Promising Oklahoma season turns sour

STILLWATER, Okla. -- After taking the field first, several Sooners went directly to the other end of the stadium and waited for the Cowboys to emerge from their tunnel.

But Oklahoma never backed the talk. Not Saturday. Not August, either.

Oklahoma State saved its talking for the field and rolled 44-10 Saturday night, reducing preseason No. 1 to a punch line by the third quarter. After Jeremy Smith's 37-yard touchdown dash made it 44-3, two OSU offensive linemen held up the "shark fins" to their foreheads. After OSU's Justin Gilbert intercepted Landry Jones in the fourth quarter, the theme from "Jaws" reverberated throughout Boone Pickens Stadium.

The Sooners entered the weekend with a chance to capture their eighth Big 12 title and advance to the Fiesta Bowl. They exited with their biggest Bedlam defeat since 1945, and could plummet as far as the Holiday Bowl, the fifth bowl in the Big 12 pecking order.

"We're pretty embarrassed," said wideout Kenny Stills. "It hurts. We had high expectations for this season."

A season that started out with so much promise for the Sooners. Believing he had one of his best teams yet, Bob Stoops declared before the season it was "about time" OU won another national championship. The players also embraced the hype of their preseason No. 1 ranking, with the secondary even deeming themselves the "Sharks" before ever playing a game.

The Sooners never lost the bark. But they had long lost the bite.

"Yeah, we embraced the No. 1 ranking," said guard Gabe Ikard. "That's why this season as a whole is really disappointing. Nine-and-three is not acceptable at the University of Oklahoma."

But the record was no fluke. The play on the field has reflected it.

Even in the most adverse conditions, the Sooners always have improved over the season under Stoops. In '05, OU bounced back from a disastrous start to beat sixth-ranked Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. In '06, the Sooners recovered from losing quarterback Rhett Bomar to win the Big 12. Even in '09, when Sam Bradford was lost for the year, OU finished 8-5, but ended the season beating Oklahoma State and then Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

These Sooners have failed to make such improvement. In fact, they actually regressed.

"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."

No doubt, having Broyles, Whaley and defensive end Ronnell Lewis would have made a difference the last month of the season. And on Saturday.

But Broyles and Lewis played against Texas Tech. They couldn't save the Sooners then. And they wouldn't have saved them Saturday.

The Cowboys dominated in every phase. They were so dominant they didn't even have to defend the vaunted "Belldozer" formation until OU's final play from scrimmage. Why? OU was never able to get into a situation to even put Blake Bell in the game. The Sooners never drove the ball inside the OSU 10 and rarely faced short-yardage situations.

Instead, OU was in third-and-long the entire night, allowing OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young to dial up blitzes on Landry Jones that the Sooners clearly were unprepared for.

OU could do nothing to counter. The Sooners were anemic picking up the blitz, and the receivers dropped pass after pass. Then in the second half, the defense capitulated, too.

Jones, who threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, said afterward he "singlehandedly" lost the game for the Sooners. Truth is, there were a lot of hands in this loss.

And in a lost season.

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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