Three months ago, Oklahoma was progressing first and second after a five-game succession streak of the Big 12 seemed to be in danger. Fast-forward to the 2020 Cotton Bowl, now no. 6 he soon won eight games in a row after blowing up the doors from Florida No. 7 55-20. With a win, there is a good chance that Oklahoma will end the year as a team of the top five, if not a team of the top four, where she was playing her best soccer at the right time.
From the start, this was Oklahoma night. The Sonners’ defense defeated midfielder Kyle Trausk of the Gators three times in the first quarter, helping them jump to a 17-0 lead thanks to a pick of six. Of course, Florida was without its first four goals conceded – Kyle Bates, Kadarius Tony, Trifon Grimes, and Jacob Copeland – and Tracek, tried as much as possible, never preceded the rhythm of the new-look receiving corps, many who spent the season in the scouting team. In his defense, that was almost impossible. Florida had three drills after Christmas to get ready for the game, and he showed that.
Despite the hurdles, Florida actually responded well to early deficits and at one point recovered by 13 points on its own to reach 17-13 in the second quarter. But then Oklahoma hit back with two quick drops in the final five minutes of the first half to go up 31-13 and never looked back.
The second half is when the overall depth is beginning to emerge. Oklahoma running game, instilled by Ramondry Stephenson, set 435 yards – a record for the Cotton Bowl. Stevenson led the way at 186 yards, while Marcus Majors and Seth McGowan had big moments as well. The score was a school record for points by the Sooners for a pot game.
The Gators couldn’t catch up. The Oklahoma defense took over the reins in the second half and maintained the usual Florida great attack. After starting 4 of 5 in the third defeats, the Gators went to 0 for their next eights. And while the attack placed 521 yards, it was 6.4 yards per game after litter time. For most of the second half, Team Gators was hovering around 5.5 yards per game.
It was Florida’s worst loss since the 1996 Fiesta Ball and the most points any team in Florida had allowed since that match. Despite Dan Mullen’s team winning the SEC East title and giving Alabama a run for the SEC Championship, it would finish 8-4 and potentially outside the top ten.
Here’s what we also learned from the Cotton Bowl this year.
1. Oklahoma will present an interesting case of eight teams
The College Football Qualifiers Selection Committee had a tougher task than usual this year to justify two of the four teams arriving at the stadium. The amount of dissatisfaction with the current format indicates that at some point, the field will expand – likely to eight bands. The only thing he is allowed is the hot hand team for a tour at the end of the season. Oklahoma will be that team this year.
After starting 1-2, count a lot of urgent people. And to be fair, it’s easy to do with this formula. Picking the top four teams leaves some but not much room for error. But after winning seven straight matches coming to the Cotton Bowl, Oklahoma was playing like a top five team even if it wasn’t ranked there.
How would Oklahoma perform against, say, the No. 3 Ohio State playoff game? It is an enjoyable intellectual exercise. We won’t be playing anytime soon, but if that happens / when it does, it might lend credibility that the teams peaking in time are just as capable of winning a national championship as the top-ranked team.
2. Florida was showcasing its future
One of the most #embracedebate taken from this game would be the Florida position to play the very shortened Cotton Bowl. As mentioned above, a lot of the major players on both sides of the ball either chose to participate or were unable to play due to COVID-19. This is the story of college football in 2020. We rarely see teams at full strength for good time periods. In fact, Mullen said that the Gators’ squad were so short-handed in certain locations that they could not simply play the game but chose to go ahead, using the many players who have been on the scouting team this season.
“This wasn’t the football team of 2020 that I saw. There were about 25 players missing from the 2020 soccer team tonight,”
He said after the cotton bowl. “That was kind of a start for us [to 2021]. ”
Mullen did a good job of giving the other players chances out of necessity. QB Emory Jones has had a lot more playing time than he has in any game this season and has shown some lovely moments in running and throwing. In fact, the team’s tie was first completed by 60 yards in 10 lunges and landings while throwing 86 yards. With Bates, Grimes, Tony and Copeland out, Florida has a wide reception with a fresh look. In all, 12 different players took at least one pass for a total distance of 271 yards.
The results were a mixed bag – there were a lot of drips – but Mullen knew what he’s up against and has chosen to lean on preparing the men for the next year. This is not to justify the Gators’ performance or to say that they don’t care about their presence there or to downplay what Oklahoma did. This is just the truth of the situation.
3. Oklahoma’s defense lives up to the hype
For most of the second half of the season, there was talk of how much Oklahoma’s defense had improved under Coordinator Alex Greensh. That appeared in this game. Yes, Florida drained of its best players. Yes, the Gators were still attacking over 500 yards by the time the final whistle blew. But you have to look deeper. The Sooners started hot with three takeaways and then the lights turned off in the second half. Florida was unable to turn the first descent after getting four out of the first five. Four of its six engines went in the second half of 22 yards or less.
The Oklahoma Defensive Front played a huge role in its success. Defensive finishers Ronnie Perkins, full back David Ogwigbo and Nick Bonito were everywhere in the trenches, stopping play before they started. This disruption was a major factor in making the usually powerful Florida attack less efficient.
This was never a closed defense and the season numbers were slightly inflated due to some of the big 12 offenses weak, but this group was playing well together in the long run. This strong defensive effort helped the Urgent team pull out in the second half.