DT Jordan Wade; DE Charles Tapper; LB Eric Striker; LB Frank Shannon; LB Dominique Alexander; LB P.L. Lindley; CB Cortez Johnson; FS Gabe Lynn; SS Quentin Hayes; CB Zack Sanchez.
HALFTIME STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing — OU: Trevor Knight 18-23, 206 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; Bama: AJ McCarron 14-21, 301 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
Rushing — OU: Brennan Clay 6-25, Keith Ford 3-15; Bama: T.J. Yeldon 11-47, 1 TD, Derrick Henry 3-22.
Receiving — OU: Jalen Saunders 5-75, 2 TD, Lacoltan Bester 5-71, 1 TD; Bama: Amari Cooper 5-96; DeAndrew White 3-139, 1 TD.