Sugar Bowl Kickoff Countdown
Thursday’s match-up between Oklahoma and Alabama marks the 80th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Sooners arrived in New Orleans on Friday, December 27 and have been holding daily practices at the New Orleans Saints training facility as well as team and position meetings at the team hotel in preparation for the game.
On Wednesday, the team made a brief stop at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to check out the field and the locker rooms en route to the Saints facility in Metairie. OU President David L. Boren joined the club at the Superdome, while ESPN’s Rece Davis also caught up with head coach Bob Stoops and the squad.
“I'm really proud of the way our players have handled themselves through the week,” Stoops said at Wednesday’s final press conference that featured both head coaches. “They've worked hard in meetings and on the practice field. They've handled their business off the field in a very positive way. [We’ve] enjoyed this great city for about five, six days.”
It has been well documented that the Sooner’s opponent was perhaps just one play away from playing for a third straight national championship. Coach Stoops recognizes that his team will be facing one of the nation’s best teams in the Crimson Tide.
“[We’re] anxious to play a great Alabama team,” he told a throng of reporters at the New Orleans Convention Center Marriott. “I think everyone would agree, in my eyes, they're still the best team in the country. Here they are, they've been the best team in the country for three years, up to the very last play of the regular season. So a great, great team. We recognize that. Coach [Nick] Saban and his staff have done a great job in the way they've developed their team. So we know we have a big challenge, but very excited about the challenge. We've worked hard to put ourselves in the position, hopefully, to win the game tomorrow.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm CT with coverage beginning at 7:00 pm on ESPN. Brad Nessler (play-by-play) will be on the call with Todd Blackledge (color) and Holly Rowe (sideline). Stoops and coordinators Mike Stoops, Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell all met with the broadcast team for a production meeting after morning meetings. The team will follow its traditional protocol of watching a movie tonight with meetings in an in-hotel walk-thru on game day morning.
The Sooner Sports Network will carry the game with Toby Rowland (play-by-play), Merv Johnson (color), Chris Plank (sideline), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst) and Teddy Lehman (analyst) calling the action. Pre-game coverage can also be found on Sooner Sports TV on FSSW+ and FCSP at 6:30.
Underdogs? Don’t Tell the Sooners
One of the more prevalent storylines in the Crescent City this week has been the fact that some pundits have the Sooners as double-digit underdogs in this contest. Don’t tell that to these Sooners who brushed off that line of questioning many times.
“We don’t ever consider ourselves an underdog,” said cornerback Zack Sanchez. “We know what this team is capable of and know what we expect to do week-in-and-week out. The ‘underdog’ tag doesn’t apply to us.”
“We really haven’t [reacted to being an underdog],” added wide receiver Jaz Reynolds. “Honestly, I don’t understand the point spreads and the point spread has never won a game for anybody. You have to go out there and play and execute.”
“I feel like we can match up with anybody in the country,” Sanchez concluded. “If we’re executing right, I don’t feel like there is anyone that could have an edge on us. We always feel like we’re the better team on the field and we need to go out and show that we are.”
When asked whether he is using OU’s underdog status as a motivational tool with his squad, head coach Bob Stoops offered this response: “I don’t know how to play that card. We’re Oklahoma.”
Roy Finch’s Perspective on Winning and OU Fans
Running back Roy Finch is among numerous Sooners who will be playing their final contest in an OU uniform on Thursday night. Finch isn’t particularly finicky about style points in the Sugar Bowl, as long as the result is in OU’s favor.
“We don’t care how we win,” said Finch. “We just want to win. If it’s a high-scoring game, if it’s a 6-6, low-scoring kind of game, we don’t care. We just want to win.”
When asked about what kind of fan support that the Sooners would have in the Superdome, Finch didn’t hesitate to respond.
“The Oklahoma State game kind of showed our fans true colors,” he concluded. “It’s always hostile up there. It was cold, below freezing and I think we had more fans in their stadium than they did.”
Based on the number of OU fans spotted around the Big Easy, you’ll no doubt be hearing plenty of “Boomer Sooner” inside the Superdome, a facility that has also hosted six Super Bowls, the most of any venue in America.
Plenty to See and Plenty to Eat in the “Crescent City”
One of the great experiences for many OU players this week has been the opportunity to experience the unique culture of New Orleans for the first time.
“It’s been really fun out here,” remarked Roy Finch. “The people are great; very soulful people and easy to talk to. The food has been amazing. That was one of the first things I thought when we came here was, ‘how’s the food going to taste’ and it has been amazing.”
“This is my first time [in New Orleans],” said defensive end P.L. Lindley. “I’ve been around to a lot of food places…I love to eat. We had dinner at the Red Fish Grill the other night and that was really good.”
OU Pro Bowlers Converging on NOLA
NFL defensive lineman and former Sooner Gerald McCoy traveled to New Orleans following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ final game of the season on Sunday. McCoy is serving as part of the Sooner Sports TV broadcast team throughout the week. McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl for a second straight season after totaling 50 tackles and 9.0 sacks in fourth year in the NFL.
“One thing I said I didn’t want to do at the beginning of the season was to be stagnant or go backwards,” McCoy said of his Pro Bowl campaign. “I want to improve and get better and I think I was able to do that.”
On OU’s return to a BCS game McCoy added, “It’s great. Every week they have a big game and I predict a blowout because that’s how highly I feel about my team. I’m not predicting a blowout for this one, but I am predicting a win. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
In addition to current Saints Kenny Stills and Curtis Lofton, numerous other OU greats are anticipated to be on the sidelines at some point on Thursday, including 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.