Oklahoma surprises Alabama in the Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard (left) celebrates after his 9-yard TD catch during the fourth quarter on Thursday. It put Oklahoma up 37-24 with 10:44 left.

NEW ORLEANS — Trevor Knight passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns and No.11 Oklahoma took down third-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 45-31 on Thursday night.

 

Knight’s completion percentage entering the game was 52.2. He had completed 47 passes all season, and had 32 against Alabama to set a Sugar Bowl record.

Sterling Shepard caught two of Knight’s TD passes, of 13 yards in the second quarter and 9 yards in the fourth quarter.

AJ 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 ‘Bama’s first two-game skid since its Sugar Bowl loss to Utah in January 2009.

Oklahoma scored 28 points off four Alabama turnovers – two lost fumbles and two interceptions.

The victory was a sweet one for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who last off-season called talk about the Southeastern Conference being the best league in college football “propaganda.”

His team vanquished an Alabama squad that had been ranked No. 1 much of the past three seasons, winning the previous two national titles.

Stoops had lost three games in a row to SEC teams, including a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisiana State after the 2003 season and to Florida in the national championship game after the 2008 season.

He’s now 4-4 overall against the league, with the latest loss coming against Texas A&M in last season’s Cotton Bowl.

The last SEC team Stoops and Oklahoma beat was Alabama – doing so in back-to-back regular-season games during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Of course, that was the pre-Nick Saban Crimson Tide, and the games were also the last time the Sooners played an SEC team during the regular season.

The last time Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl was under similar circumstances – and a similar result. The Tide had just lost to Florida in the SEC title game, knocking ’Bama out of the national title picture.

Then the Tide came to the Big Easy as more than a touchdown favorite and got run out of the Superdome, 31-17, by Utah.

Oklahoma had used two quarterbacks this season – Knight and junior Blake Bell.

Before the game, Stoops declined to discuss who would start how or much he expected either to play. Knight started and went all the way.

“When you watch these two quarterbacks, we kind of go to some plays a little bit more with one guy than we do another, so why give someone the advantage of practicing those plays more than another set of plays?” Stoops said. “It hopefully has made them have to work a bigger package on what we like to do with each guy.”

Thursday’s matchup featured two of the highest-rated defenses in the country.

Alabama was ranked fifth, allowing 274.7 yards per game, while Oklahoma ranks 13th, allowing 336.3.

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