(Photo by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
ATLANTA- Parnell Motley looked exhausted. As he sat down to talk to the media after the 2019 Peach Bowl, the senior cornerback had almost a blank stare on his face as he answered questions.
It was almost as if the realization that his college career was over and the lasting image he and Oklahoma fans will have of this year team was the performance they put on the field Saturday afternoon. That was something Motley and all of the Sooners seem to be having the biggest problem with.
“It’s very disappointing,” Motley said. “This one really hurt because we prepped for the game and thought we had a great game plan and just didn’t execute.
No. 4 Oklahoma suffered a 63-28 loss to No. 1 LSU at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs. The Tigers advanced to the College Football Championship game instead of the Sooners.
“Had to fight through a lot just to get here, and it’s kind of the disappointment — you balance right now the disappointment of not winning and accomplishing your ultimate goal here,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “On top of that, just not playing our best.
For three straight years under Riley, the Sooners were on the verge of making it to the final game of the college football season. But each time they reached the playoffs, they found themselves falling short.
However, what made this year’s version so painful for the players and its fanbase was just how uncompetitive the game was. From start to finish, the undefeated Tigers had total control of the contests and there seemed to be nothing the Sooners could do to take it from them.
“It doesn’t really go away honestly,” junior wideout CeeDee Lamb said. “You have to live with this one, I have to go to sleep with the loss. It’s going to be a hard one.”
Lamb probably knew at that moment that he would never have a chance to get the redemption he had been looking for after each playoff defeat. The all-American declared for the NFL draft Sunday, just a day after his season ended.
“After much thought and prayer, I am officially announcing that I will be declaring for the 2020 NFL draft,” Lamb posted on social. “It has been my dream for as long as I could remember to play for the NFL, and I believe it’s the right time to take that next step.”
In his junior season, Lamb accounted for 62 receptions, 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns and was named a consensus All-American, He ends his collegiate career
Another player who many believe will be leaving Oklahoma for the NFL is linebacker Kenneth Murray. He totaled seven tackles against LSU to push his season total up to 102.
“I just wasn’t raised to stop fighting. That’s what I did. That’s what we did,” an emotional Murray said. “We just didn’t play well enough. I’m not going to sit in front of these cameras and make any excuses. It’s extremely frustrating.”
The 63 points the Sooners allowed set a new record for the Peach Bowl and the College Football Semifinals. It was also the most points the Sooners have allowed in a bowl game since giving up 55 to USC in 2005.
The offensive side was also setting low-light records for the program. Oklahoma accounted for only 322 total yards and 97 rushing yards. Both were a season low for the No. 5 offense in the nation.
“When you play this game, you talk about the controllables, what you can control,” OU quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities, and that’s something that we can control. They play really good defense, but we were too inconsistent to come out on top of this game, and I think that’s the blunt reality of it.”
Oklahoma closes out the season with a 12-2 record for the third consecutive season. Each ensuing defeat has been worse than the other.
But the Sooners remained confident they are on the right track to winning the national championship, something they haven’t done since 2000.
“I think there’s a lot of valuable lessons going throughout the season, as a defense, that we’re able to learn from, and even on offense. I know for defense that it’s time to keep climbing,” Murray said. “We took some strides this year, but it’s time to keep climbing and reach that elite status. I think it’s going to take a lot, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider