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January 3, 2014

OLine shuffle worked like a charm against Alabama

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NEW ORLEANS -- When Oklahoma's offense took the field for the first time on Thursday night, the surprise wasn't seeing redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight under center.

It was seeing Daryl Williams, normally OU's right tackle, start at left tackle. It was seeing senior Bronson Irwin not at left guard but at right tackle. It was seeing junior-college transfer Dionte Savage make the first start of his career at left guard.

SCOOPHD: ALL THE RIGHT MOVES ALONG OFFENSIVE LINE

Senior center and team captain Gabe Ikard steadied the offensive line all season and couldn't have been happier with how this line gelled in only a month's time to beat the No. 3 squad in the country 45-31 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. He was especially proud of Savage.

"Dionte had to step up for us this game," he said. "You know he has the size, the strength. He hadn't played significant time, but he came out there and did a great job.

"Had some nerves as any guys would when you're playing the best team in the country in your first start. I thought he did a hell of a job."

The Sooners were always going to have to mix and match their offensive line with guard Adam Shead and tackle Tyrus Thompson out for the season. But this wasn't moving around a few pieces so much as shuffling the deck.

"I thought the first half, we were really good," said offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. "We struggled a little bit there in that third quarter and then kind of, in the fourth quarter, picked it up again. But with all the moving parts, I'm really proud of those kids."

The offensive line protected Knight, allowing him to pass for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. The Sooners, who threw the ball more than they rushed for the first time his season with Knight at the helm, rushed for 98 yards on 30 carries behind its makeshift line.

Throughout the entire night against an Alabama defense that features the top linebacker in the country and a half dozen NFL prospects, the Sooners allowed just one sack.

The most memorable moment for the offensive line was when Williams split out in the slot receiver position for a screen play in the second half. Ikard said the offense had worked that play for weeks.

"I could've told you we weren't going to throw it to him," Ikard said. "We put him out there just to show them a different look. Got a pretty good gain on it."

For Ikard, this game might be one of his most memorable as a Sooner. It was certainly his and Irwin's last.

As proud as Bedenbaugh is to win the game, he's even more proud to send his seniors out winners in the last game of their careers.

"To me, that's one of the most important things," he said. "These guys have been here for the past five years, and you look at what they've done in the past five years, it's unbelievable."



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