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Berry Tramel  


Oklahoma football: Emails in on Sugar Bowl

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm •  Published: January 8, 2014

Oklahoma's Trevor Knight (9) passes the ball during the NCAA football BCS Sugar Bowl game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (UA) at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Trevor Knight (9) passes the ball during the NCAA football BCS Sugar Bowl game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (UA) at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Time for some OU postgame emails, which picked up a bunch over the smattering of pregame emails I received in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl. I’ll get to other emails later in the week.

Mike: “Stephen Covey calls the best  business deals a win/win.  Both parties benefit. I think OU/Alabama is the same thing. That outcome is perhaps the best thing for the future of both programs.”

Interesting. And accurate, I’d say. The Sugar Bowl defeat seems to have awakened Nick Saban. He’s really analyzing his program. Nothing wrong with that. And I’m sure his players’ attention has been captured.

Craig: “Did it seem to you that Alabama got way from running the football early in the game? Do you know why this happened? Also, do you think having Peterson on the sideline during the game could help recruiting?”

Peterson can’t hurt. Might get someone’s attention. Anyway, I thought Bama didn’t get away from the run game. The Tide had great success early. But then when the pass rush began to get to Bama, the Tide didn’t go back to the run game enough, I’d say. Bama ran 25 running plays and 40 pass plays. Probably not the best ratio. Then at the end, the penultimate Bama drive, with the clock winding down, the Tide run it. Strange.

Bob: “Not too much has been said about Alabama running back Derrick Henry. I will say that if he keeps his head on straight, he will be Alabama’s next Heisman winner. I’m just glad he came out of the game at times. He is a Marcus Dupree for sure. He is a monster. Well that being said, what a win that was. I’ve been at games like 1971 Nebraska, all the OU/Texas and all the other big games, and this was just or more impressive than those. Other than the 2000 game, we were supposed to win or be close in those. I think this was a bigger accomplishment than winning in 2000. Well, we will see if Trevor can continue or this was just a great game by him.

This was not a bigger accomplishment than winning in 2000. Florida State, Nebraska, maybe even Kansas State. Those were monumental, huge games. This was a game to get back in the national discussion. Those were games to dominate the national discussion.

David: “Nice article about the under the radar plays in the Sugar Bowl. The one play you did not mention that I thought was the turning point of the game was T. J. Yeldon’s fumble at the OU 8-yard line with five minutes to go in the first half.  Up to that point Alabama was running and passing at will, but just two minutes later OU would take a lead it never relinquished.”

No doubt a huge play. But I guess I’d say that play was not under the radar. Everyone remembers that play and lots of people were talking about it.

Mitch: “The finesse Big 12 challenged the Leroy Brown of college football. The toughest team in the toughest league. No trick play.  No bootleg.  No play action. Lined up 11 men who are told they can’t beat the Mongols of the South. I tell you, that 2-yard gain (by Brennan Clay on fourth down) was sweet. The winds are starting to shift. Kudos to Bedenbaugh. This team won’t be having sand kicked in its face anymore. Stoops is bringing Youngstown back to the program and he has found the right gunslinger.”

Well, it was a great victory, but I don’t know that much about the Leroy Brown stuff. OU did pass 44 times. It ran a little but not a lot. I guess I would agree. The winds are starting to shift. Doesn’t mean they’ve switched direction completely.

David: “Can’t speak for the older generation, but arguably the best OU victory since 1947. In the current era, even more exciting than the 2008 T-Tech win, which I attended.”

1947? What are you talking about? The Florida State Orange Bowl. Nebraska 2000. Game of the Century II in Lincoln. Have you forgotten what giants the Cornhuskers used to be? Ohio State 1977. Penn State Orange Bowl. Hey, this Sugar Bowl was fantastic. But the best OU win since Jim Tatum left town? I don’t think so.

Mark: “One last play that didn’t change the game but showed our hustle and talent.  Bama’s first series of the game, there was a long run and Tapper ran 30-40 yards and caught him with a shoestring tackle or he goes into the end zone.  I was blown away and I don’t know if anyone noticed.  Something has to be said about that play and the never give up mentality Mike Stoops taught them.  Incredible.”

Someone else mentioned a similar play with Aaron Colvin. I think the message is correct. The Sooners did indeed come in with a fighting spirit.

Gary: “I learned a couple of things Thursday; Trevor Knight has some moxie, and when Alabama faces good QB play, their defense gives up the points.”

That’s exactly right. It all comes down to quarterback play. It’s nothing more complicated than a pitcher in baseball. Get good pitching, you’re tough to beat. Get good quarterback play, you’re tough to beat.

Brady: “Another play to be added to your list that was an early help and display of toughness. The Aaron Colvin tackle of their star wide receiver. It looked like a beautiful game-breaking, open, easy, long pass, when Colvin bolted out of nowhere like a wild stag and nailed the receiver. He was so fast and jarred him so hard it almost resulted in a fumble but took away a sure TD. I loved that great play from an outstanding player.”

Like I said.

Bob: “Sooner Magic was evident in two plays I recall: the touchdown after the recovered fumble on the last play of the game at Stillwater and the Sooners’ squib kickoff that turned into a successful onside kick in the Sugar Bowl. Both were mysterious. Both were unnecessary. Both were coup de grace events that caused opposing coaches, Gundy and Saban, to have expressions on their faces that conveyed resignation. Definition of Coup de Grace: a death blow to end the suffering of a severely wounded person or animal.’ I agree with you, Brennan Clay’s third down conversion was an awesome play. But the best plays were Knight’s scrambling TD pass to Shepherd and the Shepard end-around for a TD. Heupel can stay another year. Hopefully he is allowed to game plan like that all the time in the future.”

I don’t think there have been many shackles on Heupel. He can gameplan like all he wants to. But as for Sooner Magic, man, we’ve lowered the bar for Sooner Magic. Sooner Magic was pulling victory from defeat at the last minute. That didn’t happen on either of those plays. There was no Sooner Magic in New Orleans. The Sooners just beat Bama straight up.

Jeff: “So much has been said about a great game Knight played and I totally agree, but one thing I haven’t heard ESPN or any other reporters mention is our offensive line. Going in with two starters out and moving players around, how would our line hold up against the Bama defense. Considering Knight went untouched in the pocket says a lot about these guys. Definitely our unsung heroes in the win.”

I agree. The rollout passes helped Knight keep Bama at bay, and there weren’t a ton of holes for the running game, but the O-line held up tremendously.

Trent: “Where would you rank the Sugar Bowl win in Stoops’ greatest victories? How would you rank Stoops’ best years?  I think even without a Big 12 title this year would be high with wins over two of the best programs all time.”

I guess I would rank this one third, behind Florida State and Nebraska, both in 2000. I guess it trumps all the wins over Texas. And beating No. 1 Missouri in 2007. And Bedlam this year. This season is high, but it’s still not as high as some other years. Tying for second in a watered-down Big 12 is not great. Bedlam and Alabama made it really special at the end, but seasons are more than just the end.

Michael: “Wondering if Stoops will do the right thing and find a good college fit for Blake Bell ala Switzer/Aikman.  Would go far to help recruiting and set a good tone.”

Absolutely, if that’s what Bell wants to do. It’s a good question. Does Bell want to go quarterback somewhere else, or would he rather finish out a Sooner, as a tight end or something. Or heck, stay and be an emergency backup, which certainly worked out well for him this year. The guy won at Notre Dame and won a Bedlam for the ages.

Randy: “Great win for our Sooners.  I don’t want to sound like an SEC hater, but I have grown wary of hearing about SEC domination of college football, especially the upper tier of the conference.   A sign of things to come? Probably not.  They have enormous talent and great coaches down there.  But, makes you kind of wonder how long the domination can continue.”

The SEC lost two of its three BCS bowls and still went 7-3 in the post-season. The SEC is a long way from relinquishing its crown.

Harry: “I still hope that Bell will not pull a Drew Allen.  I simply believe that he can be used in situations, and that he can be an effective counterpart to a running QB like Knight.”

I agree. If the kid wants to move on and go to a Tulsa or an Iowa State, I think that would be great. But if he wants to stay with the Sooners, I think that’s great, too. I love it when a college player has options. So few do.

Fred: “It’s interesting how perspective can change in a snap. If the OSU defensive back doesn’t drop that interception late in the game, OU loses and goes to a lesser bowl. Probably wins, but no one really cares and the overall mindset is ‘Sooners have work to do’ — much as it was during the early part of the year where all you heard people say was ‘OU needs to get better players,’ etc. Instead, the kid drops that pass, OU wins, gets a crack at Alabama, plays lights out, and the world is their oyster. Winning cures a lot of ills.”

It is remarkable. And here’s the best lesson from it. Embrace opportunity. The idea that you would ever be better off playing in a lesser bowl, just so you could win, or playing a rumdum non-conference schedule just to bad the win total, that’s asinine. Life is about embracing opportunity. That’s what OU did.

Joel: “The Sugar Bowl reminded me of the 2000 season, where OU had low expectations and played several big games as underdogs (K-State, Nebraska, Texas, FSU) and won them all (they may not have been underdogs for the second K-State game).  For whatever reason, Stoops seems to have done remarkably well when he’s counted out.  These last two wins (OSU, Bama) are classic, in that regard. Next year they’ll be back as the favorites, to win the conference and make the playoff.  It’ll be interesting to see how next year unfolds and if OU can build on last night.  I’m certainly glad to see the SEC knocked down a peg.”

Stoops indeed seems to prosper when his back is against the wall. Maybe that’s why he’s more and more into inventing enemies. Media, fans, whoever.

Keith: “Your thoughts on what the Sugar Bowl win might do for OU recruiting?  I know that player ratings and team rankings don’t mean much at the end of the day, but it would pick up some elite athletes.”

Looks like it already has. Beating Alabama was a bigger bonanza than letting Nike outfit you in new uniforms.

Dallas: “Great game and outstanding accomplishment for everyone involved in the game. Sure makes one wonder what the hell happened with Baylor & Texas. Just wondering though, where’s the Josh Heupel that called last night’s game been hiding for the last five years – and will it take another Hail Mary game to bring out his risk-taking persona? Or could it be possible that he and Stoops learned from the last two games that going for broke might well be the safest way to win big games?”

I have no big problem with Heupel’s offensive coordination these last three years (not five). But the Texas game was not good. It was an awful gameplan. That said, Heupel was fabulous against Bama. He came to win.

Richard: “That is the biggest surprise Oklahoma victory I can ever remember. I believe OU was a 12 point underdog to FSU in 2000, but I thought OU could win that game. I did not think the Sooners had a prayer against Bama. Who would have thought Knight could throw like that for an entire game? OU has had a ton of big victories, but blowing out Texas is not shocking. Beating Nebraska, been there done that. But this team with its one-dimensional offense to date, and undersized defense (why didn’t Bama run the ball more in the first half?) accomplished the impossible.”

Who did think Knight could throw like that. And we saw it early. Saw it even on the interception, when the ball glanced off Saunders’ hands. It wasn’t a perfect pass, but it was a gutsy pass and well-thrown, into traffic, and Saunders almost made a great play. That play told me that OU had come to play and Knight was going to win or lose by throwing with confidence.

Gray: “Stoops 3-0 against Bama. He is 3-0 against Florida State. OU can play with these southeast schools usually. Who would have thought OU would wind up ranked ahead of Baylor? I have been a big fan of Trevor Knight. He looks more like a young Aaron Rodgers more than Manziel.  Since returning to the lineup, he is leading and executing and committing no silly turnovers.  This is what Rodgers does. He makes plays and doesn’t get you beat. It will be fun watching him progress. I hear he is a dedicated learner.”

You know, that’s what I said during the game. He’s playing quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. I assume he can’t keep that up.

Andy: I don’t mind the lack of enthusiasm  to jump on the bandwagon early leading up to this game.  The Sooners of recent years have certainly disappointed in the bowl season mostly.  It sure was a fun game to watch I’m sure the atmosphere outside was great too before and after.  I’d sworn off the Sugar Bowl Trip after LSU. Now I might reconsider if the crazy idiot Cajuns aren’t the opponent!  No Sooner Magic to pull it out in the fourth quarter (ala Nebraska ’87), just consistent coaching and no major injuries like what held the Sooners back after the Notre Dame game.”

You know, Alabama had a heavy fan advantage, but it was nothing like playing LSU in New Orleans. That was close to unbearable.

Ed: How did a team and a quarterback that seemed so unready, so mediocre early in the season, end this way, on the big stage? Mr. Trevor Knight and Mr. Heupel in tandem were, as the saying goes, unconscious. Mr. Big Game Bob has fully returned, claiming the 2nd best win of his great career — and at a great time. If the venerable Mr. Stoops never claims another championship victory, he’s still a legend, easily in the company of Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Switzer.”

Uh, a little too many Misters in there for me. What gives? Did you think you were writing to the New York Times?

Don: “I had a good feeling about the game when the guy who sang the National Anthem sang it in both a good and normal way, if you know what I mean.”

I know what you mean, but I don’t believe there is a normal for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s a song meant to be butchered.

David: “Then I returned,  and saw under the sun, that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Was that from “Bootlegger’s Boy”?

by Berry Tramel
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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