It Happens to the Best of Them: Oklahoma Will Return to National Picture

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It Happens to the Best of Them: Oklahoma Will Return to National Picture
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For the Oklahoma Sooners, it was just one of those years. From the moment when Sam Bradford lay writhing in pain on the new turf of Cowboys Stadium that fateful September afternoon, Sooner fans everywhere knew their season was going to look very different than what they all expected it to look like. Boy, were they right in that assumption.

The Sooners came into the year with national title aspirations, Big 12 title aspirations, and aspirations of paying Texas back for the loss last season while finally shutting them up about the controversial tiebreaker that sent Oklahoma to the Big 12 title game and eventually the national championship.

When Sam Bradford hit the turf of Cowboys Stadium and didn’t get up, the Sooners knew that things were not going to go according to plan. However I think it’s safe to say that no one saw what was coming.

No one in the country could have anticipated the string of injuries that hit the Oklahoma football team. A quick look at the list of who we lost for the season before bowl game preparations:

  • Jermaine Gresham: knee surgery
  • Sam Bradford: shoulder surgery
  • Tom Wort: knee surgery
  • Brody Eldridge: shoulder surgery
  • Auston English: ankle surgery
  • Jarvis Jones: ankle surgery

 

The best tight end in the country was down before the season started. The reigning Heisman trophy winner played all of a game and a half before calling it a career. One of the highly touted freshmen went down in fall practice before the season started. And three of the Sooners' steady players, including Eldridge who played three different positions along the offensive line before he went down, left their season on the turf in Lincoln, Nebraska in early November.

No one goes into the season thinking about losing six players. Especially when they are five starters and a highly touted freshman. No one thinks, "Now if Jermaine goes down, where do we go from there?" If you have healthy players, you just try to keep them healthy and don't dwell on the hardships that could befall you if you lose said player. Unfortunately, nothing ever really goes according to plan.

Despite all of the injuries, the Sooners persevered and wouldn’t let the discouragement of a loss get to them. They approached every game individually and put it all on the line with the exception of a major letdown in Lubbock against Texas Tech. 

After that game, the Sooners sat at 6-5 with a home date against rival Oklahoma State remaining on the schedule. The Sooners responded with a huge 27-0 beatdown of the Cowboys and then closed out the season last week with a 31-27 victory over the Stanford Cardinals in the Brut Sun Bowl. Was it an earth-shaking victory? No, but you couldn’t tell from the reactions of the players at the end of the game.

Players laughed, hugged, and in Gerald McCoy’s case, cried a little bit. For most of them, it was the most tumultuous season they had ever been through. Ending it with two solid victories over quality opponents made an otherwise disappointing season sweet.

Bob Stoops got the Gatorade bath after probably his most impressive coaching job in his career. Never once did he make excuses or hang his head, but instead, pushed his players to be the best they could be. Their best was what the Sooners needed to continue to push forward through the trials.

So what’s next for Oklahoma? There will be no more Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, or Gerald McCoy. Along with the seniors, Dominique Franks has declared for the NFL Draft along with McCoy and Bradford. However, the Sooners look to be returning to prominence once again next season. 

Landry Jones will be back to direct the offense and he will have Demarco Murray to hand the ball off to and Ryan Broyles and DeJuan Miller to throw to.

The defense is a little more suspect as the possibility of players leaving still makes things ambiguous. Travis Lewis and Jeremy Beal returning would make the Sooner defense one of the nation’s best once again. Their announcements should come within the next few weeks. Either way, Oklahoma will be back in the national picture once again in 2010.  

 

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