NORMAN — There have been tough losses for Oklahoma over the years, but all seem to pale in comparison to Saturday night’s 44-10 loss to Oklahoma State.
There wasn’t a phase OSU failed to dominate. It outplayed and outcoached OU in one of the most highly anticipate games in Bedlam history.
OU coach Bob Stoops sneered at the notion his team wasn’t ready to play Saturday night.
“We showed up to play. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s masking the problem,” he said Sunday night. “If you say we weren’t ready to play or didn’t want to play or any of that … we just weren’t good enough.”
There was absolutely no doubt which team earned the Big 12 championship this season. The only doubt that remained was whether the Cowboys deserved to play for a national championship next month.
Unfortunately for OSU, Alabama beat it out in the BCS standings by the narrowest of margins. It will head to the Fiesta Bowl to face Stanford.
The Sooners will have to eat more crow because it will be playing second fiddle in the Phoenix area to the Cowboys during the bowl season, facing Iowa in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 30 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Few would have imagined that would have been the case a month ago and virtually none would have thought that back in September.
OU was the consensus preseason favorite to win a national championship and it didn’t shy away from those expectations. If anything, it promoted them.
“We embraced the No. 1 ranking,” offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. “That’s why this season as a whole is really disappointing. Nine-and-three is not acceptable at the University of Oklahoma.”
How did it get to that point?
Obviously, injuries took a toll. The Sooners played their final three games without All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles. The impact his absence has had seemed to grow with every game.
Quarterback Landry Jones hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Broyles’ season-ending knee injury. He’s also thrown five interceptions over that span.
There was also the midseason, season-ending ankle injury to running back Dominique Whaley, which left the running back position unstable for the final month of the regular season.
There’s been injuries throughout the defense and inconsistent play from starters who were healthy.
Injuries, however, are something OU’s battled in most years. The difference between this team and the others over the past decade, is that this one reached its plateau early in the season and never seemed to get any better.
The on-the-field mistakes the Sooners made against Oklahoma State — dropped passes, missed blocks, poor tackling — weren’t there in first six weeks of the season.
“Some of it was our part, whether it be coaches or players and making improvement,” Stoops said. “Some of it, we’re missing key guys. A running back busts a protection, a young running back fumbles. A guy like [Dominique] Whaley doesn’t do that. A guy like Ryan Broyles doesn’t drop third-down passes. I’m not making excuses. Some of the guys you’re missing make a difference.”
Then again, the Sooners never really tried to alter their philosophy after Broyles was injured. They operated under the assumption that they could just plug in another slot receiver and move forward.
Saturday night, receiver Jaz Reynolds was limited due to illness, leaving OU without two of its top three receivers in its biggest game of the season. It only ran the ball 10 times in the first half.
Many questioned the play-calling after the game — including Stoops.
It doesn’t matter now. The Sooners will go play Iowa in 25 days and this season will be over with. But those three-and-a-half weeks leading up to the bowl game leaves a lot of time for soul searching.
Two months ago, OU might have been the team it thought it would be. The team that finished the game in Stillwater on Saturday night bore little resemblance.
“Obviously, the season didn’t go the way we planned,” center Ben Habern said. “Our goals every season are to win a Big 12 championship and national championship. For those goals to not be met, it’s obviously frustrating. We have to take ownership of what happened.”
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org