By now, this shouldn’t be surprising.
The Alabama defense, fresh off at 45-34 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma, was just a little bit disappointed. They were happy with the result and what it means, but the Sooners responded to the early whipping.
Oklahoma outscored the Tide 34-17 after Alabama took a baffling 28-0 lead early in the second quarter. In terms of yardage, the edge was 447-328 Sooners in the final three quarters and that just bugged an Alabama defense.
“When we jump on teams, we have to keep laying a hat to them,” Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs said. “We can’t give them space. We gave them too much space to execute.”
Still, the 471 yards were the second fewest gained for Oklahoma’s top-ranked offense in a game this season. Only Army was more stingy allowing 355 in a game Oklahoma only took 40 snaps — 29 fewer than in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners averaged 577.9 a game and hit 700 twice this fall.
That’s not good enough in Alabama’s locker room.
“Us on defense, we felt like we could have played a much better game,” linebacker Anfernee Jennings said. “We could have executed better. We know we have to clean up some stuff for next week and we look forward to it. We still have a chip on our shoulder because we know we could have played a better game.”
The first quarter couldn’t have gone much better than it did.
Oklahoma ran 13 plays netting 24 yards. It had negative-6 yards after the first drive and an even zero after two. Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray was sacked twice in the first three plays and went to halftime with just 104 passing yards.
“We came out physical and we brought the hat to them,” Buggs said. “But we let up and we can’t let up. We have to continue to keep bringing it to the opposing team.”
Murray found rhythm in the second half when Alabama’s time-consuming ground game shortened the game and kept it from becoming a Big 12-style shootout. Murray finished 19-for-37 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage of 51.4 was the lowest of his breakout season.
After Oklahoma went punt, punt, turnover on downs to open the game, it snapped to form on the fourth drive. It took just four plays to go 75 yards to make it 28-7.
“I wanted a shutout,” said Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. “I wanted to pitch a shutout and I was going to try to do my best and our defense was going to try to do our best to pitch a shutout.”
The key to keeping the margin no smaller than 11 was the clamp down on Oklahoma’s next two promising drives. Twice they crossed the 10-yard line only to settle for field goals.
The Sooners final three drives each went for touchdowns — two spanning six plays sandwiched around a 14-snap, 80-yard drive that cut it to 38-27 with 8:31 left.
“They came out fighting,” Raekwon Davis said. “They came out swinging for us. They played well.”
Two unsuccessful onside kicks and Alabama’s offense matching the late Sooner flurry kept this one from getting any more interesting than it already was.
Either way, Buggs said Alabama’s defensive coaches weren’t too happy with the second half of an Orange Bowl predicted to be high scoring.
“Most definitely,” Buggs said. “We can’t allow to give up that many points. We have to continue to be dominant.”