Here are five thoughts from Oklahoma’s 45-34 loss to Alabama in the 2018 Orange Bowl:
Oklahoma’s defensive line not enough
Oklahoma was bested in nearly every aspect of the Orange Bowl, but its defensive line took the biggest beating. Alabama running back Josh Jacobs controlled the tempo from the second quarter on, thanks to a strong running style and powerful blocking by the Tide’s front. Alabama killed 7:05 off the clock on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that ended in a field goal. The Sooners were left with just 29 seconds until the half and weren’t able to muster a response before the break.
That sequence was a microcosm of the game when Alabama had the ball. Even as the Sooners were making their run, Jacobs and Damien Harris were still able to be effective on the ground and chew clock. The proverbial “big play” that flipped OU’s contests vs Texas Tech, West Virginia and Texas? It never materialized vs Alabama.
Marquise Brown was not healthy, but Kyler Murray was great
One of the biggest subplots in the run-up to the Orange Bowl was how healthy Hollywood, Fla. native Marquise Brown would be. The answer: Not very. After sustaining an injury in the Big 12 Championship Game vs Texas, Brown wasn’t able to be effective vs Alabama. Brown exited the game for good after dropping a pass on 3rd and 6 in the red zone and was replaced by redshirt freshman Charleston Rambo.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was effective, and gave the Sooners a chance. He had a great second half, finishing 19-of-37 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 109 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
Lincoln Riley’s mistakes
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley did well to rally the Sooners back from a 28-0 deficit, but still made critical mistakes along the way. Chief among them: He failed to call a timeout after forcing Alabama into a 4th and 1 with just over a minute to play in the first half. The clock slipped down to 29 seconds before the Sooners got the ball back, and the timeout went unused.
Riley also elected to kick a field goal after driving into Alabama territory to start the third quarter. The three points gave Oklahoma a little bit of momentum, but it also kept it at a three-score game. The Sooners were able to get it as close as 11, but no tighter than that.
Austin Seibert record
That field goal did serve a purpose, however. It gave senior kicker Austin Seibert the NCAA all-time scoring record for kickers with 496 points, passing former Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez. Former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds holds the all-time record for any player with 530 points.
New defensive coordinator could help in 2019 (can’t hurt)
For years, Oklahoma’s weakness has been its defense. The Sooners have been good enough offensively to make three of the last four College Football Playoffs, but haven’t gotten the big plays necessary to win games like this.
Those issues showed up again on Saturday night as Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He wasn’t bothered by OU’s defensive line all night, and rarely were the Sooners’ defensive backs in place to deflect a pass.
Oklahoma will now turn its focus to 2019, and that starts with hiring a new defensive coordinator. Mike Stoops was fired back in October, and interim Ruffin McNeill produced even worse results over the remainder of the season. Whoever Riley brings in to right the ship will have talent to work with, as the Sooners should finish off their third straight top 10 recruiting class in February.
More from the Orange Bowl
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