OU report card: Sooners lack composure, tackling in loss to Alabama
The anticipated shootout never materialized because the Oklahoma offense sputtered badly early and the Alabama offense hit the accelerator. The grades reflect the domination of the Crimson Tide’s 45-34 win.
It was awful, and surprisingly, it was mostly because of the offense. After getting pressured on the first possession, Sooner quarterback Kyler Murray looked completely out of sorts for the rest of the quarter. His throws were off. His decisions were marginal. About the time that Murray got it together, his offensive line melted down. Bobby Evans Jr. drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after OU’s first touchdown, then Dru Samia did likewise on the extra-point attempt. The combination of the two unforced penalties left the Sooners kicking off from the 10-yard line. After the early going, the Sooners were much more composed, but by then, the damage was done.
The defense struggled to tackle much of the season, but man, that shortcoming was laid bare by Alabama. It started on the very first play of the game — Parnell Motley missed a tackle that turned a big pass play into an even bigger one — and the missed tackles only grew from there. The worst of all came on Josh Jacobs’ 27-yard touchdown run. The Alabama running back caught the ball well short of the endzone, and OU safety Robert Barnes had a chance to stop Jacobs near the 5-yard-line. Instead, Jacobs lowered his shoulder, not only running over Barnes but also causing an injury that knocked him out of the game.
After reviews on three of the first four possessions, it felt like this game might last until New Year’s Eve. Worse, one review came to the wrong conclusion and one was completely unnecessary because the call on the field was so awful. The first review was actually good, overturning an Alabama fumble near the goal line when Damien Harris’ elbow was down before the ball came out. But the second review should’ve overturned Henry Ruggs’ touchdown catch — he never had full control of the ball as he fell out of bounds — but the ruling on the field stood. And then the third review was on an incomplete pass that was clearly of the forward variety but was ruled backward on the field. Never should’ve been called that way to necessitate a review.
When the game was being decided, Alabama’s defense got too much pressure on Murray and OU’s defense didn’t get near enough on Tua Tagovailoa. The Sooner offensive line, so good this year, got abused by the Crimson Tide’s defensive front. On OU’s first possession alone, Murray was dragged down from behind for a 4-yard loss, then sacked. That’s about as much contact as he saw in most games this season. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners got almost no pressure on Tagovailoa. Coming off an ankle injury, the Crimson Tide quarterback had time to sit back, survey the defense and find his receivers.
The Sooners could’ve laid down after falling behind 28-0. When OU played USC in the Orange Bowl after the 2004 season, the Sooners all but gave up. These Sooners didn’t. They kept chipping away. They didn’t get embarrassed. Doesn’t change the outcome, but it was admirable.
Because of the stakes of this game, the uniforms aren’t something anyone thought much about, but this was a classic match-up. Those Alabama helmets with the stripe down the middle and the numbers on the side. The white OU jerseys and pants with the crimson helmets. Spectacular.