NOTE: Fifty-eight days ago, I wrote this article about how the Sooners’ once-firm stranglehold on the Big 12 Conference had dissolved. Since then, the Sooners closed the season on a four-game winning streak, including three victories away from Norman, all three of which they were underdogs in.
Bob Stoops downplays the significance of the Sugar Bowl win in terms of putting OU back on the national stage, but trends say otherwise.
NORMAN, Okla. — It’s funny how quickly the perception of things changes.
Such is the case for the Sooners.
They’ve still only won one outright conference championship over the past five seasons, but the momentum and direction of the program has quickly shifted, for the better.
That’s thanks to a 45-31 statement victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in last Thursday’s Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
An Oklahoma team that recently has been a shell of itself over time and mostly just flirted with being a legitimate Top 10 team since losing the 2009 BCS National Championship Game boldly screamed out “We’re baaaack!”
Linebacker Eric Striker smacked Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron around, sacking him three times and creating a game-clinching strip-and-score that defensive end Geneo Grissom housed in the final minute.
The Sooners ultimately recorded seven sacks and four turnovers—the Tide had only committed 12 all year—in the contest.
Quarterback Trevor Knight threw on the Tide like he was Sam Bradford and used his mobility to perfection when called upon and threw on the run like Johnny Football.
The Sooner offensive line pushed ‘Bama around like roles of recent years were reversed, and likewise on the other side of the ball.
The Sooners were the aggressor all night, save for the opening couple possessions of the game.
And the impact has been huge.
“Well, I don’t—maybe the outside world will make that of it,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops. “We never were in a position where the outside world tried to portray us however many weeks ago. That wasn’t us. So, this isn’t going to change us.”
The patterns suggest otherwise.
No. 1 all-purpose back Joe Mixon immediately committed to the Sooners just two days after the victory.
“It meant a lot; it did,” Mixon said. “Once they won the Alabama game, that shut the deal. Now I’m a Sooner. Let’s get it!”
Offensive guard Natrell Curtis, who de-committed from Washington some time ago, followed his Army All-American West Team teammate Mixon and finally pulled the Crimson and Cream trigger.
Defensive tackle Courtney Garnett, committed to Texas for a while, de-committed Tuesday and has OU in his top two. He’s been tweeting non-stop about OU.
For the 2015 class, nose tackle Marquise Overton quickly pledged, though it’s very likely he would have done so anyways.
Longtime Sooner fan and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie also recently received an OU offer and has been tweeting out in favor of the Sooners.
And on top of all that, it’s impossible to ignore the support from the alumni that seems to have returned.
That was the case even before the victory, though, too.
Take, for example, Kenny Stills showing up at practice and breaking down the wide receiver huddle just more than a month removed from his controversial comments about running back Damien Williams’ dismissal from the team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, too, hung around New Orleans to interact with the team.
Former players Adrian Peterson, Phil Loadholt, Jammal Brown, Trent Williams, Davin Joseph, all of whom played in a national title game during the Stoops era, plus Tony Jefferson, all showed up to back their former school as well.
Players, former and current, are tweeting and talking about how everyone should expect to see the Sooners in the inaugural four-team playoff next season.
“I mean, I always thought Oklahoma was top,” Striker said. “There ain’t no other way we could go. But, you know, I mean, it shows anybody who doubted us, they should bite their tongue. Tell them all to bite their tongue, Stephen A. [Smith], Skip Bayless, all of them.”
I think a lot of people, myself included, are biting their tongues.
The Sooner program is back. Thanks to a crucial four-game stretch that included a victory over the back-to-back National Champion Tide.