Nothing to be ashamed of

Maybe it's a good thing Alabama's recent experimentation with big-name non-conference football opponents has come to an end for awhile. In the 1990s Alabama has played two games against UCLA and two games against Oklahoma and has added four losses to the Crimson Tide worksheet.

The latest was nothing to be ashamed of, but disappointing nevertheless. Bama never had quite enough to overcome number one-ranked Oklahoma and fell to the Sooners, 20-13, Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

The loss evened Alabama's record at 1-1. The Crimson Tide opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday hosting Kentucky. Kickoff will be at 6:45 p.m. CDT and it will be Bama's third straight game nationally televised by ESPN.

The Sooners have a reputation for excellent defense and big play offense and Oklahoma used both to hand Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula his first defeat. With few exceptions, Alabama's offense was unable to get untracked. In fact, the Sooners intercepted a Brodie Croyle pass on the first play of the game and that led to a 34-yard Trey DiCarlo field goal and a 3-0 Oklahoma lead barely two and a half minutes into the game. The Sooners would never trail and the game would never be tied.

Oklahoma also had a third quarter interception that ended a Crimson Tide threat. However, the sideline stripe may have played as big a role in the outcome as any Oklahoma defender. Three times Croyle completed long passes to Zach Fletcher, only to have each nullified because Fletcher was barely out of bounds.

Alabama was able to stay close and was never completely out of the game until the Sooners recovered an onsides kick with a minute and a half to play. The Tide had closed to within seven points of Oklahoma with a 36-yard Brian Bostick field goal with 1:36 to play.

Oklahoma's first two scores were field goals. DiCarlo also connecterd on a 40-yard effort in the first quarter. Bostick got Bama on the board in the second quarter when he was good on a 44-yard field goal, the longest of his career.

The Sooners had two lightning-quick drives, one each in the second and third quarters, with long touchdown completions. Jason White hit Mark Clayton on a 46-yard pass that gave Oklahoma a 13-3 halftime lead. Bama cut that margin to 13-10 when Croyle was good on a 20-yard pass to Triandos Luke midway through the third quarter. The Bama touchdown completed a six-play, 80-yard drive. However, the Sooners answered immediately with a five-play, 69-yard drive, White hitting Brandon Jones on a 47-yard touchdown that made it 20-10. The highlight play for Oklahoma in the drive was a pass from punt formation on fourth-and-five that gained 22 yards. The touchdown pass that turned out to be the winning margin came on the next play.

Alabama was in a desperation situation when the Tide got the ball with 4:17 to play and the ball at the Bama 37 and trailing by 10 points. Croyle completed four passes and had a couple of key scrambles for first downs. But the Tide, needing two scores, had to settle for the 36-yard Bostick field goal then hope for an unlikely recovery of an onsides kick. When Oklahoma covered the kickoff, it was just a matter of running out the clock.

Shula gave Oklahoma credit, saying the Sooners showed they are a well-coached, talented team that is deserving of its number one ranking. And while the Bama coach said that it was a disappointing loss "because we didn't play like we wanted, there are still some positives to build on."

Shula said, "The defense kept us in there and gave us a chance by keeping it a low-scoring game."

Oklahoma's passing gave the Sooners a slight edge statistically. Alabama won the battle of first downs, 19-13. The Tide rushed 32 times for 108 yards, Oklahoma 27 times for 74 yards. Oklahoma completed 22 of 36 passes for 281 yards, while Croyle was good on 24 of 42 passes for 195 yards. Oklahoma had 63 plays for 355 yards (5.6 yards per play), Alabama 74 plays for 303 yards (4.1 per play). Neither team lost a fumble, although Alabama was victimized by three fumbles. It was a relatively penalty-free game, Oklahoma flagged three times and Bama four times, both for only 20 yards. Possession time was nearly even, the Sooners with one more minute, 30:30 to 29:30. Oklahoma converted four of 16 third down opportunities and one of two fourth down chances, while Bama was able to make five of 17 third down plays and two of two fourth down gambles.

Bama senior tailback Shaud Williams was the game's leading rusher with 17 carries for 91 yards. Three Tide receivers had four receptions each – Dre Fulgham for 59 yards, Triandos Luke for 48 yards, and Shaud Williams for eight yards.

Alabama had some problems in the kicking game. In the first quarter the Tide misplayed a kickoff, dropped the snap on a punt, and caught a punt inside the Alabama five-yard line. Bo Freelend had some nice punts, but his seven boots averaged only 34.9 yards.

Tide senior linebacker Derrick Pope was the game's leader with 14 tackles, including 10 primary stops. Fellow linebackers DeMeco Ryans with nine and Freddie Roach with eight tackles were also busy.

Oklahoma also won last year's game, a 37-27 decision. Oklahoma now leads the all-time series 2-1-1.

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