By Michael Kinney
MIAMI — For the second straight day, both Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown participated in practice sessions with the Sooners. Neither seemed to show any ill-effects and looked ready Saturday’s Orange Bowl.
However, Brown would not say he is playing for sure in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. Yet, he did say he is close to 100 percent and anticipates being on the field at the Hard Rock Stadium.
Murray just chalked up his brief sickness to a busy schedule since the end of the regular season.
Lincoln Riley has often said the best is ahead for Oklahoma. Despite the success he has had as a head coach and offensive coordinator, he sees bigger things for the Sooners.
Riley was asked at the Orange Bowl Media Day if that means following the path Nick Saban has done in building Alabama into a powerhouse.
“I would never say anybody exactly because I think each program is in a different scenario, but you can’t ignore the success that they’ve had and how consistent they’ve been,” Riley said. “And so I think there’s a lot of things that they do in their program that are outstanding that I think any program in the country would want to do or try to have the same type of success or setup. But at the end of the day, each place is different. Each place has different resources and a different part of the country, kind of has their own path to success. We’re just trying to be the best Oklahoma that we can be, and we think this thing can get a lot better.”
Secondary staying confident
“We are playing a whole lot better than what we’ve been doing,” cornerback Tre Brown said. “We’re not where we want to be at. But we’re going to keep continuing to grow. We’re very young. We’ve got a lot of young, good talent. This is a game to finish it off, to show what we can do.”
When the secondary has been lit up or had bad days, Tre Norwood said different players have spoken up to keep everyone focus.
“We have older guys like Parnell Motley, Jordan Parker. I’m not much of a talker, but I will say stuff here and there,” Norwood said. “We just kind of come together as one. Keep each other up, pick each other up. Things are going to happen, especially at our position. We’re going to have good plays, we’re going to have bad plays. You just have to shake it off and keep on going.”
Brothers in the room
When the Sooners went into last year’s semifinal game against Georgia, Rodney Anderson was the clear No. 1 tailback and going to get the overwhelming majority of the carries. But since he went down at the start of this season, the runningback room has had to become a group share who all lean on each other.
“We are like brothers,” Kennedy Brooks said. “We go in there and compete every day and try and make each other better. Trey (Sermon), TJ (Pledger), we all just trying to make each other better at the end of the day. I think I’ve improved every game. Just seeing how they work makes me want to work harder.”
Savoring the moment
Despite it being the third time Oklahoma has made the College Football Playoffs in the past four years, players such as Curtis Bolton still realize how special the opportunity is.
“I remember back when we were in this spot two years ago, and everybody was just like, we don’t know if we’re going to be here again, so let’s make the most of it, and we didn’t capitalize last time,” Bolton said. “So that’s what I’m kind of trying to get the younger guys to realize, like it’s a blessing to be in this spot, but we were two, three plays out — two, three plays we don’t make and we’re not sitting in this spot, and you don’t know if it’s going to go down like that a year, two years, three years from now, so you’re here, and we’ve got a shot, so let’s go take it.”
In the second half of the season, fullback Carson Meir has been an integral part in the passing game. He can be the same in the Orange Bowl.
“For me, it’s all about getting the opportunity,” Meir said. “I’m not like Marquise (Brown) or CeeDee (Lamb) over there. Guys that are getting 10 receptions a game. I’m getting one or two passes thrown to me. I have to go make them count. I have to do whatever I can to come down with the football because I’m not going to get too many chances.”
Riley was asked what has Marquise Brown meant to the Sooner’s program.
“He’s meant a ton. I mean, his growth has been as much as anybody I can remember in such a short amount of time. I mean, keep in mind, last year even about halfway throughout the season, he was a reserve for us,” Riley said. “He was a two. Really took off the second half of last year, has gained confidence. He’s continued to practice hard, practice fast, plays that way. Been very coachable, and he’s just continued to get better and better. He’s been one of the more explosive players in the country now for about a year and a half, and it’s been a huge part of our offense.”
Going to be a brawl
With Alabama being known for having a physical style of play, the Oklahoma defenders are expecting a long night.
But Bofton said he is ready.
“Yeah, they are physical,” Bolton said. “Their O-line fires out. I’ve seen numerous times on film their lineman flying six yards down the field, throwing linebackers out the club. I feel like I have too much pride. That is something I have been thinking about all week. I’m not going to get on TV and get myself embarrassed. So, seeing how strong they are and how physical they are, if I don’t have the mentality to go punch them in the mouth back, I’ve already lost the battle.”
Game time is set for 8 p.m. (eastern) Saturday.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer