The Sugar Bowl has taken its place in line among the greatest of OU victories.
In the same way that old codgers talk about 1977 Ohio State or Sooner Magic Nebraska games or the Penn State and Michigan Orange Bowls, the young among us 30 years from now will talk about the Sooner conquest of Alabama.
And they'll remember most of the big plays. Trevor Knight's deep balls to Jalen Saunders and Lacoltan Bester. Knight's rollout on the river touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard. Eric Striker's sacks and Geneo Grissom's fumble returns. Zack Sanchez's interception that seemed to pull back the curtain on Bama quarterback AJ McCarron.
But a game this good, a game with this much energy, a game that seems to mean so much to Sooner football, deserves to be preserved as much as possible.
So before the Sugar Bowl gets too distant, let's celebrate five under-the-radar plays that didn't make the highlight shows but warmed the hearts of OU fans and put the Sooners in position to keep Alabama at bay.
1. Jalen Saunders' catch
Not every great catch requires acrobatics or superhero feats. Sometimes sticky hands and great concentration produce something extraordinary.
OU trailed 10-7 late in the first quarter but had gone 70 yards in 12 plays, to the Alabama 8-yard line.
On 3rd-and-5, Saunders went in motion, from right to left, from wide to tight, setting up in the slot. Star safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix moved over to cover Saunders.
When the ball was snapped, Bester, outside of Saunders, dashed toward the middle. Saunders did the reverse, cutting for the sideline.
Knight threw a bullet, and it's a good thing. Clinton-Dix was on Saunders like a backpack. Knight had a tiny window through which to throw.
With an NFL-caliber safety all over him, Saunders got his hands up just in time, slightly juggled the ball upon initial impact then stretched it at the pylon as Clinton-Dix wrestled him to the ground. Touchdown.
A quarterback who was throwing fearlessly and receivers who dared to answer Alabama's elite talent with equal athletic ability? This was going to be a ballgame.
2. Zack Sanchez's knockdown
The redshirt freshman cornerback did not have a strong start. Bama receiver Amari Cooper broke Sanchez's tackle attempt on the game's first play, leading to a 15-yard gain. Then Bama's DeAndre White outmaneuvered Sanchez for a sideline catch and broke away for a 63-yard gain that set up a field goal.
Alabama's game plan was clear. Stay away from Aaron Colvin's side; pick on the rookie cornerback.
With the score tied 17-17 early second quarter, McCarron went after Sanchez again. Alabama caught OU in man-to-man coverage, and Cooper went deep. He got behind Sanchez, and safety Quentin Hayes was slow to help out.
The pass was on target, and Cooper opened his palms for what seemed destined to be a 52-yard touchdown.
At the last instant, Sanchez leapt and tipped away the ball with his fingertips. Crisis averted. More importantly, the play seemed to fortify Sanchez. Soon enough, he was a different player.
3. Bob Stoops' second thought
The OU game plan was aggression. Offense, defense, attitude.
Stoops momentarily forgot late in the second quarter. Then he remembered.
OU faced 4th-and-1 from the Bama 45-yard line, with the score tied 17-17. Stoops sent out the punting unit. But then Stoops let the clock wind down and called timeout.
The Sooners had stood toe-to-toe with Bama because of boldness. There was no turning back now.
The offense returned to the field. Lined up with a fullhouse backfield. Then fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Brannon Green shifted into slotbacks on the same side. Knight handed off to tailback Brennan Clay, who followed the Ripkowski/Green blocking tandem.
Safety Landon Collins burst into the backfield. Clay cut inside him and lunged past the line of scrimmage. He gained two yards.
On the next play, Knight fired a gorgeous 43-yard touchdown pass to Saunders, and OU had the lead for good.
4. Sanchez's shoestring tackle
The third quarter was the only shaky time of the game for the Sooners. Four possessions, four punts.
Meanwhile, Alabama scored a touchdown on its second possession to draw within 31-24 and was moving the ball again.
The Crimson Tide made first downs on three straight plays to reach the OU 38-yard line. On 2nd-and-7 from the 35, McCarron went back to Cooper. McCarron threw immediately to the sideline, where Cooper was expected to beat Sanchez. It almost happened.
Cooper stepped aside from the onrushing Sanchez and headed upfield. But Sanchez, diving, got both arms around Cooper's leg. Down he went at the line of scrimmage.
Bama momentum was squelched. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops smelled blood on 3rd-and-7. He sent Gabe Lynn on a safety blitz. When McCarron turned to flee Lynn, defensive end Geneo Grissom approached. McCarron flung the ball away and was called for intentional grounding.
Alabama's offense was finished. It would make two first downs the final 18:25 of the game. Sanchez's tackle turned the Tide.
5. Brennan Clay's effort
My favorite play of the Sugar Bowl.
Trailing 38-24, Derrick Henry took a swing pass 61 yards for a touchdown to give Alabama life with 6:22 left in the game.
OU started the ensuing possession from its 13-yard line. Two plays later, it was 3rd-and-9 and the Tide suddenly felt hopeful.
Knight's magic seemed to be withering. He had thrown three straight incompletions, including a pass the previous series that almost was intercepted for a touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel went with a safe play. A screen pass to Clay.
Clay is not a superstar. He wouldn't make anyone's list of the top 30 OU tailbacks of all time. But he's been a solid player and gotten better every year.
And when his team needed him most, Clay delivered.
The screen worked well. Clay had running room. But Bama's defense collapses space quickly.
Center Gabe Ikard scooted to the outside and pushed defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan to the sideline. Clay cut inside that block. But linebacker Jonathan Allen came from behind, nipping at Clay's heels, while Clinton-Dix, a noted headhunter, bore in.
At the 20-yard line, two yards shy of a first down, Clay and Clinton-Dix collided. But Clay turned just as Clinton-Dix arrived, twisted and lunged. Clay fell at the 23.
First down. The drive was alive. The Sooners drove to four more first downs, milking all but 56 seconds off the game clock.
Clay kept the drive alive. His best play in his biggest game at the most crucial moment.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.