SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For two months, Oklahoma defensive captain Travis Lewis refused to speak to the media.
Wednesday, on Insight Bowl media day, the senior linebacker finally broke his public silence on all that went wrong in a season that began with so much promise.
"Everybody knew the expectations going into this season. The fans did, we did, the coaches did," said Lewis, who took questions for half an hour. "The most disappointing thing is we felt like we had that team. We felt like we had all the pieces in place this year. And we didn't meet expectations.
"We really felt like, 'Hey, this is the year.' It's just very disappointing."
Through the first three years of his career, Lewis had always been a spokesman for the Oklahoma defense, after wins and after losses.
But after the stunning upset loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 29, Lewis rebuffed all interview requests for the rest of the season, instead deferring to his younger teammates to speak for the team. On Wednesday, Lewis admitted giving the media -- and in turn, the fans -- the silent treatment during the season's tumultuous second half might have been a mistake.
"Yeah, I probably would have handled it a little different," he said. "But as everybody knows, I'm a real emotional person. My team feeds off me, kind of follows our captains' lead. I thought, maybe if I just quit the talking, my team would focus on playing and start winning ballgames. I didn't want to make excuses for our wins, for our losses. I wanted to just practice and play and let everything take care of itself."
Despite earning second-team All-Big 12 honors, with a chance to become the first player to lead the Sooners in tackles through four seasons, Lewis didn't have the kind of senior season he had been hoping for. On the first day of full pads, he suffered a broken big toe, an omen for what would unfold through the season. Doctors initially told Lewis he would be out until October. But in a stunning recovery, Lewis healed enough to return to the starting lineup for OU's second game -- a 23-13 victory at then fifth-ranked Florida State.
Lewis, however, was never 100 percent after the injury. Playing hurt and with a makeshift cast in his cleat, he was a step slower. And despite his also injuring his shoulder, he never sat out more than a handful of plays.
After the loss to Tech, Lewis' emotions got the best of him. He called out a couple of his teammates in the locker room and then in the media for not playing through their injuries.
"I guess if the trainers tell you you can't play, you can't play," he said that night. "I just know they told me I shouldn't play, and I played."
But after that night, Lewis felt like he was doing altogether too much talking. And needed to shut up.
"I think after our first loss against Tech, it struck me, hey, let's just go to business," Lewis said. "Quit the talking, quit all the tweets and everything. Just go out there and play. That's kind of the mindset I took into the rest of the season. Unfortunately, everything didn't work out the way we wanted.
"But I've had fun. It's been a fun season, a fun ride. We've competed this year. We have a chance to win 10 games. There's nothing depressing about it. Things happen. You've got to keep rolling with it."
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit questions to his mailbag and look for answers every Friday.