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January 2, 2014
Analysis: 5 Key Plays
NEW ORLEANS | It was a track meet for the better part of Thursday night's Sugar Bowl, with both teams sprinting up and down the field to the total of 945 combined yards.
But the game also featured pivotal defensive plays that shifted the tone of the game.
Here are five key plays that shaped Oklahoma's 45-31 win.
The Crimson Tide was off to a nifty little start in the first quarter, scoring on its first possession to grab a quick 7-0 lead.
It got even better when sophomore safety Landon Collins made a diving interception of Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight to give UA the ball right back. But on the very next play, AJ McCarron returned the favor on a bad decision.
Targeting Kevin Norwood, McCarron threw into coverage and Gabe Lynn made his fourth interception of the season.
The Sooners scored one play later, and, instead of a potential two-score advantage for Alabama, Oklahoma tied the game.
He was perhaps the most hyped freshman member of the 2013 class, but despite a 10.4 yards per carry average in his rookie year, Derrick Henry hadn't had a signature moment in a key game.
That changed in the third quarter.
With his team trailing by two touchdowns, Henry burst through the line, cut right and rumbled 43 yards for a touchdown.
On the next drive he ripped off consecutive runs of 19 and 11 yards. At one point during the third quarter, Henry had seven rushes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
With the game tied at 17 and less than six minutes remaining in the first half, Knight showed off a strong arm.
On a stop-and-go route he uncorked a beautiful ball to Jalen Saunders for a 43-yard touchdown over Alabama cornerback Deion Belue. Belue didn't bite on the stop-and-go, but he kept his eyes in the backfield and allowed Saunders to run by him.
The score gave Oklahoma a lead it didn't relinquish.
Knight had his way with the Alabama secondary in the first half, completing 78 percent of his passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
The Crimson Tide defenders didn't fare much better against Saunders, who came in with 56 receptions, 654 yards and eight total touchdowns on the season. The senior wide receiver had five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Knight burns 'em again
He faced a 1st-and-30 on the drive, but that didn't prevent Knight from carving up the Alabama secondary for another touchdown drive.
Knight completed passes of 6, 9 and 34 yards before his most impressive play of the night that resulted in his fourth touchdown pass of the night.
Rolling to his right towards and close to the sideline, Knight pumped faked an Alabama pass-rusher off his feet and then threw a dart to Sterling Shepard for a 9-yard touchdown and a 14-point Sooner lead.
Sack, scoop and score
Having trailed since the first half, Alabama actually had the opportunity to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in the game.
But on the first play of the drive, defensive end Eric Striker raced around offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio to sack McCarron from the blind side. McCarron fumbled, and Geneo Grissom picked up the loose ball at the 8 for the scoop and score that sealed the game.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.