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Sugar Bowl Report Card: Sooners pass the Tide's test

by Berry Tramel Published: January 3, 2014


photo - Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard (3) scores a touchdown 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 Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard (3) scores a touchdown 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 Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Trevor Knight: A. A game for the ages. A redshirt freshman, who had played and performed sporadically, was superb. Considering the circumstances and opponent, it was among the best quarterbacked games in OU history. Knight completed 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards for four touchdowns. His lone interception, in the first quarter, was not a bad decision, it just deflected off the hands of leaping Jalen Saunders. Knight's only glaring mistake was a fourth-quarter rollout pass that could have been intercepted, when the Sooners were trying to protect a 14-point lead. And Knight was at his best in a late drive, completing three straight passes after OU faced first-and-30, setting up a TD pass to Sterling Shepard, in which Knight evaded the rush and threw back across his body.

Game plan: A. Josh Heupel unfurled a great attack, and no trick plays were necessary. Just a flurry of different and new formations. A double stack look, some quick shifts from a fullhouse backfield to two slots, more triple option. The Sooners even huddled at times. And OU used hardly any of the zone read option that was considered the conventional way to defeat 'Bama.

Pass rush: A. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had quite a day, too. He basically sold out to the blitz, putting his cornerbacks on an island but hoping the pressure could get to 'Bama quarterback AJ McCarron. It did, led by Geneo Grissom and Eric Striker. McCarron had a bunch of big plays, but so did the OU defense, with two interceptions and seven sacks, plus several throwaways by McCarron. And at game's end, OU's front four produced the game-clinching sack of McCarron.

Revelry: A. Playing Alabama in the Superdome is not like playing LSU in the Superdome, but it's not far off. 'Bama fans flooded the streets of New Orleans the last couple of days and probably had a 2-1 edge in fans. But 'Bama fans were classy and certainly made for a great spectacle: crimson houndstooth fedoras, the red-and-white pompoms, the Million Dollar band spelling out “BAMA.”

Tackling: C. One of the last things OU seemingly had to worry about became its Achilles heel in this game. Derrick Henry, a 238-pound freshman, ran rough over the Sooners in the second half, and his 61-yard touchdown off a swing pass, in which he broke two tackles, then split two OU defenders, kept Alabama alive late in the game.

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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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