Late Thursday, SUGAR BOWL: No. 11 Oklahoma 45, No. 3 Alabama 31
In the final year of the BCS, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops won the one major bowl that had eluded him, and proved a point about parity in the process.
After taking the past month to cultivate a young quarterback who was still coming into his own, Stoops brought a confident and motivated Sooners squad to the Sugar Bowl, where they stunned 16-point favorite Alabama 45-31 on Thursday.
Freshman Trevor Knight completed a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns for 11th-ranked Oklahoma, outshining Heisman Trophy runner-up AJ McCarron, who saw his otherwise charmed college career come to a sour end with No. 3 Alabama.
The convincing victory also gave Stoops an I-told-you-so moment, backing up his comment last offseason that the gap between the Southeastern Conference and other top leagues like the Big 12 is not as great as some “propaganda” makes it out to be.
Alabama led 7-0 — having scored on the opening drive — before Stoops made his decision known by sending Knight out with the offense for Oklahoma’s first series. Knight had played behind junior Blake Bell much of the season. His completion percentage entering the game was 52.2. He had a breakout performance in which two of his touchdowns went for more than 40 yards.
“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 (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.
His Big 12 team vanquished an Alabama (11-2) squad that had been ranked No. 1 much of the past three seasons.
McCarron passed for 387 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions set up Oklahoma touchdowns. He was also sacked seven times, fumbling on the last one, and Geneo Grissom returned his second recovery of the game 8 yards for a score, sealing Alabama’s first two-game skid since its Sugar Bowl loss to Utah in January 2009.
Freshman Derrick Henry’s 43-yard run in the third quarter pulled Alabama to 31-24. But Alabama was unable to add another score before Knight found his groove again.
He 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.
Henry pulled Alabama within a score when he turned his first career reception into a tackle-shedding 61-yard touchdown with 6:22 to go, but Oklahoma didn’t fold.
Stoops became the first coach to win all four BCS bowl games, having already won the Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls.