Game action gallery: Oklahoma, Alabama _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight runs out of the pocket for a first down in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl on Thursday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

1 What we learned

Alabama coach Nick Saban said it best during his Wednesday news conference. Bowl games are often determined by which team has the healthier mindset, and even a team’s head coach can’t always know what his team’s mindset is until the game starts. The Crimson Tide started strong, but turned sloppy during the second quarter, perhaps showing lingering effects from its loss to Auburn in the regular-season finale. OU on the other hand, no doubt steamed by being a 17-point underdog, played with an edge throughout. Despite a scoreless third quarter, the Sooners were the sharper, more consistent — and better — team on this night.

2 Trending now

Trevor Knight. OU coach Bob Stoops wouldn’t say prior to kickoff whether he would start the redshirt sophomore or junior Blake Bell at QB. Oklahoma opponents can bank on Knight, who completed a Sugar Bowl-record 32 passes, starting against them next season. He threw the ball 44 times and finished with 348 yards and four touchdowns. And his strength is supposed to be running the read option.

3. Final thoughts

Neither of these programs is going anywhere. Alabama nearly had a chance to play for a third consecutive BCS title and Oklahoma had its annual double-digit win season and beat the Tide pretty handily. With plenty of young talent on hand and more on the way, both of these storied programs are as healthy as ever.

Les East