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December 29, 2013

OU wants redemption after 2013 Cotton Bowl

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NEW ORLEANS --Someone wanted to put Big Game Bob to the test, yet again.

Following a 10-2 season in 2012 where the Sooners were crowned Big 12 Co-champions along with Kansas State, the Sooners were rewarded with a Cotton Bowl trip to take on Heisman Trophy Award winner Johnny Manziel and one of the hottest teams in college football, Texas A&M.

It wasn't a great end to a successful season.


The Sooners were mauled in the second half as A&M beat the Sooners 41-13. Manziel looked every bit the Heisman Trophy winner, embarrassing the OU defense as he ran around Sooner defenders like they were standing still. Or worse, not even trying.

The Aggies piled up 633 yards of total offense against an overmatched OU defense.

It was a terrible finish to an otherwise successful season.

"That was probably the worst feeling to get beat that bad on national TV in front of the whole world," said 2013 defensive standout Charles Tapper, who did not play in last year's bowl game. "The whole world was watching that game. It was a bad feeling."

Oklahoma faces Alabama Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl after a surprising 10-2 season. Clutch wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State to finish the season put the Sooners in this position.

But after last season's matchup with A&M, they know how quickly a poor performance in a major bowl game can derail a season.

It's the last thing people remember. It puts a cloud over an entire season. The offseason gets underway as a ground-up restoration.

OU wants no part of bowl game deja vu in New Orleans.

"I feel like that's what we've prepared for all year is just to play the tougher teams, to play longer, to finish up. That's what it came down to again this season," said Aaron Colvin, whose leadership helped play a key role in the 2013 rebuild of OU football. "We have a chance to redeem ourselves from what happened last year."

Oklahoma clawed their way back from the disappointment of Johnny Football.

Their reward? Facing an Alabama team that nearly went wire-to-wire as the number one team in the country in 2013. Then Auburn took it all away with on one of the biggest fluke plays in college football history. A 100-yard field goal attempt return for the winning touchdown on the game's final play.

If Alabama and Auburn matched up 10 times, that was probably the one time the Tigers win.

So here stands Oklahoma. 10-2, with the seemingly unfair challenge of the nation's best overall team meeting them in New Orleans.

"As a team you love it," said Colvin of OU meeting a team for the second straight year many are claiming to be the best team not playing for the national title. "When you want to be the best you've got to beat the best. That's what we keep getting. We keep getting opportunities to beat the best. Why not relish the moment?"

But many believe this is just too tall a task for the Sooners. Line up any other BCS bowl team and OU would likely be less of an underdog in Vegas. And they could get just as much out of playing those teams as an overachieving 10-2 team.

Give the Sooners Ohio State. That would be an easier victory, yet still a fantastic season-ending win.

Matchup OU with Clemson, Ohio State's opponent in the Orange Bowl. An easier win, yet an impressive victory.

No, OU has to play Alabama. The toughest win. The toughest opponent.

"This is the University of Oklahoma. This is what you're here to do and play at a higher level," said OU defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue. "It's not supposed to be easy. If it was supposed to be easy then everyone is going to do it. This is rewarding. We get to play the best team in the nation and they were the best team for three, four straight years. It's rewarding."

"We're blessed to have that opportunity, blessed to play against the best quarterbacks," added Tapper. "God has blessed us a lot to go out there and play against the greatest teams. That's a great feeling. We're going to embrace it and we're going to go out there and prepare and play hard."

It's rewarding if you play well. It's euphoric if you win. That's what Oklahoma is looking to do here in New Orleans.

"I want to redeem Oklahoma, redeem myself for feeling that," said Tapper. "I felt it and I didn't even play in that game. It hurt bad. I want to send Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn out with a great win. It's a chance to say they beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl."

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