Wow, what a roller coaster rider for Sooner fans this season. It’s hard to believe that the Sugar Bowl could top the excitement of the last-minute road win versus Oklahoma State, but it certainly did just that. The victory trails only the Florida State win in the 2001 Orange Bowl in terms of national impact and significance.
Knight had perhaps the best performance by a Sooner quarterback ever under Bob Stoops when you take into consideration the defensive stats of the opponent. (Josh Heupel’s first game against Kansas State in 2000 comes to mind.)
It all clicked for Knight, who was simply awesome. He threw 4 touchdowns with a completion percentage of more than 70 percent and we was money in 3rd-and-long situations for OU, too.
Sooner fans finally got to see the passing game from Knight that the coaches and players have been talking about for months. All the comparisons to Manziel started to make sense with Knight's mobility, arm strength, accuracy and play-making ability. In one dynamic night, Knight seized the starting job at quarterback and should help put OU squarely in the race for a slot in the four-team playoff next season.
The OU wide receiver corps has had an up-and-down year, but just like the QB position – or, perhaps, because of the QB position – the pass catchers outplayed the vaunted 'Bama secondary and made big play after big play.
All three starting WRs had big-time TD receptions. Lacoltan Bester simply had his best game ever in a Sooner uniform. His sideline grab in the 4th quarter on 3rd-and-14 that set up the last scoure might have been the offensive play of the game. Jalen Saunders made the biggest negative play, tipping a sure TD pass to a Bama DB, but his over-the-shoulder TD bomb and ability to get the short TD pass over the goal line more than made up for it. (Saunders is probably in that discussion of best OU receivers, joining the Mark Clayton-Ryan Broyles deathmatch.) Finally, Sterling Shepard was an all-purpose weapon for OU and seems to already have some unique connection with Knight: The last TD pass was Montana-to-Clark type stuff.
OU got contributions from Derrick Woods, and there are signs the tight ends are coming out of hibernation. Brannon Green and Taylor McNamara had catches. (McNamara has done a nice job rehabbing his injury and working hard to get onto the field. If he can put it all together, he has all-conference skills.)
Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell
OU's offensive coordinators did a fantastic job showing run and zone read on first down before hitting the Crimson Tide defense with the pass – Knight’s first-down passing efficiency was the stat of the game.
OU showed new looks and confused the Tide all game. The Sooners were aggressive, but not reckless, and they played that way on offense. Beautifully timed play calls included Shepard's endaround for the TD in the first half and the middle screen to Roy Finch on OU's final drive.
Bill Bedenbaugh got OU’s OL ready to play and remade the unit with one new starter (Dionte Savage) and two players playing new spots (Daryl Williams at left tackle and Bronson Irwin at right tackle). The OL didn’t have a great day blocking for the running
game, but that was not the plan. The line did an awesome job protecting Knight, giving up only one sack.
The Sooner OL outplayed their more vaunted Bama counterparts, and Savage’s success
means that OU likely has its starting OL for 2014 figured out.
He had his best game as a Sooner: 2 fumble recoveries, 2 sacks, a defensive touchdown and numerous QB hurries. With the Tide focusing on Charles Tapper, Grissom had a huge day.
Striker is only mentioned after Grissom due to not scoring a TD. Striker harassed Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron all game. He was in the Tide backfield all night causing chaos. His strip of McCarron was the perfect ending for a great game by the hybrid OLB.
Is it possible to give up 500 yards and 31 points and play well? Yes.
The Sooner defense made plays when needed, forced turnovers and came up big at crucial times. In particular, the D forced critical punts in the third quarter when the OU offense stalled.
When OU needed a turnover in the first quarter to stop from falling behind 14-0, Gabe Lynn picked off McCarron. When OU needed a turnover, it got a strip off T.J. Yeldon. Zack Sanchez got burned early in the game, but he made an NFL-type bait move on the QB to get an interception. Finally, when 'Bama had the ball and a chance to tie the game in the game's final minutes, Striker finally stripped McCarron, leading to the last TD of the game by Geneo Grissom.
OU sacked McCarron seven times; 'Bama had given up 10 sacks all year.
OU’s coverage teams did a good job of not allowing big plays and iced the game with a heads-up recovery of an onside kick.
Kickoff specialist Nick Hodgson kicked the ball deep to limit returns. The same goes for Jed Barnett, whose punts had good hang time and distance.
Hunnicutt hit the field goal that he needed to hit. Meanwhile, 'Bama missed a key kick. Having a reliable placekicker is a huge advantage.
OU showed some awful tackling and coverage that allowed for some big plays.
The Bama DBs were mugging the OU receivers all day. What Shepard got on that final pass-interference call was absurd.
Do we even have to ask?