The last time the Sooners were on the field, they left with a 55-20 Cotton Bowl victory over Florida.
That victory at AT&T stadium in Arlington punctuated a season that was capped off with eight straight victories, none bigger than that bowl win over the No. 6 ranked Gators squad. During Big 12 Media Days last week, the Sooners found themselves back on the same field again.
“I think it was a great way for us to end the season,” H-back Jeremiah Hall said, referring to the Cotton Bowl.
It’s hard to overstate how important that win was for a Sooners team that has lacked bowl victories among its successes in recent years.
It was Lincoln Riley’s first bowl victory with the Sooners, ending a three-game bowl losing streak. All three losses came in the College Football Playoff.
Since 2012, the Sooners have gone 3-6 in bowl games, with none of those losses more heartbreaking than the 54-48 defeat the Sooners suffered in the 2017 Rose Bowl against Georgia.
The last bowl victory for the Sooners before 2020’s Cotton Bowl? The 2016 Sugar Bowl, where the Sooners defeated Auburn 35-19. The season after that, the Sooners made it back to the four-team playoff.
If they had to choose, most teams would likely prefer losing in the playoff than not making it at all. But by all accounts, ending last season with a victory, even if it came outside the playoff, has given the Sooners much-needed positive energy this offseason.
Senior linebacker Nik Bonitto alluded to this during the Big 12 Media Days.
“It was a real big win, especially since the last couple of years we haven’t had a win to end the season,” Bonitto said. “Just having that W, just seeing the confidence after that game and going into the spring and going into the summer, you can tell the confidence of that game has definitely boosted our team. We’re just excited to build off of that and go into this season.”
That victory also gave the Sooners a postseason win against the SEC, the conference responsible for ending the team’s previous three seasons. The Big 12/SEC rivalry was a topic heading into the game, particularly after comments were made by Florida linebacker James Houston IV.
“Oklahoma is a good matchup, but they’re not on our level,” he told ESPN. “They’re not the SEC. They’re not the Florida Gators. So we should put on a good show.”
Hall was likely referring to these comments when he discussed that win at Big 12 Media Days.
The social media that was surrounded by that game, I still got a chip on my shoulder about it,” Hall said. “But anyways, it was a great way for us to go out on top and I think that it built momentum for us to continue into this coming season. It’s always great to end your last game of the season with a win.”
It’s possible that win had an impact on the Sooners recent recruiting efforts, too. According to Rivals.com, the team currently has the No. 1 ranked 2023 class in the nation after receiving commitments from 5-star quarterback Malachi Nelson and 4-star running back Treyaun Webb over the weekend. Rivals also has the Sooners’ 2022 class ranked at No. 6.
Webb told SoonerScoop.com that the win was a factor in officially committing.
“It was great. Their offense is elite,” Webb told SoonerScoop. “Coach Riley’s a great offensive mind. He knows how to put the ball in his playmakers’ hands. Me and (Riley) had a talk and me and him feel like I can do big things.”
After recent disappointments in the playoff, the Sooners bounced back with a win to end their season.
This season, they’re striving for the ultimate goal of ending their season with a national championship win.