Kyler Murray had it all working: pinpoint throws, speedy feet and unflappable resolve all the way to the finish.
If this was his football finale, it was a gem.
Murray threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for an additional 109 and another touchdown, led Oklahoma to scores on its final six possessions — sans for a 25-second one to end the first half — and it still wasn’t enough. The Heisman Trophy winner isn’t going to play in the national championship game, after top-ranked Alabama downed fourth-ranked Oklahoma 45-34 in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night.
So now Murray can begin contemplating his career plan a week earlier than he hoped.
Baseball or football? A massive decision awaits.
“I haven’t really thought about it right now,” Murray said a half-hour after the game, still in his grass-stained uniform and with a big welt forming under his left eye. “Sorry about that.”
The way the Sooners see it, it’s a win-win decision for Murray.
“He’s either going to be a Major League Baseball star or he’s going to be a Pro Bowler,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “He just needs to decide which one.”
Murray, who is from Allen, Texas, just outside Dallas, became the first player in nearly five years to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for at least 100 in a bowl game — the most recent to do that was Tajh Boyd, also in the Orange Bowl, for Clemson in its win over Ohio State on Jan. 3, 2014. It was also the third time Murray pulled off that feat this season, more than any other player in major college football.
“He did a great job tonight,” Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “He did a tremendous job.”
Murray’s ability on the football field cannot be argued.
Nor can his ability on the baseball diamond — the Oakland Athletics made him the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, paying about $4.6 million in bonus money for someone they could see in their outfield before too long.
As was the case for Baker Mayfield last season, the Heisman couldn’t help deliver a win in the CFP semifinals for Murray. He and the Sooners were playing uphill all night, after giving up an Orange Bowl-record 21 points in the first quarter and eventually trailing 28-0 before finally getting on the board.
“Can’t even look at the scoreboard at that point,” Murray said. “You’ve just got to go out there and fight. That’s what we did.”
When they figured out what worked, it was simply too late.
The Sooners (12-2) got to 31-20 and 38-27 in the fourth quarter, but the quest for a miracle comeback essentially ended there. Murray said he didn’t give thought coming into this CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl that it could be his final football game. If he had his way, of course, he’d be heading to Santa Clara, California, in a few days to meet second-ranked Clemson for the national championship.
Take away the brutal start, and he might have gotten there.
“Didn’t get the job done,” Murray said afterward.
Murray was dazzling all the way to the end, even after getting knocked out of the game briefly in the fourth quarter following a crushing tackle by Alabama’s Quinnen Williams. He engineered touchdowns on his final three drives of the season, running the last one in himself.
Now he needs to decide if that was the last trip to the end zone he’ll ever make.
“The mission was to win a national championship,” Murray said. “But yeah, I wouldn’t trade anything that happened for anything. Most fun I’ve had playing football in I-don’t-know how long.”
SOURCE: AP – Tim Reynolds