Lewis: Overlooked Oklahoma torments Nick Saban’s crew

Shout it out.

From Broken Bow to Muskogee.

From Durant to Seminole.

Boomer Sooner!

Oklahoma, a proud program that seemed to be living more on its heritage of late with a coach who was next on the “grown stale on the job” list, with a mystery starter at quarterback and largely stocked with players without four or five stars next to their recruiting ranking did what few gave them a chance to do Thursday and nobody else had been able to do this season, at least before the clock expired.

They beat Alabama 45-31 in the biggest upset (161/2 points, according to Vegas) in the 80-year history of the Sugar Bowl before a disbelieving Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd that remarkably grew as fans filled the empty seats in the Oklahoma section.

Yes, this was an Alabama team coming off a devastating loss to Auburn on the field goal return that shall live in infamy and denied the Crimson Tide a chance at a third straight BCS title.

Yeah, and maybe Nick Saban was so depressed that Leonard Fournette committed to LSU that his funk carried over to his team as well.

No. Supposedly, Alabama had learned the lesson for being down for a bowl game five years ago when the Tide’s hopes were dashed in the SEC title game by Florida and they came to the Sugar Bowl and laid a 31-17 egg against Utah.

Since that game, Bama was 7-0 in postseason games, including a 41-7 thrashing of Michigan State in the 2011 Capitol One Bowl, the last time the Tide didn’t play for — and win — the BCS title.

But Saban laid a word of warning Wednesday, saying, “The important thing about a bowl game is the mindset.”

And he added a coda about Oklahoma: “To be honest, sometimes if you’re an underdog, you’ve got a little bit more to prove.”

The Sooners played that way Thursday from start to finish.

They came up with four turnovers against a team that had only 12 all season, including the game-clinching sack of AJ McCarron by Eric Striker and the resulting recovery and 10-yard touchdown return by Geneo Grissom with 47 seconds left.

Three more in the first half — the last an interception and 43-yard return by Zack Sanchez to the Bama 10. Sterling Shepard’s TD run on the next play made it 31-17 at halftime.

Offensively, the Sooners devised a game plan that took full advantage of redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight’s ability with the read option, especially on short passes to the outside that moved the ball for scores on five straight possessions after their first one ended with an interception by former Dutchtown standout Landon Collins, for what proved to be Oklahoma’s only giveaway of the game.

Then, after being held to just 28 yards in the third quarter and with Alabama back with within a touchdown, Knight, whose starting status was unknown after Blake Bell led the Sooners past Oklahoma State in the game that got them here in the first place, completed three straight passes after his team faced first-and-30 and then another to Shepard for a 9-yard TD that made it a two-touchdown lead again.

“That was the key moment,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “We converted on third-and-forever (actually third-and-15). That shows the resiliency of this team.”

Alabama again cut the lead to seven, but the Sooners were able to milk the clock to 1:02 before being forced to punt to the Tide 17. Striker’s sack came on the next play.

It was redemption for Stoops, as if a coach whose record since he became the Sooners’ coach in 1999 is the best in the country and who this season surpassed Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer as his school’s victory leader needs redeeming.

But since Oklahoma’s last Superdome appearance — the 21-14 loss to LSU for the 2003 national championship — he’s been called “Big Game Bob” because of the Sooners’ failures in significant bowl games. including last year’s 41-14 thumping at the hands of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Nine BCS bowl berths, the most by any coach, didn’t seem to matter much.

Folks in Louisiana know what a “What have you done for me lately?” fan base can be like. But Stoops and his team, lightly regarded despite its Bedlam victory, showed what having something to prove can do for you.

Boomer Sooner!