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Oklahoma football: Sooners defense drops ball in heartbreaking loss to Georgia

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Fumble recovery

Then-senior defensive back Steven Parker recovers a fumble during the Rose Bowl against Georgia on Jan. 1, 2018.

PASADENA, California — Oklahoma senior defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo sat before the media with his head sunk between his pads, a sullen look on his face that all Sooner fans can probably relate to.  

Okoronkwo and No. 2 Oklahoma had just fallen short in a game for the ages at the Rose Bowl. Okoronkwo and the Sooners' defense struggled the majority of the night in their 54-48 loss to No. 3 Georgia. Their inability to stop Georgia's rushing attack resulted in a double overtime defeat, and crushed their dreams of winning a national championship. 

"Two good teams, it came down to one play, and they won that play," sophomore linebacker Caleb Kelly said. "That was a fight for real."

Coming into the game, it was no secret what Georgia planned to do offensively: Run the ball. But for four quarters and two overtimes, Oklahoma couldn't figure that out. 

The Sooners gave up 317 yards on the ground, and let Georgia average 9.3 yards per carry.  

"They're talented backs. They're really good guys. We knew that going in. They're going to make plays," Okoronkwo said. "You know there's only so much you can do. You know those guys play divisional football, too."

Oklahoma missed tackles left and right, took poor angles and couldn't get a stop when it needed it most. But for a brief minute, the defense was almost the hero. 

Late in the fourth quarter, after the Sooners had just tied the game at 38, senior safety Steven Parker returned a forced fumble by Kelly 46 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with just 6:52 remaining. Despite the momentum-changing play, Oklahoma's defense was unable to make two more stops and win the game. 

"I don't ever think the game is over until the clock hits zero," Parker said. "That was a good momentum shift, but I knew we were going to have to get two or three more stops."

Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops's -- who did not speaking following the game -- defense has been its biggest liability, doing just enough to help the Sooners win. Tonight was no different, but instead of making a play when they had to, they came up short.

Even though their performance was not what they had hoped for, some Sooners held their head high after the heartbreaking loss. 

"Our team, our family, we fought until the end," Parker said. "We're still Sooners in the end, and we're still family."

George Stoia joined The Daily in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore and has covered the soccer team, both men's and women's basketball, as well as the football team for the past three years. He graduates in May 2020.

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