Oklahoma football: Sooners credit preparation, toughness for lines' strong performances in Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma's mostly exceptional play on both fronts helped the Sooners stun Alabama 45-31. The defensive line had at least remained consistent for much of the regular season; the reshuffled offensive line put it all together in less than a month.
by Jason Kersey Modified: January 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm •  Published: January 18, 2014

photo - Oklahoma's Eric Striker (19) reacts after a sack on Alabama's AJ McCarron (10) 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 Eric Striker (19) reacts after a sack on Alabama's AJ McCarron (10) 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

Irwin stayed at guard for Bedlam and sophomore Derek Farniok started at tackle, but with a month to prepare for Alabama, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh made the switch.

“After our last game, we had nine of 10 practices here in Norman,” Bedenbaugh said. “Then we had six or seven (in New Orleans). So basically, what it kind of amounted to was spring ball. We had a bunch of time.”

Bedenbaugh also had a bunch of time to get junior Dionte Savage ready for the first start of his career. Savage, a junior-college transfer, didn't play much throughout the season as he adapted to Oklahoma's system, but started the Sugar Bowl in place of the injured Adam Shead, who was lost for the season after starting the first 10 games.

“He was down at times, frustrated at times because he wasn't playing, but he really wasn't ready,” Bedenbaugh said. “We had other guys who were playing at a decent level, so other guys really couldn't get on the field. I'm really proud of him for fighting through and sticking with it.”

Savage was flagged for two false start penalties against Alabama, but other than that, played well, particularly considering his inexperience.

Bedenbaugh said that since the Sugar Bowl, he's talked to countless offensive line recruits who were impressed by what they saw against the Crimson Tide. The Sooners also added offensive line commitments Natrell Curtis and Joseph Paul to their 2014 recruiting class within days of the Alabama win.

“People understand how guys are getting coached here,” Bedenbaugh said.


by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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