At the beginning of the season, I was expecting Oklahoma to have a rough year. Oklahoma had lost several key players, including Landry Jones, and Kenny Stills. OU was coming off a season where OU had lost two games, ones to K-State and Notre Dame, became a record setting defense, and not in a good way, and had lost in an embarrassing way to Johnny Football and their former Big 12 foe Texas A&M Aggies.
A number of questions were being asked, not only me but by a large portion of Sooner Nation. What was the offense going to look like? What would the defense look like after the first year transition from a Brent Venables scheme to the Mike Stoops style 3-4? What would OU’s record be after a potentially tough season? Who is the quarterback?
First, let’s address the the heart of what the Stoops brothers profess. Defense.
During the 2012-13 season OU was ranked 65th in total defense at the conclusion of the year. Fans saw this defense get torched by the West Virginia Mountaineers and Tavon Austin, setting a Mountaineer record of 344 yards and a Big 12 record 572 all purpose yards.
Texas A&M was able to amass 41 points and Johnny Football just made the defense look like they were sitting still. He also set a Cotton Bowl record of 516 total yards.
To cut Mike Stoops some slack, it was his first year back. Implementing a new system can take a full season. OU under Mike Stoops showed a large improvement, despite a thumping in Waco; which the defense actually played well for half the game, the offense was just unable to get anything going.
The Sooners improved from the 65th ranked defense to 20th in total defense. This defense really came on at the end of the season.
It was able to hold Oklahoma State at bay in Bedlam. As well as shred the Alabama offensive line, making AJ McCarron uncomfortable enough to throw two picks, nab three fumble recoveries, and accumulate seven sacks.
Two players were named to the FWAA Freshman All-American Team, defensive back Zack Sanchez and linebacker Dominique Alexander.
This is exactly what I hoped and expected would happen under Mike Stoops; progress on the defensive side of the ball. That side of the ball I wasn’t nearly as worried about.
Now for the offense. Oklahoma has had some tremendous offensive units. Sam Bradford and Landry Jones most recently.
This season the Sooners had a quarterback competition for the starting job, a job that was Blake Bell’s to lose. The Belldozer, as he and the play he runs is known as, was a premiere package that if Oklahoma needed a short yardage conversion for a first down or touchdown, it was practically automatic. You knew it was coming, and generally, you knew most defenses couldn’t stop it.
However, no one knew if he was able to throw the football, because fans never really saw it with Landry Jones under center.
The OU coaching staff threw the fans a curve ball. August 23, 2013, the reports came out that Trevor Knight had been named the starting quarterback. Kendall Thompson appeared to be the favorite in the off-season, but ended up fracturing his foot in the spring game.
The first game of the year Oklahoma welcomed the University of Louisiana Monroe to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
At first it appeared OU couldnt get anything going. Trevor Knight’s passes were floating quite a ways from the receivers, though he did display his ability to run.
He ended up finishing that 34-0 win throwing 11-28, 86 passing yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception. He ran the ball 13 times for 103 yards.
Then came West Virginia. A year before, both the Mountaineer and Sooners defenses were shredded by their respective star quarterbacks. However, those quarterbacks are no longer playing on the college level.
Trevor Knight struggled even worse in this game, going 10-20, throwing for 119 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions, and running only 42 yards. Trevor Knight was injured in this one opening the door for Blake Bell.
Blake Bell comes on against Tulsa. In a tune up game before Notre Dame, Blake Bell set an OU record for most yardage thrown by a starting QB in school history. He was poised, throwing for 413 yards, completing 27-37 of his passes and throwing four touchdowns.
OU had the bye week giving them extra time to prepare for Notre Dame, and again he shined.
As impressive as Oklahoma’s defense played, Blake had a stat line of 22-30, 232 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and no picks. Trevor Knight threw a six yard pass and had two carries for 24 yards. That is when things started going south.
The Bellthrower struggled against TCU’s defense. Only amassing 152 yards of passing, no touchdowns or interceptions. OU was able to squeak by a scrappy Texas Christian squad, 20-17. Many considered it a trap game before the annual Red River Rivalry. That wasn’t the case.
Texas would make Blake Bell extremely uncomfortable, finishing 12-36, 133 passing yards, and two interceptions. OU then struggled against Kansas before rolling the Jayhawks in the second half.
However, Texas Tech, we saw a revival in a close match-up, 38-30. Bell threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
The game of the season came after the bye. Blake Bell again struggled. A game were OU’s offense was unable to do anything and ended up getting routed by Baylor’s offensive machine.
Blake Bell endured a concussion against Iowa State. Trevor Knight and Kendall Thompson both split time throwing the ball following Bell’s departure.
Thompson went 2-4 for 47 yards and a touchdown, and Knight went for 61 yards on 8-14 completions.
Trevor Knight got the nod to start in Manhattan, Kansas. Knight finally looked like the QB fans were expecting to see all season. Knight went 14-20, 171 passing yards, one touchdown through the air and an interception, and ran for 82 yards on 14 attempts.
OU had one more bye week before facing Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Trevor Knight left the game at the half with an apparent shoulder injury. Kendall Thompson came out and threw an interception to begin second 2nd half. Blake Bell, who ended up being the hero of Bedlam, was put in the game.
He connected with Jalen Saunders in the end zone and the defense followed up with a strip sack fumble for a touchdown to end the game. Remember that play folks, you’ll see it again.
Its not to say the OU run game doesn’t get any love. The run game, in conjunction with the offensive line was greatly improved from a year ago. Oklahoma was the 61st ranked national rushing offense a year ago. The Sooners rushing game improved to 18th overall.
Brendan Clay had a crazy year, almost racking up 1,000 yards rushing. The QB run game with Trevor Knight also accumulated close to 500 yards. OU as a team amassed 2,911 yards total, on 599 attempts averaging 5.21 yards a carry. That is impressive. A season that I figured would be good to end at 8-4 ended up at 10-2.
OU then received a BCS at large bid to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. Many national experts assumed that Bama would roll over an inferior Big 12 team in the Oklahoma Sooners.
However, Oklahoma played well in all phases of the game.
Defensively they generated four turnovers and seven sacks. One of Mike Stoops’ best performances in a while.
The special teams got in on the turnover action adding an additional turnover at the very end of the game on a squib kick.
Trevor Knight, the starting quarterback of the game, did something nobody saw coming. Four touchdowns, 348 passing yards. The run game accumulated an additional 81 yards against a stout Tide defense.
OU offensively scored more points in a half than any team has ever scored on a Alabama defense in two quarters under Nick Saban. OU also generated more points than anyone on Alabama, topping Texas A&M’s 42 points against the Tide earlier in the season.
OU just beat down Alabama. And, yes Joe Buettner, I completely, whole heartily agree; typing that, never gets old. Congratulations to the Oklahoma Sooners on one hell of a year. We rode a roller coaster, but for that roller coaster to roll into New Orleans and roll over the Crimson Tide. It just makes that Sugar Bowl, all the sweeter.