, Muskogee, OK


January 3, 2014

COLUMN: Dark Knight for Alabama as Sooners QB shows

NEW ORLEANS — Trevor Knight kept rolling right and rolling right and rolling right.

Finally, he threw the ball, across his body, from the right boundary back toward the middle of the end zone.

The last time so unlikely a touchdown toss was made, Joe Montana threw it to Dwight Clark at the NFC championship game, only Montana didn’t have the audacity to read his tight end’s mind the way Knight read Shepard’s, as the sophomore receiver improvised into a curl, running around defenders and forward toward the ball, all of it after Knight had began his throwing motion.

If the redshirt freshman’s 43-yard in-stride strike to Jalen Saunders that put OU up 24-17 in the second quarter was perfect, this one was extraordinary, the stuff from which folk heroes are made, the stuff that will be remembered for years and years and years to come, like Josh Heupel’s over-the-middle lob into the Norman sky that Curtis Fagan ran underneath in 2000, like the laser Jason White threw at Mark Bradley to beat Texas A&M in 2004, like, though it wasn’t a pass, the helicopter ride Sam Bradford took in the name of securing Bedlam victory in 2008.

But was it the game’s biggest play? No, not really. Just one of them. It was amazing, crazy and out of nowhere, and OU was just getting started.

Brennan Clay delivered one nobody will remember, yet might have won the Sooners the game.

Alabama had just scored, making it 38-31, all kinds of time — 5:29 — remained, and the Sooners faced third-and-9 at their own 13-yard line.

The Crimson Tide had all the momentum when Knight tossed a soft screen to Clay, who had no chance to pick his way past the first down marker, except that he did anyway, breaking tackles and sacrificing his body for the most important 9-yard gain in several Sooner seasons.

And, finally, on a day OU couldn’t tackle, but managed to force more Alabama turnovers — five — than punts — four — Eric Striker finished it off with an homage to Roy Williams, while Geneo Grissom did his best to make Teddy Lehman proud.

It wasn’t a pass Grissom picked off, but a fumble he picked up, forced by Striker, who Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron never saw coming the way Chris Simms never saw Williams coming, he was there so fast.

If OU can keep him, Striker has two more years to make plays like that. Grissom has one and if he never scores another touchdown, he’ll never forget the one that capped Thursday night’s scoring, making the Sooners 45-31 winners.

All of which is to say nothing of the crazy catch Derrick Woods made, his second of the  entire season, that gave Michael Hunnicutt the chance to kick a tying 47-yard field goal, or the first-and-30 Knight converted with passes to Shepard, Clay and Lacoltan Bester early in the fourth quarter, which just happened to be the kick-start to the drive that finished with his mindreading trick of Shepard.

There are hardly words.

OU was dead in the water after embarrassing itself at Baylor.

“That wasn’t us,” Stoops said defiantly, after midnight Thursday, and it turns out he was right.

It all began with Saunders’ first-half closing punt return for a touchdown against Iowa State. Knight came back to life in the second half of that game and the Sooners were off and running.

An underdog at Kansas State, OU prevailed. A bigger underdog for Bedlam, Blake Bell came back to life and the Sooners prevailed again. A still bigger underdog against the Great Saban’s Crimson Tide and it was OU that won by two touchdowns, turning the oddsmakers on their ears by 30 points.

Knight thanked God and the seniors and the coaches and called it “a dream come true.”

It was all of that and more.

The last time Sooner football felt like this, really like this, it was October 2000, when nobody saw it rolling through Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska, back-to-back-to-back.

There are also echoes of the Jason White and Sam Bradford eras.

When the two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks were running the show, OU never came from nowhere, but always seemed to come back, at least until LSU, USC or Florida got in the way. Sooner Magic was in the air. Good things happened in the face of rare and long odds.

Thursday night wasn’t supposed to happen, but it happened. Over and over and over again, it happened.

Maybe OU never left. Also, Sooner football’s back.

There are hardly words.

Those will have to do.

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