One team walked into the building looking all-business if you look at it in a positive light. Or they were just going through the motions. The other looked like it consumed too much sugar and various libations in the hotel and was amped even after the clock expired in their 45-31 victory. Maybe Bob Stoops was just overjoyed that Nick Saban wouldn’t be on the other side of the Big 12’s Red River Rivalry.
However, if you’re expecting me to blame ‘Bama’s loss on the enthusiasm factor, I won’t do it. McCarron seemed determined to go out a winner on his own terms while shedding that game manager label once and for all.
Alabama still had the more talented roster. Oklahoma was just better coached. Oklahoma least talented roster in the Stoops era came out in the first half and pounced on Alabama to take a 31-17 lead into the half. It was a complete opposite of the bloodbath we expected. Nah, the Sugar Bowl’s plot twist was more akin to the Red Wedding.
And for the second time in two outings, Nick Saban was outcoached. "Big Game" Bob Stoops has been living off his reputation in the last decade.
Stoops most recent BCS appearance in 2011 was a victory over overmatched UConn, whose coach was distracted by his flight to Maryland the next day. However, Fiesta Bowl losses to Boise State and West Virginia, in addition to the National Championship Game loss to Florida when the nation's top offense could only muster 14 points caused many to downgrade him.
However, Stoops and Saban go back even further than that. Stoops’ 2005 National Championship loss to USC was the most humiliating loss of his career, but the 21-14 loss to Saban’s underdog LSU Tigers the year prior is what caused the aura of invincibility around Stoops crack.
The timing of Stoops' decline coincided with his brother Mark abandoning his defensive coordinator position before the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game for the Arizona coaching job. Mike Stoops returned to his old post.
On Thursday night, Bob Stoops returned the confidence-killing ass-kicking to Saban. The Sooners game plan worked to perfection in the first half, shocking the nation and striking fear into Henry’s shocked hairline.
Stoops kept his starting quarterback’s identity hidden right up until kickoff to keep the Crimson Tide on their heels in the weeks leading up to the Fiesta Bowl.
In last year's Sugar Bowl, Teddy Bridgewater cemented his status as the nation's best pocket passer. Trevor Knight didn’t quite make that grand of statement, but he created a surge of momentum for himself heading into a spring practice showdown with Blake Bell for the second year in a row.
Knight is no Jason White, Sam Bradford or Landry Jones. Since deeboing the job from Bell, he’s been shakier than an old wooden rollercoaster. Knight was benched after in the fourth quarter of their win against West Virginia in September and after getting a second shot he was benched against Oklahoma State after completing 3 of 7 passes while Blake Bell led the final game-winning drive.
Alabama’s running game did damage to the Sooner defense’s psyche, but not with the typical two-headed monster consisting of Kenyan Drake and T.J. Yeldon. Derrick Henry took the lead and made everyone forget A.J. McCarron passing for 207 yards with his first five completions.
However, McCarron was also turnover prone in the first half and looked less like the “next Tom Brady” he has been been touted as. Oklahoma still has a few kinks to work out before it can rejoin the national championship convo.
Oklahoma running back Damien Williams, a formerly inspirational story as a walk-on was dismissed from the team at the end of November forcing Oklahoma to resort to using screen plays as an extension of their running game.
We knew Alabama was a little vulnerable entering this season –especially in the secondary, but the holes on their defense makes one question just how much of a fight Florida State will get against Auburn.
Meanwhile, Alabama's defense isn't its primary concern. The Crimson Tide have to reload on the defensive end and at quarterback. There's a lot of work for Alabama to do before they get back on top of the mountain.