No. 3 Alabama falls to No. 11 Oklahoma in Sugar Bowl
By Kadin Pounders
For the FCT
The Sugar Bowl was anything but sweet for the Alabama Crimson Tide Thursday night. The Oklahoma Sooners torched the Alabama defense on their way to a 45-31 thumping in New Orleans.
The Crimson Tide’s hopes of a third straight national championship appearance were crushed by heated rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl forcing Alabama to settle for a Sugar Bowl appearance.
Going into the game, No. 3 Alabama was a 17-point favorite over the No. 11 Sooners, but the Big-12 underdog was not scared of the SEC powerhouse.
A game that was figured to be a defensive battle quickly turned into an offensive shootout.
Despite Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s 387 passing yards and two touchdown passes, he had two interceptions that led to Oklahoma scores.
Five forced turnovers and seven sacks by the Sooners proved to be the major factors in the outcome of the game. All five turnovers were followed by Sooner points.
The poor performance by the Alabama defense, especially in the secondary, was also a big factor in the game. The Crimson Tide held the Sooners to just 81 yards on the ground, but Oklahoma freshman quarterback Trevor Knight lit up the defense for 348 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
“We created a lot of the adversity that we faced ourselves with some of the things we did and didn’t do,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban in the post-game press conference.
“We had some other opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of and you have to give Oklahoma some credit for that.”
Local Tide fans had some thoughts about the disappointing loss as well.
“Oklahoma did their homework. They had some plays that looked very similar to Auburn’s offense,” Daniel Hollimon said. “The right adjustments were made at halftime but it was too little, too late.”
“I was horribly upset that [Alabama] lost,” Erika Sparks said. “I mainly felt bad for AJ McCarron losing the last two games of his career after such a good run.”
The 45 points surrendered by the Crimson Tide defense was the most Alabama has given up since a loss to Tennessee who scored 51 in a five-overtime classic in 2003.
With the season officially over for the Crimson Tide, fans are already looking forward to the 2014 season.
“I’m very concerned with a new quarterback, especially having to fill the shoes of AJ McCarron,” said Hollimon.
“Will [Nick Saban] choose more of a pocket passing quarterback or one that’s a dual threat like Blake Sims?”
The Crimson Tide will be losing some key players and leaders such as AJ McCarron, who some consider the greatest quarterback in school history, as well as All-America linebacker CJ Mosley and receiver Kevin Norwood. Other NFL-eligible players may also make decisions to enter the NFL draft before the deadline Jan. 15.
Saban and Alabama will try to continue “the process” which means the younger players will need to step up and take more responsibility on the team.
Fans remain optimistic after big games by Derrick Henry, DeAndrew White, Landon Collins, and Amare Cooper even after the bowl game loss.
“I think next season [Alabama] will definitely be back and better than ever,” Sparks said.
Fans still have a lot of questions about the future, but the answers may come as events like National Signing Day, spring training, and the annual A-Day game roll forward.
Crimson Tide fans enter 2014 with a sour taste in their mouths, but hope to end it at a familiar place – the top.