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Oklahoma football: Jalen Saunders says playing in Cotton Bowl 'a blessing'

After a Dec. 2 arrest, junior receiver Jalen Saunders spent nearly all of December unsure if he'd join his teammates when the Sooners meet Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
by Jason Kersey Published: December 30, 2012

“Whenever things happen off the field, players are remorseful in that,” Norvell said Sunday. “Coach Stoops has dealt with that.

“Jalen is Jalen. Jalen has been preparing and getting ready to play just like all the other players. We expect him to play great Friday night.”

Saunders said despite the uncertainly surrounding his Cotton Bowl status, he practiced through December the same way he did all season.

“If I wasn't gonna play, I was gonna have to help out my teammates,” Saunders said. “And if I was playing, I was preparing myself and for the team. It was, I guess you could say, a win-win, in both situations. I was gonna help my team regardless.”

Facing Texas A&M's prolific offense — led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel — the Sooners could find themselves in another offensive shootout. In two narrow, high-scoring victories near the regular season's end, Saunders' contributions were essential.

Nov. 17 in Morgantown, he caught seven passes for 123 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown. The next week, when Oklahoma edged Oklahoma State 51-48 in overtime, Saunders had 10 receptions, 162 yards and a touchdown. He also scored on an 81-yard punt return.

Stoops, who has typically issued one-game suspensions for past arrests, declined Sunday to talk much about Saunders' arrest and the decision to let him play, only saying “We had a statement issued. ... We've been pretty consistent with what we do, discipline-wise.”

Regardless, Saunders strongly emphasized that he's learned his lesson.

“I'm the type of person ... I'm not gonna make the same mistake twice,” Saunders said. “It's a learning experience. I'm over it. I'm past it.”