OU football: Five takeaways from the Sooners' 55-20 Cotton Bowl win over Florida
ARLINGTON, Texas — OU’s offense broke out in a big way and the Sooners’ defense made it a nightmare day for Kyle Trask in a 55-20 win over Florida in the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday.
It was the OU’s first bowl win since the Sugar Bowl win over Auburn after the 2016 season.
Here are five takeaways from the Sooners’ win:
What goes around...
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Florida linebacker James Houston IV's incendiary quote last week on OU was certainly noticed by the Sooners.
"Oklahoma is a good matchup but they're not on our level," Houston said. "They're not SEC. They're not the Florida Gators."
After the dismantling, Sooners defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas had an answer.
"Florida, they're a good matchup," Thomas deadpanned during an answer in the postgame press conference. "But they're not the Big 12. They're not the Oklahoma Sooners."
Florida coach Dan Mullen downplayed the blowout afterward, citing the players who weren't available.
The Gators were missing their top three receivers due to opt outs, and their fourth due to a positive COVID-19 test. Florida was also missing several defensive starters.
"That wasn't the 2020 football team that you saw," Mullen said, saying the last game for the 2020 team was in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
Mullen added that Florida had the numbers not to play in the game.
One of the most impressive things about Florida quarterback Kyle Trask’s season had been his ability to avoid mistakes.
Trask had thrown just five interceptions all season and only once had thrown multiple interceptions in a game.
But OU’s defense picked off Trask on each of the first three drives.
Tre Norwood started it, returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.
It was the Sooners’ first interception returned for a score since the second game of the 2019 season, a win over South Dakota.
OU hadn’t scored a defensive touchdown in a bowl game since Steven Parker’s fumble recovery return in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against Georgia after the 2017 season and it was the first interception return by a Sooner in a bowl game since Jamell Fleming's score against UConn in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season.
Norwood’s interception was his fifth of the season — all in the last six games. No Sooners player has had more interceptions in a season since Zack Sanchez had seven in 2015.
But the Sooners didn’t end it there.
Linebacker Brian Asamoah picked off Trask on the next drive before Dan Mullen started rotating Trask and Emory Jones at quarterback.
On the third drive, the Gators moved the ball downfield but Woodi Washington picked off Trask in the end zone.
"They let go a couple of throws that weren't quite as decisive as we're used to seeing him make," Lincoln Riley said of Trask. "And our guys did a tremendous job with it. It says a lot about us. We have the utmost respect for their offense. Trask has been on of the best quarterbacks this year."
Run, run, Sooners
Florida’s defense had struggled plenty this season, especially in their last two games.
Then the Gators were without several defensive starters.
But even so, what the Sooners did on the ground was pretty impressive.
Rhamondre Stevenson ran for a career-high 186 yards with a touchdown.
But it wasn’t just Stevenson.
Seth McGowan had a 73-yard run on his only carry and little-used Marcus Major, playing a bigger role with T.J. Pledger having announced his decision to enter the transfer portal, had nine runs for 110 yards.
The Sooners finished with 435 yards on the ground, more than double the most for OU this season. OU’s previous high this season was 213 on Oct. 31 at Texas Tech.
“We ran through tackles,” Riley said. “Those were tackles at different times this year, we were ending up on the ground. Our guys ran aggressive. I thought the line really made them confident.”
Defense plays bend but don’t break
The Gators finished with plenty of yards — 521 — but the Sooners made the Gators work for everything they got.
Florida had three drives of 10 plays or more and didn’t have a play longer than 28 yards all night.
Washington’s interception came on the 10th play of the Gators’ third drive.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Sooners’ defense stopped Florida after the Gators had a first-and-goal from the OU 8.
That drive lasted 11 plays before Asamoah stopped Rick Wells at the 3 on fourth down.
"Playing the key downs and being our best in the big moments," Riley said of what stood out to him about the defense outside of the early interceptions. "That's what championship-level groups do."
Rack up the records
Much will be made about Florida missing players, and rightfully so.
But regardless of who was lined up on the other side, Wednesday's performance was one for the books.
OU had never scored more than 48 points in a bowl game but set a new school bowl standard with 55 points, and also broke their bowl record for most total yards with 684.
It was the most for the Sooners against an FBS opponent since they had 702 in Bedlam 2018.
OU's rushing total set a Cotton Bowl record, as did their 10.9 yards per running play and 10.5 average yards per play.
The Sooners tied a Cotton Bowl record for points, initially set by USC in the 1995 game.
The margin of victory was also the Sooners' biggest in a bowl game.