OU seniors looking to leave legacy

OU seniors don't have one foot out the door right now. The group is ready, locked in and eager to take on Alabama and represent the Sooners one last time.

NEW ORLEANS – There have been a number of ways to try to describe the 2014 AllState Sugar Bowl for Oklahoma when the 11th-ranked Sooners take on third-ranked Alabama on Thursday.

People have viewed the game as a chance for the Sooners to return to the national limelight, to show the world OU is right up there with the Crimson Tide and ready to be in that conversation again.

A bevy of OU seniors, rightfully so, see it as a showcase game to try to show NFL scouts they can make it at the next level and put a stamp on their career with the NFL Draft coming up in the spring.

The phrase "money game" has been used to describe that scenario. But the seniors aren't selfish and one of the things they've stressed the most is leaving a legacy, leaving the program better than how they found it.

"As a senior guy going out, I want to do what's best for the program and winning this game would be big for the program," senior center Gabe Ikard said. "It shows you that we're still one of the premier top five programs in the country.

"We win 10 games every year and people still feel we've fallen off so it will be big for recruiting, big for the program and big for the fan base."

When asked what those comments mean about the character of the team, OU head coach Bob Stoops said he wasn't surprised. It has been the leadership of Ikard, Trey Millard, Aaron Colvin and others who have helped right the ship this season when the team had every excuse to fall off course.

The BCS bowl berth is an example of that and nothing should change during this week.

"I expect them to provide great leadership like they have all year," Stoops said. "They are a great group of seniors. The captains, seniors and all of these guys are what you really want in a football team. We are excited to go to work and prepare to have a great game."

Ikard and Colvin are the perfect examples of understanding what it means to be a Sooner. The two have lived up to their billing coming out of high school and probably surpassed it in the eyes of most.

They're from the state and understand it. But you can see the type of impact the program has had when hearing senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders speak.

Saunders, who transferred to OU from Fresno State before last season, has been a vital contributor to the Sooners offense the last two seasons.

The first week of bowl practice focused on the younger guys, and Saunders said he loved watching what Derrick Woods, Austin Bennett and Durron Neal, among others, were doing. He's excited to see the future and wants his play to speak for itself one more time.

"The one thing I've tried to tell all those guys is to never get comfortable," Saunders said. "When you do that, you stop doing the things that got you there in the first place. I feel like all of them are like my little brothers. They've put in a lot of work, and I can't wait to see what those guys do."

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