That raised the prospect that, as in the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., the balance of power is shifting to offense-heavy teams. That may be true in general but not particularly when you are going up against Saban, whose defense and offense are both top-ranked.
“When you’re playing against an explosive offensive team who can score very quickly, all parts of your team, special teams, offense, defense, everybody has got to continue to play well in the game,” Saban said, adding, “It was no surprise to me at all that they were able to make some plays that got them back in the game.”
Still, how long can Oklahoma tolerate being a bridesmaid?
It has now had back-to-back Heisman winners (Baker Mayfield, now on the Cleveland Browns, won in 2017), has won or played in the Big 12 Conference championship game almost every year since 2000, and has been in the College Football Playoff three of the last four years.
While several of his players and members of their families wept in frustration in and outside the locker room, Riley tried to remain upbeat and bent on assuring the national championship trophy was almost in their grasp.
“We’ve still got a bunch of Big 12 trophies,” he said. “We’re going to hold that tall skinny one here in a couple years and we’re going to hold it in a large part because of the fight from these seniors in this program, all the players, the staff.”
“We’ve had some really good teams here the last four years,” he added, “but I don’t know that we’ve ever had a team, and I just told them that in the locker room, that has had the fight in them that this team has, and that’s going to do wonders for our program. That’s going to make us a better program.”
Players, though, dwelled on the sting of the now.
“I wanted to win a national championship,” Murray said, with the pain of the loss etched on his face. “And I just fell short.”