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Oklahoma football: A closer look at five unheralded plays from the Sooners' Sugar Bowl victory

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.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 4, 2014

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.

Don't forget.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. 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.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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