MIAMI, Fla. - The Sooners made a name for themselves all season by winning high-scoring shootouts, but things took a turn when they reached Hard Rock Stadium for the Capital One Orange Bowl.
The Alabama Crimson Tide stuck to the narrative, breaking an Orange Bowl record for the most points scored in the first quarter.
The Tide struck early and often, leading the Sooners 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Sooners eventually found their rhythm, outscoring Alabama in points and yardage.
"Yeah, we just kind of picked a bad time. We kind of just played our worst ball at the beginning. We very simply didn't get stops, gave up some big plays to them. They made some really nice, competitive plays down the field, and then we just had trouble kind of gaining our traction offensively early. Every time we'd have a good play, we'd seem to kind of
shoot ourselves in the foot. We were just a little off early. We obviously didn't do a good enough job coaching them early. And I thought it took us a little bit longer to settle into this one than it normally does, and it's like we were just kind of waiting for that spark, and it just took longer. I mean, they outplayed us early. I think it's as simple as that. It was just a complete tale of two games. I mean, they completely outplayed us early and then we completely outplayed them pretty much the rest of the way," said OU head coach Lincoln Riley.
However, the early lead was simply too great for them to overcome. The Sooners ended up losing the game 34-45.
"We've trailed in seven, now eight ballgames this year and found a way to win almost all of them. After that we outscored them by 17 the rest of the way. So we played much more -- just much closer to what we felt like we were capable of there the last three quarters, and unfortunately we just dug ourselves too big of a hole and we were just one play away there in the fourth quarter from making it a game that could go either way. Disappointed in the way we played early, but I am proud as hell of our guys' fight and our belief," said Riley.
The players said that although they were disappointed in the outcome of the game, they were proud of their teammates for the way they continued to fight in the face of overwhelming odds.
"That's all you can ask for. I mean, you go down 21-0; I think most teams in the league, or in the whole damn country would have given up against a team like that. As you saw, we continued to fight and was pretty damn close to winning the game," said OU quarterback Kyler Murray. "I couldn't ask for much more out of my teammates."
"No matter what the challenge is, we're willing to take that on. You saw, 28-0, that really lifted us up to, 'let's go fight. We got a whole second half ahead of us.' You saw that as we cut the lead down to 11, and that showed a lot to everybody," said Tre Brown, OU's cornerback.