2014 Sugar Bowl: #3 Alabama vs. #11 Oklahoma
A Play-by-Play Breakdown
Trey Millard calls “Heads”. Oklahoma wins the toss.
1st Quarter – Alabama at 15:00
Kicker for Oklahoma, Nick Hodgson, boots a Touchback on the opening kickoff.
1st and 10 at ALA 25
Mike Stoops’ Oklahoma Defense comes out with a four down lineman set with the pass-rush Linebacker Striker on the edge, creating a 5 man look up front. The two middle backers behind the line and two deep safeties leave the corners man-to-man, one pressed, the other backed off.
Although Oklahoma had primarily used a three-man front throughout the 2013 season, Mike Stoops knew changes needed to be made to contain Alabama’s power run game as best they could. Being a defense built to handle the Big XII’s speed doesn’t help against Alabama’s power run game…or does it?
Alabama starts the game with a power Single-back formation with two receivers split out wide. After a slight motion of the furthest wide-out, the ball is snapped and A.J. McCarron takes advantage of the 8 yard cushion given to him by Oklahoma’s corner, Sanchez. A quick pass hits Amari Cooper who uses his speed to go by a diving Sanchez and pick up a first down and then some.
A.J. McCarron uses his experience to read Oklahoma’s 7-man box, the soft coverage on the outside and exposes the 1-on-1 match up in space. Although Alabama’s pro-style offense stems from their run game which they use to control tempo and set up their play action passes, Alabama shows their confidence in their back-to-back National Championship winner and 2013 Heisman Runner-up Quarterback on the first play of the game.
1st and 10 at ALA 40
Oklahoma Defense lines up in an oddly shaped 5-3-3 formation against Alabama Shotgun set with 2 backs and 2 WRs. It essentially looks like two of the three DBs are lined up man-to-man on Alabama’s two WRs but both with safety depth. A.J. motions his Tight End out to lead block for the WR screen to Cooper and snaps the ball. A quick pass to Cooper and after poor angles and tackle attempts by the Oklahoma DBs, Cooper streaks down the sideline to the Oklahoma 7.
Mike Stoops favorite word to describe his defense this year is “chaos”, causing confusion in offensive reads and blocking assignments, hence his multiple defense coverage schemes. Not sure what he was expecting to prevent with this coverage here with the DBs so deep. Alabama took what Stoops gave them and ended up with a big gain.
1st and Goal at OKLA 7
Oklahoma lines up in a 4-3 with the corner pinching in on the near sideline to help with the run. Alabama goes Jumbo set with one back and one wide out. Good push by the Bama line and the RB Yeldon takes it down to the 1.
Oklahoma D-Line getting pushed back pretty decently and a nice cut off-tackle by Yeldon leaves room for a good gain. RB getting to second level and forcing LBs to make tackles.
Play result: T.J. Yeldon rush for 6 yards to the Okla 1.
2nd and Goal at OKLA 1
Oklahoma gets mowed over for the Alabama TD.
This is the last thing Oklahoma fans want to see happen: Alabama imposing their will and winning. Giving WRs too much cushion, missed tackles, and then getting overpowered up front.
Play result: T.J. Yeldon rush for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.
DRIVE TOTALS: ALABAMA drive: 4 plays 75 yards, 01:49 ALABAMA TD
1st Quarter – Oklahoma at 13:11
The kickoff is taken by Roy Finch from the 3 and gets popped at the 14 yard line.
Another physical statement from Alabama.
1st and 10 at OKLA 14
Trevor Knight, the Red-shirt Freshman Quarterback enters the game as the starter. Bob Stoops hadn’t named a starter before the game due to Knight’s shoulder injury during the Oklahoma State game and Blake Bell performing well, leading the Sooners to a comeback victory.
Bob Stoops also wanted to keep Alabama guessing as to which type of QB to prepare for: Blake Bell being more of a pocket passer and heavy downhill runner, while Trevor Knight being more versatile with his legs extending plays and running the read option. Alabama struggled against mobile quarterbacks Johnny Football of Texas A&M and Nick Marshall of Auburn this season.
Oklahoma comes out in a 4-WR Doubles set with receivers stacked one behind the other with the RB Clay directly behind Knight in the Pistol. They square off against Bama’s 3-4 Base. Trevor finds Lacoltan Bester on an 8-yard stick route in a tight window.
Alabama’s DBs are right on the pass but the WR uses positioning secures the completion.
2nd and 2 at OKLA 22
Clay gets tripped up at the line.
Josh Heupel decides to begin the game with the no-huddle hurry up offense keeping the same pistol formation. Oklahoma snaps the ball as soon as he got the play in.
Play result: Brennan Clay rush for 1 yard to the Okla 23.
3rd and 1 at OKLA 23
Quickly to the no-huddle again, Zone-Read to Clay inside for first down. Bama in the 4-3-Over.
Had to wonder if Bama was expecting Knight to keep most of the Zone Reads coming into the game.
Play result: Brennan Clay rush for 3 yards to the Okla 26 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at OKLA 26
Oklahoma still in no-huddle sprints to a 5-wide set. ESPN misses the start of the play, bubble pass to Clay, Alabama DBs at least 5 yards off the line.
Clay finishes the run with a statement going forward for two yards unlike the bulldozing received during the special teams return. This Heupel no-huddle bread-and-butter play catches the DBs in the middle of the field and allows receivers to work up the sideline. Haven’t seen a no-huddle this fast in recent games this past season. Texas A&M and Auburn also played tempo against the Alabama defense and had success.
2nd and 5 at OKLA 31
Oklahoma shows the “Bell-dozer” formation staple with Knight in shotgun, and two stacked FBs behind the right tackle. Motions Finch across the snap to fake the handoff and Knight keeps it up the middle. Alabama was ready.
Josh Heupel the Offensive Coordinator has been notorious in the past for abandoning the run in the early stages of games. This was a play to keep an eye on since Knight’s noted strength coming into the game was the QB run game but his first run attempt was stuffed and looked quite expected by Alabama’s defense.
Play result: Trevor Knight rush for no gain to the Okla 31.
3rd and 5 at OKLA 31
Oklahoma slows down the tempo out the pistol, sends the back out from behind in motion, and hits the WR Saunders on another tight window throw in bracketed zone coverage on the slant route. Alabama rushed four and dropped 7 into zone coverage.
A second tight window throw by the red-shirt freshman QB making biggest start of career. Has made two quick, decisive throws through zone coverage.
1st and 10 at OKLA 38
Oklahoma gets snap off before the formation is shown on ESPN. Knight read option fake to Clay up middle, rolls out, and passes to Shepard on the bubble route instead of running the sweep.
Shepard runs through an arm tackle and works to get yards. Can already tell from pace of Heupel’s offense that yards are crucial to saving field position in case of a drive stall and due to Alabama’s power stopping the run.
2nd and 1 at OKLA 47
Oklahoma goes hurry-up again with balanced double wide outs with RB straight behind in the Pistol. Alabama’s D-line gets their hands on the ground in their stance a split second after the ball is snapped. Read-option dive play handoff to Clay up the middle. Bama line was routed to outside and Ikard the Oklahoma center walked three yards ahead looking for someone to block.
Play result: Brennan Clay rush for 5 yards to the Alab 48 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at ALA 48
Oklahoma no-huddle again, 1 back Shotgun, Trips right, Alabama rushes four again and drops the rest into coverage. Trips WRs all run verts. Outside WR is manned up by the corner, but two slot WRs split the Bama safety. Pass is barely high and off the fingertips of Saunders and intercepted by Landon Collins.
In a game of this magnitude, that play was huge, giving Alabama the chance to go up by two scores very early in the first quarter.
Play result: Trevor Knight pass intercepted by Landon Collins at the Alab 24, returned for no gain to the Alab 24.
1st Quarter – Alabama at 10:03
1st and 10 at ALA 24
Alabama comes out in Shotgun, 3 wide, 1 back. Oklahoma is in what looks like a 4-3. Oklahoma rushes only 3 and A.J. throws a crossing route into triple coverage and it is intercepted.
Back-to-back interceptions? Shocking, truly. It is known that teams like to take shots downfield after turnovers but what an interesting route call across the middle of the field instead a streak down the sideline and even more peculiar is A.J.’s decision to throw the ball into triple coverage. Alabama let the life back into OU on that play in the first quarter. Nevertheless, it was an easy read for corner Zack Sanchez who was on the weak side of the formation. Sanchez was playing at around LB depth over the TE on the weak side that ran a drag route over the middle. Sanchez released the TE to the next defender and immediately turned his eyes to any route coming from the trips formation. Sanchez Easily finds the Alabama receiver Norwood and brackets him hard with the safety, Hayes. Gabe Lynn comes out of center field in a deep safety position to secure the INT that had no chance of being anything but an interception.
Play result: AJ McCarron pass intercepted by Gabe Lynn at the Okla 49, returned for 6 yards to the Alab 45.
1st Quarter – Oklahoma at 9:54
1st and 10 at ALA 45
Oklahoma lines up in another variation of the pistol and calls Saunders in motion from the wideout all the way around the back behind Knight and snaps the ball before Alabama quite got set. Alabama rushed two extra men the usual with 6, dropped 5 into zone and good protection from his Offensive Line for Knight enabled him to find Bester just out of the reach of the Alabama DB.
Huge momentum swing. Attacked downfield after a turnover like Alabama did but with the opposite result. Perfect throw off the play-action from Knight and huge confidence boost for Sooners. Ballgames where the underdog scores points off of turnovers is how favored teams lose.
1st Quarter – Alabama at 9:43
1st and 10 at ALA 25
A.J. goes under center for Alabama and hands the ball off to Yeldon. Oklahoma creeps up to the line with a 5 man front with 3 LBs.
This drive is important for a couple of reasons. Alabama has passed for most of their yards to this point and still needs to establish the run to set up their play-action passes, control the tempo of the game, give their defense rest against the OU hurry-up offense, and slowly wear OU’s defense out so by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, their 3 and 4 yard gains turn in into 7 and 8 yard gains. So what would any coach tell their team to do after throwing an interception that led to a touchdown? RUN THE BALL. Mike Stoops knows this and packs the box anticipating the run. It works on this play. 2 yard gain.
T.J. Yeldon rush for 2 yards to the Alab 27.
2nd and 8 at ALA 27
Alabama spreads it out with 4 WRs, trips right, 1 back, shotgun formation. Oklahoma keeps its 5 man front but spreads it coverage out and presses the 1-on-1 WR with Sanchez. A.J. makes a perfect back shoulder throw that White catches as Sanchez is turning his head to find the ball.
As an Oklahoma fan you cannot believe you just gave up another big WR YAC play but that play happened so fast that there was nothing Sanchez could do about it. Tip your hat to McCarron and White and get the next one.
1st and Goal at OKLA 10
McCarron out of the Pistol runs a stretch play to Yeldon for 1 yard.
Mike Stoops brought 7 men up to the line to match the personnel of Alabama at the point of attack with man coverage on the two wide-outs. Dominique Alexander the MLB read the play and shot the gap perfectly to make the tackle.
T.J. Yeldon rush for 1 yard to the Okla 9.
2nd and Goal at OKLA 9
Alabama comes out in a 2 WR set with McCarron under center. Oklahoma is aligned with 4-down, 6 across at LB depth and Gabe Lynn as deep safety over the top. Striker creeps up to blitz then backs off as McCarron has nothing open and scrambles for four.
AJ McCarron rush for 4 yards to the Okla 5.
3rd and Goal at OKLA 5
Alabama goes with a four WR Shotgun formation. Oklahoma has 7 men on the line. Oklahoma blitzes and forces a throw out of bounds.
Oklahoma’s defense gave McCarron less than a second to get rid of the football and it proves successful. Holding Alabama to a FG in general is a win for Oklahoma. And getting the ball back to a hot handed Knight keeps Oklahoma still in the game.
4th and Goal at OKLA 10
Cade Foster 27 yard field goal GOOD.
1st Quarter – Oklahoma at 7:02
1st and 10 at OKLA 22
Oklahoma showing the “Bell-dozer” formation again with 3 wide-outs. Alabama with a pinched in 3-4. Jet sweep with Shepard across the snap and he gets the carry across and beats defenders to the sideline.
Sterling Shepard rush for 5 yards to the Okla 27.
2nd and 5 at OKLA 27
Oklahoma no-huddle to pistol variation with 3 WR, 2 backs. Bama in 4-3. Play action roll out to strong side, quick hitch to Saunders.
Knight has proven effective on the play action roll out passing plays thus far. Heupel taking advantage over an Alabama defense geared up to stop the run on early downs with safe short yardage routes in space.
1st and 10 at OKLA 37
Oklahoma no-huddle to Shotgun Trips left. Trevor rolls again out to strong side and hits another hitch route.
Heupel continues to keep Alabama rushers away from Knight with the rollout plays. Knight has thrown accurately on the run thus far and this combined with the hurry-up offense is forcing Alabama’s defensive line to rush with fewer seconds to rest in between plays and chase more than against a non-hurry up offense with a strict pocket passer.
2nd and 5 at OKLA 42
Oklahoma slows down and run a double power play with a pulling lineman and TE.
Longest run of day so far for Oklahoma.
Keith Ford rush for 12 yards to the Alab 46 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at ALA 46
Oklahoma no-huddle to “Bell-dozer” formation with Jet sweep across the snap, Knight fakes the handoff, hits WR on crossing route. Alabama’s line did not get set in their stances in time again.
All kinds of space for Oklahoma receivers right now.
2nd and 3 at ALA 39
Oklahoma shows a balanced Pistol formation with 4 WR. Alabama blitzes a LB off the edge, but is picked up by the Tackle, and a quick hit TE for the first.
Variation of the pick play ran here. TE releasing under his teammate’s route forces the man coverage to fight through traffic and arrive late to McNamara on the sideline.
1st and 10 at ALA 35
Oklahoma shotgun trips right, RB to left of Knight. Alabama very spread out on defense with 4 lineman and only 2 LB behind with the third LB moved over to help with the trips WR set. Knight Read Option to Clay with two lineman pulling opposite direction of RB’s. Mosley bites and Clay hits the backside for nice gain behind WR blocking.
Play designed to counter the LBs following the pulling lineman. RB comes across Knight’s handoff to the right while both lineman pull around to the left to block for Knight should he keep the ball to run. Alabama’s MLB sees the pulling guards and follows them anticipating the run to the left side while Knight hands the ball to Clay to the right.
Brennan Clay rush for 12 yards to the Alab 23 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at ALA 23
Oklahoma no-huddle Pistol 3 WR, 1 RB behind Knight. Alabama stays in base 4-3 or Nickel still. Knights throw too high for Shepard on the wheel route.
Shepard burned the safety Williams on the route but Knight’s throw was high and too much on a line.
2nd and 10 at ALA 23
Oklahoma shows pistol with 1 RB behind and 4 WR tight stacked doubles. Alabama in 4-3 with pressed corners on the bunches. Motions Clay out of backfield and LB blitzes to force the hurried pass and get a hit on Knight.
Good job of recognition by Alabama LB with no RB in pass protection. Decides to blitz as soon as ball is snapped and forces the incompletion in a hurry.
3rd and 10 at ALA 23
Oklahoma shows 5-wide then motions to 4WR, 1 back, bunch trips left. Ball is snapped and Alabama’s D-Line crashes around the pocket outside and Knight steps up in pocket, sees the man coverage downfield with their backs turned, runs and slides for the first.
10th play of drive. Big third down conversion for Oklahoma’s hopes of getting a TD on this drive.
Trevor Knight rush for 10 yards to the Alab 13 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at ALA 13
Oklahoma in tight doubles pistol.
Pulled two lineman but hole wasn’t there. Alabama line clogged it up.
Brennan Clay rush for 2 yards to the Alab 11.
2nd and 8 at ALA 11
Oklahoma 4 WR, 1 RB, Pistol motions out back to “pick” the corner, dangerous pass incomplete to Bester on WR screen pick play.
3rd and 5 at ALA 8
Oklahoma motions Saunders across formation, identifies Man-coverage on Clinton Dix, out route on goalline, TOUCHDOWN
Another third down conversion for Oklahoma. Oklahoma to this point has successfully orchestrated two straight drives where they moved the ball effectively and converted when they needed to on third down. This five minute drive allowed Oklahoma’s defense to rest and provided confidence in the red-shirt freshman QB Knight as Oklahoma takes their first lead of the game 14-10.
DRIVE TOTALS: OKLAHOMA drive: 13 plays 78 yards, 05:09 OKLAHOMA TD
1st Quarter – Alabama at 1:53
1st and 10 at ALA 20
Alabama comes out in the Pistol with 2 WR. Oklahoma in a 5-3 with a pressed corner and safety 9 yards off the slot WR and another deep safety in the middle of the field. Henry the freshman RB gets the carry for Alabama for a decent gain.
Mike Stoops is sticking with his 7-8 manned box to try and stop the run while almost begging Alabama to run more of the WR screens.
Derrick Henry rush for 4 yards to the Alab 24.
2nd and 6 at ALA 24
Alabama lines up in 3 WR Pistol with back directly behind McCarron. Oklahoma in a 4-3 base. Henry gets the carry and slips through a hole in the line.
The man-on-man blocking for Alabama is shown here to be more effective than the stretch play down at the goal line on the previous possession. When Oklahoma’s defense is blocked and accounted for, no free defenders are available to come up and make the tackle.
Derrick Henry rush for 7 yards to the Alab 31 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at ALA 31
Alabama shows 2WR, 2 TE, Singleback Big formation with McCarron under center. Oklahoma is sticking with the 5-3 and continues to press a corner on one side of the formation while giving a very large cushion on the other side. McCarron fakes handoff to RB and is sacked by Geneo Grissom.
Geneo Grissom moved to TE at the beginning of last year, but since was moved back to DE where he played his entire career. This fact suggests Grissom’s hands were one of his strengths. Good hands are a trait any coach would want in his DEs. Striker’s speed rush presence on the edge forces the Alabama tackle to kick way out in an attempt to protect McCarron on his extended play-action drop. The Alabama guard thought he was going to get help from the tackle to block the DE Grissom but in turn allowed Geneo to run straight in between the guard and the tackle for the sack.
AJ McCarron sacked by Geneo Grissom for a loss of 7 yards to the Alab 24.
END OF THE FIRST QUARTER.