NEW ORLEANS —
McCarron threw for 387 yards, but he was sacked six times and threw two interceptions.
It was the turnovers — four in total — and seven sacks that proved to be the Sooners’ salvation. Defensive end Geneo Grissom, who was the game’s defensive MVP, scooped up two fumbles, with the last coming after OU linebacker Eric Striker stripped McCarron with 50 seconds to go and Grissom returning it 8 yards for a touchdown. Defensive backs Zack Sanchez and Gabe Lynn also had interceptions.
“Oklahoma did a good job of mixing things up, showing us some things we hadn’t seen,” McCarron said. “But you put it all on me. I had two turnovers, ended up scoring 14 points, and we lost by 14.”
They allowed OU to take control of the game in the second quarter. They rolled off 17 straight points in the final 11:45 of the quarter to seize a 31-17 lead.
Knight hit Jalen Saunders for a 43-yard touchdown pass and Sterling Shepard scored on a 13-yard reverse with 62 seconds left to take the two-touchdown lead.
The flurry left the 70,473 fans — including the Sooner faithful — stunned. The predicted cakewalk for the Crimson Tide was long gone by then.
“As a team we didn’t play well enough to win, and Oklahoma really outplayed us,” Saban said. “And I really can’t blame it on the lack of focus.”
The Sooners won despite giving up 516 yards of total offense and boatload of missed tackles.
Twice Alabama cut OU’s lead to seven. Freshman running Derrick Henry, who rushed for 100 yards, scored on a 43-yard touchdown run and 61-yard swing pass.
But OU matched Alabama punch for punch. Shepard caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from the Knight with 10:44 to go, lifting the lead back up to 14.
The Crimson Tide got the ball back with about a minute left, but Striker blew past Alabama All-American tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and forced the fumble right into Grissom’s hands who delivered the knock-out blow.