Thursday night in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (11-2) shocked the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (11-2) by a final count of 45-31, and redshirt freshman QB Trevor Knight torched the Alabama defense to the tune of 448 yards and four touchdowns. That along with four costly turnovers, resulting in 28 points, and seven Oklahoma sacks led to a pretty dreadful night for the Alabama faithful.
Derrick Henry was one of the very few bright spots in the game, as it seems the true freshman has really come into his own, running for 100 yards and a score along with a 61-yard touchdown catch.
Henry ran with purpose and was incredibly hard to bring down, and also showed his speed on long runs. The more surprising aspect of Henry’s game was the obvious improvement in blitz pickup which he has been working on all year. Henry showed Alabama fans exactly what they can look forward to in the years coming.
Cade Foster was once again awful, missing on a 33-yard kick and also kicking extremely short on kickoffs all night. The final two games of the season have been Foster’s worst. At least he made some tackles.
AJ McCarron had two horrible interceptions in the game and seemed to hold the ball for far too long, too many times, resulting in sacks and even an intentional grounding. To be fair, the passing blocking was poor, but McCarron just seemed to be off too many times, despite breaking the Alabama single-season passing yardage record in the game, going over 3,000 yards for the year.
Pass defense was absolutely horrendous in every way possible. Every defensive back that stepped foot on the field got burned at least once in the game. Oklahoma freshman QB Trevor Knight only threw five touchdown passes all year, but threw four against Alabama alone. Sooner receivers were routinely blowing past Alabama defensive backs. Deion Belue was once again hobbled during the game, which resulted in freshman Maurice Smith seeing playing time.
Everyone’s biggest fear was Alabama attempting to stop Oklahoma’s running game and the read option while not fearing Oklahoma’s passing game. For the entire game, however, Oklahoma had just 81 yards rushing and averaged 2.7 yards per carry but 348 yards passing.
The pass blocking was atrocious as well. Oklahoma’s defensive line abused Alabama’s big men up front, including All American Cyrus Kouandjio. The O-line was able to open up plenty of holes in the running game, but just couldn’t hold their own when pass blocking for whatever reason. Cyrus and Arie Kouandjio were also both called for multiple penalties in the game.
Turnovers were absolutely killer. Four turnovers leading to four scores spells disaster. The first came on a horrible throw from AJ McCarron into triple coverage. Then deep in Oklahoma territory, T.J. Yeldon lost his third fumble of the year. Late in the first half, McCarron forced a throw under pressure. That pass was intercepted. Later he was sacked and fumbled on Alabama’s last gasp hope of coming back. That fumble was returned for a score.
A lot of soul searching will need to be done in the off season, and to see this group of seniors go out in such a terrible fashion with two straight losses is a painful pill to swallow. Nick Saban has his work cut out for him in 2014.
Final stats are below.
AJ McCarron: 19-30, 385 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Derrick Henry: 8 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD
TJ Yeldon: 17 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD
AJ McCarron: 10 carries, -40 yards
DeAndrew White: 3 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD
Amari Cooper: 9 catches, 121 yards
Derrick Henry: 1 catch, 60 yards, 1 TD
Kevin Norwood: 2 catches, 29 yards
TJ Yeldon: 2 catches, 23 yards
Kenny Bell: 2 catches, 13 yards
Cade Foster: 1-2 FGs (long 27 yards), 4/4 XPs
Cody Mandell: 4 punts, 45.0 yards per punt
Christion Jones: 7 kickoff returns, 104 yards; 6 punt returns, 10 yards