SAN ANTONIO — The Sooners looked hopeless after only one quarter. Then the Sooners looked in total control after three quarters. Then they lost to Arizona 38-24 Thursday night in the Alamo Bowl.
Strange, strange football game in OU’s last gridiron appearance as a Big 12 member.
Here is the rest of the Sellout Crowd’s reaction:
Defense takes step back against Arizona
Jenni Carlson: We suspected the OU offense would have its struggles, what with a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator and a largely retooled offensive line.
And the Sooner offense did have its struggles. Three interceptions. Three lost fumbles.
But the OU defense? That bunch was largely intact, untouched by opt-outs and transfers and coaching changes.
The defense, though, had just as many issues as the offense. It allowed over 350 yards passing and a pair of 150-yard pass catchers. Arizona had several long pass plays, too, including touchdowns receptions of 35 and 57 yards. The Wildcats also had 10 other completions of at least 12 yards, two of which went for over 40 yards.
Arizona didn’t do much in the run game, but the Wildcats hurt the Sooners badly in the passing game.
The OU defense was an improved unit overall this season, but Thursday night felt like a step back. In a game the Sooner defenders could’ve really helped the cause and helped fix some of the offense’s mistakes, they instead had mistakes of their own.
Sooners left the football unstowed far too often
Berry Tramel: Football games last 3½ hours and upwards of 200 plays. Sometimes we forget how important can be just one of those snaps.
The Sooners had scored 24 points and were 23 yards from taking an 18-point lead on Arizona. Then flanker Jalil Farooq failed to maintain his catch of a Jackson Arnold pass, the ball popped into the air and safety Gunner Maldonado returned it 87 yards for a touchdown.
Oklahoma’s 38-24 Alamo Bowl loss to Arizona in pictures
Arizona had life and soon enough a victory, courtesy of six OU turnovers. ‘Zona had just 99 total yards in the middle two quarters, and Jackson Arnold found a groove, giving the Sooners faith that they have found their quarterback.
But all those turnovers can’t be overcome against a team within a country of mile of you in talent. And Arizona certainly fits that bill — as will most of the Southeastern Conference, where OU is headed.
An Arnold fourth-quarter interception allowed the Wildcats to kick the tying field goal without even making yardage, then a Jackson fumble from the pocket allowed the Wildcats to put away the game.
Protect the ball in the SEC, or the Sooners will be in serious jeopardy from the start.
This bowl game was a banger
Guerin Emig: Numerous players transfer between conference championship weekend and bowl season. Others opt out to prepare for the NFL Draft, many of them stars. Coaches leave for other jobs.
It’s mayhem that combines with a greater emphasis on the College Football Playoff to, more often than not, turn bowl games into second-rate exercises.
Which made Thursday night’s Alamo Bowl a rare treat – a banger of a bowl game before we reach the CFP.
Battling like it was conference championship weekend, making one big play after another in doing so, Oklahoma and Arizona did their programs and fans proud before the Wildcats emerged winners.
From Noah Fifita’s excellence in the first and fourth quarters, to Jackson Arnold’s emergence in the second and third, to the game-long impact of Arizona’s receivers and OU’s pass rush… There was plenty to enjoy in the Alamodome.
Sooner fans will rue Arnold’s four turnovers, and that Farooq’s fumble at the Wildcats’ 16-yard-line turned what looked like a 31-13 door-slammer into a 24-21 toss-up thanks to Maldonado’s 87-yard return. They’d rather their team finish 11-2 instead of 10-3.
A better suggestion: Take the good from this loss, and all of the good from this game, and be grateful for the show.
Sawchuk nails another bowl game audition
Eli Lederman: There’s just something Gavin Sawchuk seems to like about a bowl game.
It was last December when the young running back used the Cheez-It Bowl to stage his coming out party. Sawchuk’s 15-carry, 100-yard performance in the defeat to Florida State was the first indicator of his potential in the Sooners’ backfield.
That effort marked Sawchuk’s first step into the Sooners’ 2023 running back depth. In the final performance of his sophomore season Thursday night, Sawchuk may well have secured the starting running back job when OU returns in 2024.
Sawchuk erupted for 134 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries on the Alamodome turf, including a long of 62 yards on the Sooners’ second scoring drive. Sawchuk’s yardage total marked his second-highest of the season in the last of five consecutive 100-plus yard rushing performances to close his sophomore year.
The Alamo Bowl confirmed Sawchuk as OU’s leading rusher for 2023. It should also provide all the necessary evidence for him to open 2024 as the front-runner in the Sooners’ backfield once again.
Lots to like despite the ‘L’
Todd Lisenbee: On a night when the Pop Tart mascot was all the rage on college football social media, the Sooners were undone by another pastry — the dreaded turnover. The fact of the matter is that you are rarely going to win with six giveaways, especially against a team like Arizona, but this game was always more about building for next season for Oklahoma. Despite the result, there was plenty to like.
Oklahoma’s defensive line looked great, even dominant at times. Gavin Sawchuk was the big play guy out of the backfield that Oklahoma has longed for all year. Most importantly, Jackson Arnold showed us plenty to be excited about for 2024.
People will remember this Alamo Bowl a lot less than they will remember the inaugural season in the SEC. The future is what Oklahoma seemed to focus on tonight, and that future looks bright.