Oklahoma beats Alabama 45-31 in Sugar Bowl

Alabama coach Nick Saban makes a point to an official during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Alabama coach Nick Saban makes a point to an official during the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hello, Trevor. Farewell, AJ.

Trevor Knight's final start as a freshman sent Oklahoma's expectations soaring into 2014 while bringing a sour end to AJ McCarron's otherwise charmed Alabama career.

Knight completed a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 11 Oklahoma took down the third-ranked Crimson Tide 45-31 on Thursday night.

"It's huge for our program, to get a win like this after no one gave us a chance all year," Knight said. "We've got to ride this into next year. We can't settle with this. ... We want the big one."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops declined to announce a starting quarterback before the game, and when Knight took the field on the Sooners' first possession, Alabama's defenders couldn't have anticipated what was in store.

Knight's completion percentage entering the game was 52.2. He had completed 47 passes all season before a breakout performance in which two of his TDs went for more than 40 yards.

Oklahoma (11-2) needed him to play that well in the 80th Sugar Bowl, the first in which quarterbacks for both teams threw for more than 300 yards.

The victory was a sweet one for Stoops, who last offseason called talk about the Southeastern Conference being the best league in college football "propaganda."

"I have the utmost respect for Alabama, and I think this shows that obviously we can play with anybody," Stoops said. "So, enough of that. And I just watched them go through their entire conference and play pretty well. I'm not pointing any fingers. But I think sometimes the comparisons aren't necessarily very true."

His Big 12 team vanquished an Alabama (11-2) squad that had been ranked No. 1 much of the past three seasons, winning the previous two national titles before its shot at a third straight was derailed by rival Auburn on the last play of the Iron Bowl in late November.

But coach Nick Saban didn't buy the notion that his team, favored by 16 points, was too deflated from its loss to Auburn to play up to its standard.

"I actually thought that the players responded in practice pretty well for this game," Saban said. "We put over 500 yards of offense up. Somebody had to do something right. I don't think that we played as well on defense as we're capable of or should have."

McCarron passed for 387 yards and two TDs, but his two interceptions set up Oklahoma TDs, and his fumble, returned for a score in the final minute, sealed Alabama's first two-game skid since its Sugar Bowl loss to Utah in January 2009.

"Put it all on me. I had two turnovers, (Oklahoma) ended up scoring 14 points, and we lost by 14," said McCarron, who won 36 of his first 38 games before losing his last two. "It's football. It happens. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but I'll definitely take the loss and definitely take the blame, because a lot of it is probably my fault."

Freshman Derrick Henry's 43-yard run in the third quarter pulled Alabama to 31-24, and the Crimson Tide forced four punts while giving up only one first down in the third quarter. But Alabama was unable to add another score before the Sooners starting moving the ball again.

Knight lofted a perfect pass to Lacoltan Bester for a 34-yard gain to the Alabama 9. Shortly after, Knight rolled left all the way to the sideline before rifling a touchdown strike to Sterling Shepard, making it a two-touchdown game again with 10:44 left.

"The game has started to slow down for him where he's really starting to feel comfortable in what he can do," Stoops said of Knight.

Henry, a 6-foot-3, 238-pound true freshman, pulled Alabama within a score once more when he turned his first career reception into a tackle-shedding, 61-yard TD with 6:22 still to go.

But Oklahoma was able to burn several minutes off the clock, and then the Sooners registered their seventh sack when Eric Striker stripped McCarron, and Geneo Grissom returned the ball 8 yards for a score.

Both teams entered the game with defenses ranked in the top 15 nationally, but quarterback play dominated a first half highlighted by five passing plays of 43 yards or longer, three of which went for scores.

Alabama took the opening kickoff and scored in four plays. McCarron hit Amari Cooper for 15 and 53 yards, and T.J. Yeldon ran it in from the 1.

Knight's first series ended when Alabama's Landon Collins made a diving interception of a tipped pass, but Oklahoma got it right back when Gabe Lynn picked off McCarron's pass on the next play. One play later, Knight found Bester down the right sideline for a 45-yard score.

The Sooners took their first lead when Knight found Jalen Saunders, who reached the ball across the goal line as he was being brought down.

"It's all about just getting in that rhythm, hitting a few shots early," Knight said. "The more snaps you get, the more comfortable you are."

McCarron's pinpoint pass over the middle to DeAndrew White for a 67-yard TD restored Alabama's lead early in the second quarter.

The Sooners tied it at 17 on Michael Hunnicutt's 47-yard field goal, then cashed in on two more turnovers.

Alabama appeared on the verge of a go-ahead score when Yeldon fumbled on the 8. The Sooners then reached midfield, where they converted a fourth-and-1. On the next play, Knight hit Saunders in stride down the right sideline for a 43-yard score.

McCarron's second interception, snagged by Zack Sanchez and returned to the 13, set up Shepard's 13-yard TD around right end.

Mobile and tablet users: Click here to see Alabama's AJ McCarron talking about the loss

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Comments » 22

azuamaria#216297 writes:

Roll Tide

cltvol writes:

This is almost as good as UT winning a bowl game...almost.

IndianOutlaw writes:

Never "Take Glee in another's loss" it could be you next. But the team that I was rooting for won. I wonder how this will effect the mental stability of all the "Wal-Mart Alabubba's" here in Tennessee?

murrayvol writes:

The Tide goes out. I'm all broke up.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

I thought it was priceless watching the mullet heads crying when their little darling AJ self destructed. How about the Sooners shredding bama's vaunted defense.
Always great to see an SEC rival get hammered on the national stage. Especially, the hated tidey bowl boys. Pulling for the Noles and Randy Sanders to win the NC by pounding Auburn.
Georgia,Bama and Auburn losing would be fantastic!

TommyJack writes:

Ol' TJ has no problem with the outcome.

bUTch__please writes:

"..and in other news, infant Krimson Tyde was found abandoned in a dumpster behind Waffle House. Local authorities will not be pressing charges."

underthehill writes:

bama has done more than any SEC school to create the image that the SEC is the most dominate in college football..this has brought millions of dollars and made recruiting national talent better for the entire conference..now this loss has done more to tarnish that image than can be measured at this time..the loss by Ga didn't help..a loss by Auburn would do even more damage..so do I pull against a team that has Randy Sanders working for them..the guy who made the play call that won UT a national championship? the guy who UT let Fulmer railroad when I think Fulmer and his pound the pill philosophy was a direct contrast to what Sanders wanted..I have to pull for Sanders and Fla State..but if Auburn proves they are good enough..hats off to them...

johnlg00 writes:

Too awful to contemplate right now, just how bad Oklahoma is likely to beat the Vols next year! No offense to Jones or the extremely made-over team he will have to field next year, but a Vol win would seem like a sign of the apocalypse. The year AFTER...? We'll see!

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

in response to underthehill:

bama has done more than any SEC school to create the image that the SEC is the most dominate in college football..this has brought millions of dollars and made recruiting national talent better for the entire conference..now this loss has done more to tarnish that image than can be measured at this time..the loss by Ga didn't help..a loss by Auburn would do even more damage..so do I pull against a team that has Randy Sanders working for them..the guy who made the play call that won UT a national championship? the guy who UT let Fulmer railroad when I think Fulmer and his pound the pill philosophy was a direct contrast to what Sanders wanted..I have to pull for Sanders and Fla State..but if Auburn proves they are good enough..hats off to them...

Damage to whom, the only damage around Tennessee is the damage Hamilton started by firing a Hall of Fame coach in the middle of a season and then hiring an incompetent liar followed by doofus.
Now we have a program that has lost how many years in a row to Tidey Bowl, lizards, drooling Dawgs, Plainsmen, Mizzou, and the Commodes!
Yea, I like supporting a broken down rusted wreck sitting on a flatbed in a Ferrari/Maserati/Porsche dealership. I love our competitors losing and losing ugly. I don't care about the prestige in Birmingham. I love the prestige and success General Neyland and Coach Fulmer had kicking the SEC and other vaunted programs around.
You will never have success again in Vol land vicariously supporting the enemy while they reload their arsenal of gifted players. The enemies treasures surely don't make the Vols better.
February 6 can't get here soon enough to see who we can keep to try and turn this mess around.

murrayvol writes:

in response to IndianOutlaw:

Never "Take Glee in another's loss" it could be you next. But the team that I was rooting for won. I wonder how this will effect the mental stability of all the "Wal-Mart Alabubba's" here in Tennessee?

Worse than a barbed wire enema.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Too awful to contemplate right now, just how bad Oklahoma is likely to beat the Vols next year! No offense to Jones or the extremely made-over team he will have to field next year, but a Vol win would seem like a sign of the apocalypse. The year AFTER...? We'll see!

This is one buyout I'd support with a vengeance.

murrayvol writes:

in response to underthehill:

bama has done more than any SEC school to create the image that the SEC is the most dominate in college football..this has brought millions of dollars and made recruiting national talent better for the entire conference..now this loss has done more to tarnish that image than can be measured at this time..the loss by Ga didn't help..a loss by Auburn would do even more damage..so do I pull against a team that has Randy Sanders working for them..the guy who made the play call that won UT a national championship? the guy who UT let Fulmer railroad when I think Fulmer and his pound the pill philosophy was a direct contrast to what Sanders wanted..I have to pull for Sanders and Fla State..but if Auburn proves they are good enough..hats off to them...

With all respect undie the old "support the SEC across the board" mantra is passe. This conference is a farm system for the NFL.

Every fall Saturday we're at war with our "brethren" for regional and national recognition. And every other Saturday of the year we're at war with them for recruits.Screw em.......and the horse they rode in on.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

in response to underthehill:

bama has done more than any SEC school to create the image that the SEC is the most dominate in college football..this has brought millions of dollars and made recruiting national talent better for the entire conference..now this loss has done more to tarnish that image than can be measured at this time..the loss by Ga didn't help..a loss by Auburn would do even more damage..so do I pull against a team that has Randy Sanders working for them..the guy who made the play call that won UT a national championship? the guy who UT let Fulmer railroad when I think Fulmer and his pound the pill philosophy was a direct contrast to what Sanders wanted..I have to pull for Sanders and Fla State..but if Auburn proves they are good enough..hats off to them...

No disrespect to you. I like your post but this one is way off in left field. Why would you want a team you fight against for everything in the SEC (players and championships) to prove every year a recruit should come to them over your school. It is crazy to cheer for them You want them to come down a little so you can catch up with them. Lets face it guys, coaching is coaching but you got to have talent with good coaching. I can't stand the Tide and I am glad they lost

Snapshot writes:

in response to no1djkb#278630:

No disrespect to you. I like your post but this one is way off in left field. Why would you want a team you fight against for everything in the SEC (players and championships) to prove every year a recruit should come to them over your school. It is crazy to cheer for them You want them to come down a little so you can catch up with them. Lets face it guys, coaching is coaching but you got to have talent with good coaching. I can't stand the Tide and I am glad they lost

I agree 100%. I've basically said the same thing many times. Didn't bother me in the least to watch bama go down. In fact I hope they expand on that two game losing streak next season! As for auburn, the way they are trying to steal our commitments I hope they give drilled Monday.

Tao_of_Tennessee writes:

Governor Mary Fallin has put the three trees in Oklahoma under police protection.

jowemedo writes:

No disrespect to anyone on here, but I doubt that any recruit is going to bolt from an 11-2 team to a 5-7 team because that 11-2 team just lost in a bowl game. I wish Bama, Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia etc. could all go 0-8 in conference but when bowl season gets here, I'm all SEC. By the way, when a team that beat you loses don't that make you look even worse.

pingkr62 writes:

I just saw a video on Book Face showing some Bama-Chick fighting with some OU fans during the game. A Bama fan strikes again!!!

murrayvol writes:

in response to Tao_of_Tennessee:

Governor Mary Fallin has put the three trees in Oklahoma under police protection.

Touche'

Goodgriefcharliebrown writes:

What post season bowl game did Tennessee play in this year? Last year? How about the year before? 'Nuff said. Nothing sucks better than a big orange (fan).

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

in response to jowemedo:

No disrespect to anyone on here, but I doubt that any recruit is going to bolt from an 11-2 team to a 5-7 team because that 11-2 team just lost in a bowl game. I wish Bama, Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia etc. could all go 0-8 in conference but when bowl season gets here, I'm all SEC. By the way, when a team that beat you loses don't that make you look even worse.

Tennessee is worse. It isn't about an 11-2 SEC team losing and we pick up a recruit. It is about wanting to see every team in the SEC lose and be embarrassed while the Vols beat those same teams during the regular season and then win the bowl game.
It was awesome watching Taj Boyd carve up Urban's nuts. The last couple of years would have been great to have the former Vol commitment that was runoff by Kiffboy winning in Neyland!
Also, the recent Sports Illustrated article where Bryce Petty talked about his love for UT and Coach Fulmer but went to Baylor because Hamilton fired Coach makes you wonder what might have been if incompetence didn't rule on Lake Loudon Boulevard!

SummerfieldVol writes:

This game and the BCS champion game proves what I have said many times. It does not make any difference if you are a Freshman or not. Florida St freshman QB just won the Heisman and so did a Freshman last year. I am just wondering who Tennessee's starting freshman QB will be. Enough of the statement: But He is only a Freshman. You either have the talent or you don't, and it does not take very long to tell either. The QB's we have now will not get Tennessee to a 8 or 10 win season. That is why I said who will be our new freshman QB.maybe a red shirt.

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