The No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners went into New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl as double-digit underdogs, with most critics predicting for Bob Stoops’ squad to lose and lose big, but behind freshman quarterback Trevor Knight’s best game of his short career, the Sooners upset the two-time national champion Crimson Tide of Alabama 45-31 in the 80th edition of the bowl on Jan. 2.
Oklahoma, who finished its season at 11-2, torched the SEC’s best defense for 348 yards passing and 429 total yards of offense.
Knight proceeded to throw for 348 yards, completing a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes on 47 completions with four touchdowns and one interception, which came on the Sooners opening drive.
Knight found sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard for a 9-yard touchdown with 11:35 left in the fourth to give the Sooners a 38-24 lead which proved to be just enough for the win.
Both teams entered the game going in opposite directions as Oklahoma got into the BCS picture with an upset win in Bedlam over Oklahoma State, while Alabama was looking to make its third straight national title appearance, but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Senior quarterback AJ McCarron finished a great career for Bama, but on the losing end, finishing with 387 yards on 19-of-30 passing with two touchdowns and three turnovers.
McCarron drove Bama down 75 yards on the opening drive on four plays as sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon punched it in from the 1 to give the Tide the first lead. McCarron connected with sophomore receiver Amari Cooper for 15 and 53 yards on the drive.
The Sooners held onto the ball for nearly three minutes on their first possession, but threw a pick on the ninth play of the drive.
One play later, and McCarron would be intercepted by sophomore defensive back Landon Collins.
Knight, who is a dual-threat quarterback, only rushed for seven yards. He found sophomore and senior receivers Lacoltan Bester and Jalen Saunders for touchdowns as the Sooners lead 14-10 after the first quarter.
Oklahoma would take it in after a 13-yard touchdown on an end around from Shepard after freshman cornerback Zach Sanchez picked off McCarron in the second.
Bama would miss a late field goal, and found themselves down 31-17 at the half.
The Tide had one final chance, down 38-31 after a 60-yard catch and run from freshman running back Derrick Henry, but Oklahoma forced a fumble and returned it for a score for the icing on the cake.
It’s the first two-game skid for the Tide since losing the 2009 Sugar Bowl to Utah.
Stoops earned his 160th-career win and is now 8-7 in bowl games at OU.
After an up-and-down season at the quarterback position, the Sooners just may have found their longtime QB. Knight started the first two games before being pulled for junior Blake Bell, but Knight returned to start Bedlam before leaving before half with an injury.
Stoops wouldn’t announce the starting quarterback against Bama, and when Knight came out onto the field, the Tide didn’t know what hit them.
It was arguably the biggest BCS bowl victory for OU since winning the 2002 Rose Bowl 34-14 against Washington State. The Sooners also won the 2000 National Championship game at the Orange Bowl against Florida State.
Stoops now has a 4-5 record in BCS bowls, winning two straight after losing the previous five.
With the win, Stoops becomes the first coach to win all four BCS games and a national championship.