Cotton Bowl notebook: OU football team fires back at Florida LB after Sooners' rout: 'They aren't Big 12'
ARLINGTON, Texas — Isaiah Thomas made his mark this season in knowing when to strike.
He usually has done it on the field, though.
Wednesday, in the press conference following OU’s 55-20 beat down of Florida in the Cotton Bowl, Thomas struck verbally as he answered a question on the Sooners’ defensive improvement.
“Florida, they were a good matchup,” Thomas deadpanned. “But they aren’t the Big 12. They are not the Oklahoma Sooners.”
Thomas’ words were a spin on what Gators linebacker James Houston said last week about the Sooners.
“They’re not on our level,” Houston said. “They’re not SEC. They’re not the Florida Gators.”
Thomas wasn’t the only one remembering Houston’s words after the win.
“It was a good matchup,” Spencer Rattler tweeted after the game, one of several players to reference Houston’s words.
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Sooners celebrate with ‘national anthem’
OU’s current players were mostly early in their elementary school days when Malcolm Kelly unleashed the freestyle rap in the Sooners’ locker room following their 2006 Big 12 Championship Game win over Nebraska.
But late Wednesday night, the Sooners gathered on and around a stage on the field as they waited for the trophy presentation and unleashed a team version of Kelly’s rap.
“It’s like a brotherhood thing,” Thomas said. “It’s like our team’s national anthem, I guess you could say. It shows how much this tradition means to us.”
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley was 100% on board with the singing.
“I know just about every word to that as well,” Riley said. “That was pretty cool. Our guys, they deserved that moment, man. Winning is hard and it’s hard to do it here at the end against great competition.”
The Sooners set plenty of records with the win.
The 55 points and 684 yards were the most OU had ever recorded in a bowl game.
The Sooners’ previous high score in a bowl was 48, done four times — 1958 Orange Bowl vs. Duke, 1991 Gator Bowl vs. Virginia, 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs. UConn and the 2018 Rose Bowl vs. Georgia. In that Gator Bowl, the Sooners had 618 total yards, the record before Wednesday.
The 35-point margin of victory tied a program record in a bowl, equaling the Sooners’ 35-0 win over LSU in the 1950 Sugar Bowl.
The Sooners narrowly missed setting a school bowl record for rushing yards, thanks to kneeling late. The 435 rushing yards finished just behind the 439 rushing yards the Sooners had in the 1972 Sugar Bowl vs. Auburn.
The most impressive number might’ve been the rushing average, though.
OU averaged 10.9 yards per rush, setting not only a Cotton Bowl but a school record. That record isn’t just for bowl games, but ANY game.
The previous record was 10.6 yards per carry against Kansas State in 1988.
Young RBs thrive
Seth McGowan and Marcus Major hadn’t gotten many carries lately.
After getting 55 carries in the first six games, McGowan had just two over the final four going into the bowl game.
Major had just three carries in the final six games.
But against Florida, after backup running back T.J. Pledger announced that he was entering the transfer portal, McGowan and Major combined for 10 carries for 183 yards.
Only one of those came from McGowan — a 73-yarder — but McGowan also added three catches for 70 yards
His previous high for total yards was 89 yards in the Oct. 3 loss at Iowa State.
“Seth got a lot of playing time for us early when so many of our guys were out,” Riley said. “Probably wasn’t quite ready for all we had to do. He really fought and did a good job and he’s had a chance to take a step back and get behind the scenes and learn and work. He’s gotten better throughout this.”
Major had nine carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. His previous career high was 43 yards rushing.
“It’s a great lesson for all young guys,” Riley said. “You may not be the star or the feature guy at the beginning. You may have ups and downs. But if you don’t let them get to you, if you hang in there, if you keep swinging and keep working behind the scenes, when your opportunity comes you’ll be ready. And they were ready tonight.”
Ryan Aber, Staff writer