Oklahoma upsets Alabama in Sugar Bowl

By Eric Bailey

NEW ORLEANS — How sweet it is.

Oklahoma weathered a late comeback attempt to capture the Sugar Bowl with a 45-31 victory over heavily favored Alabama on Thursday night.

The Sooners (11-2) entered the game the biggest underdogs (17 points) of Bob Stoops’ career. OU departs the BCS bowl with serious swagger after taking down a program many deemed college football’s royalty.

The contest was sealed when Geneo Grissom scooped up a fumble and scored an 8-yard touchdown after Eric Striker sacked AJ McCarron with 47 seconds remaining.

OU quarterback Trevor Knight may have built a place in Sooner lore in just his fifth start. The redshirt freshman threw four touchdown passes and one interception to lead his team to the victory over the Southeastern Conference school.

Knight was 32-of-44 passing for 348 yards.

Knight’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard gave Oklahoma a 38-24 lead. It came after the quarterback scrambled hard right and found the wide receiver in the back of the end zone.

The two-touchdown lead was hardly comfortable against a veteran Tide squad with back-to-back national championships.

McCarron — who faced tons of pressure by the Oklahoma defense all evening — hit Derrick Henry with a 61-yard touchdown on a swing pass.

The Tide (11-2) cut the lead to 38-31 midway through the fourth quarter and sent the Alabama portion of the Superdome into a frenzy.

OU took over with six minutes remaining and needed to drain the clock or find a way to get points.

Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up a solid run-pass mix on the Sooners’ drive. Knight found running backs out of the backfield and Brennan Clay added some key runs. OU didn’t give up the ball until one minute remained.

Alabama took over at its own 18 with 56 seconds remaining.

The Sooners proved they came to play after the opening quarter, grabbing an early 14-10 lead at the Superdome.

Knight was never officially named the starter before the game, but he showed why he earned the job. His run game was advertised, but it was his passing ability that vaulted OU to a big start.

The redshirt freshman was 11-of-14 passing for 111 yards with two touchdown throws in the opening 15 minutes.

His 8-yard scoring throw to Jalen Saunders with 1:53 left in the period gave OU a 14-10 lead.

Alabama took little time grabbing an early lead.

The Tide took the opening kickoff 75 yards on only four plays, capped by T.J. Yeldon’s 1-yard scoring run. The big play was McCarron’s 53-yard throw to Amari Cooper.

After both quarterbacks exchanged interceptions, Knight hit Lacoltan Bester with a 45-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to tie the game at 7. The OU score came one play after Gabe Lynn’s interception.

McCarron hit DeAndrew White with a 63-yard throw on Alabama’s next possession to set up Cade Foster’s 27-yard field goal to give the Tide a 10-7 lead with 7:02 left.

How good did things go for OU before halftime?

At one point, the song “Jump Around” blasted in the Superdome on Thursday night.

The hip-hop song, recently reserved for Oklahoma’s big moments, was played to the delight of its fans before their team entered the halftime locker room with a 31-17 lead.

OU rattled heavily favored Alabama with an aggressive defense that forced three turnovers.

The defense forced three first-half turnovers into touchdowns. Gabe Lynn and Zack Sanchez registered interceptions, while Grissom scooped up a red-zone fumble forced by Dominique Alexander.

After Alabama tied the game at 17, Oklahoma scored two touchdowns in the final 2:59 of the opening half.

Knight threw a 43-yard scoring strike to Saunders to give OU a 24-17 lead. Following Sanchez’s interception, Sterling Shepard had a 13-yard run around right end with 1:05 remaining.

Alabama cut OU’s lead in half when Henry raced 43 yards for a touchdown. The Tide had two other drives stall near midfield.

Oklahoma only had 28 yards of offense in the third quarter after Alabama dialed up its pressure.

The Sooners overcame a first-and-30 situation to set up Shepard’s touchdown reception to give it a 38-24 lead.