MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Kyler Murray said he had not thought about whether he played the last football game of his career on Saturday night against Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
But if it was the last time he put on a helmet and shoulder pads, he left little doubt about why his decision between baseball and football became increasingly difficult as the season went on.
After Murray and his Oklahoma teammates got off to a slow start and fell into an early 21-0 deficit, the player who dazzled en route to the Heisman Trophy showed himself, rallying the Sooners back in the second half before falling short 45-34.
Murray ended up with 308 yards passing and 109 yards rushing, the third time this season he had both 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game (tied for second-most in a season over the past 20 seasons). Murray also became the first quarterback with 100 yards rushing against Alabama under Nick Saban.
“I think most teams in the league or in the whole damn country would have kind of gave up against a team like that, but as you saw, we just continued to fight — and pretty damn close to winning the game, so I couldn’t ask for much more out of my teammates,” Murray said.
Murray walked off the field with a towel draped over his head, and he cried in the locker room over the outcome. He knew the questions about whether he would go play for the Oakland Athletics or enter the NFL draft would come, the way they have over the past two months, but he said, “I really haven’t thought about it right now.”
All he could think about was the way the season ended.
“That’s the part that hurts the most; coming here, spending the last couple years here, this place has been home to me,” Murray said. “I’ve loved every part of it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wanted to win a national championship. Just fell short.
“We’re not really satisfied. This isn’t satisfying. I know it’s a great season, and we’ve got a lot to be proud about, but coming up short wasn’t the goal.”
Afterward, coach Lincoln Riley said the Sooners played “their worst ball” in the beginning of the game, and Murray said Alabama “didn’t stop us.”
“As you saw, they stopped us the first quarter, we stopped ourselves, but hats off to them,” Murray said. “They’re a good team. They’ve got a great defense. But second half, we picked up the tempo. They got tired, and at that point, we kind of …”
Murray trailed off before shrugging his shoulders.
Oklahoma had to adjust early on with leading receiver Marquise Brown limited thanks to a foot injury. Brown thought he would be able to go, but once the game started, he realized he was not at full strength. Brown did not have a reception in the game.
“Not being 100 percent, it hurt me, but I was out there trying to fight for my team,” Brown said.
Murray fought, too, and after the slow start, he did everything he could to get Oklahoma back in the game. Oklahoma ended up outscoring Alabama 34-24 after trailing 21-0.
Alabama nose guard Quinnen Williams famously stopped himself mid-sentence during media day when asked about Murray. He decided to complete his sentence after the game.
“Kyler Murray is great and super-fast,” Williams said. “I know it all blew up, and we laughed about it every day. … But in person, he’s really fast — inside-the-park, home-run fast — and a great quarterback and tough, very tough. He did his job well and ran their offense and got them settled down. The things I saw from him, he was a great quarterback.”
A couple of times when Murray broke into the clear against the Alabama defense, he chose to slide.
Alabama coach Nick Saban joked, “I’m glad he did slide because I don’t know if we could have tackled him, and the thing about him is that he’s such a good passer.”
Murray leaves with a Heisman Trophy and one of the best seasons in school history. Though a decision about his future awaits, he was asked about his Oklahoma legacy.
“My goal was to be remembered here,” Murray said. “I think that should be anybody’s goal. You step on campus make a name for yourself, make the place better than you found it. I hope I did that. I just hope everybody knows I never quit.”