OU senior receiver Jalen Saunders played his first two seasons at Fresno State, which, until recently, was in line for a possible at-large BCS bowl berth.
Instead, the Bulldogs lost a game late in the regular season, and that result — along with Northern Illinois' unexpected collapse in its conference championship game — opened the door for Oklahoma to receive its Sugar Bowl bid.
“A lot of people had doubts in us finishing out the year, and we went out and proved people wrong,” Saunders said. “We did an excellent job finishing the season strong.”
Saunders said that when he decided to leave Fresno, he expected to choose between Texas A&M and Washington before a call from OU assistant Jay Norvell.
“I had that feel to come here,” Saunders said. “It was the way it was set up. Everything that Coach (Bob) Stoops and Coach Norvell preached to me, everything they told me before I signed, it's been the exact same. I'm shocked, the way everything just laid out.”
In two seasons, Saunders has caught 118 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns, and has also returned three punts for scores.
TWO-THIRDS OF CALI TRIO WILL REUNITE
When running back Brennan Clay, receiver Kenny Stills and defensive back Tony Jefferson all signed with Oklahoma in its 2010 recruiting class, the three Californians dubbed themselves the “Cali Trio.”
Stills and Jefferson each left school a year early to pursue NFL careers, while Clay stayed for his senior season, during which he's been one of the Sooners' best offensive weapons.
Stills was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and has started 10 games this year, catching 31 passes for 565 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.
Jefferson went undrafted, but landed with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent, beat the odds and secured a roster spot. He's appeared in all 15 of the Cardinals' games this season with two starts.
The Sooners will play Alabama on Jan. 2 in Stills' new home stadium, the Superdome.
“We'll meet up a few times,” Clay said. “I miss my brother and he's doing well up there.”
Asked what Jefferson will be doing, Clay quipped, “He's sitting down back in Arizona, twiddling his thumbs probably. But we talk periodically throughout the week, so we're all in touch.”
SOONERS MUST CONTAIN BAMA'S HOWARD