The 2009 season proved to be a challenge for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners.
Coming off a BCS Championship Game appearance, the Sooners seemed ready to challenge again for the top spot in the country.
However, a season opening loss to BYU and the shoulder injury to Sam Bradford quickly dimmed prospects for the season.
The Sooners started the season ranked high in the national polls, but by the end of the year they had fallen out of the top 25 for the first time since 1999.
There are many opinions on what went wrong in 2009. Let's look at the key season statistics for Oklahoma.
Statistics are helpful in placing performance in perspective.
I'll compare the 2009 statistics to those of the very successful 2008 year.
The 2009 performance will be ranked into three groups—areas of improvement, areas unchanged, and areas of performance decline.
Areas of Improvement
I was surprised to find many areas where the 2009 Sooners rated higher than the 2008 team.
The defense led the way in improvement. In 2008, the defense allowed 25 points per game, compared to only 15 points in 2009.
This placed OU seventh in the nation in scoring defense, up from a ranking of 58 in 2008.
Defensive improvement came in both passing and rushing yards allowed in 2009. Rushing defense ranked eighth in the nation allowing only 93 yards per game.
Two areas of the punting game improved in 2009 as well.
Tress Way averaged over 40 yards in net punting, ranking fifth in the nation.
Punt team return performance was also outstanding.
Led by Ryan Broyles, OU averaged over 16 yards per punt return, placing them third in the nation.
Areas Unchanged from 2008
Oklahoma finished in the top ten in 2008 in both sacks and sacks allowed.
This excellence continued in 2009 with 38 sacks for the defense while the offensive line only allowed 15 sacks for the season.
But keep in mind that sack statistics are somewhat deceiving.
The one sack that resulted in Bradford's shoulder injury had an adverse effect on the offensive performance for the remainder of the season.
Areas of Performance Decline
While the defense improved in 2009, the offense struggled.
The 2009 Sooner rushing statistics are particularly disappointing.
Compared to 2008, rushing yards per game dropped from 199 yards per game to only 135 in 2009.
This placed Oklahoma at a national ranking of 77th for rushing offense, a marked drop-off from their 20th place ranking in 2008.
In 2008, Sam Bradford put up stellar numbers, ranking No. 1 in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of over 180.
Landry Jones, OU's backup quarterback, could not be expected to match those kinds of numbers. In 2009, passing efficiency dropped to 131, ranking at No. 52 in the nation.
The Sooners also fell back in turnover margin in 2009, dropping from plus 23 to only plus four. Quarterback Landry Jones was intercepted 14 times.
In summary, 2009 was a year where Oklahoma could not capitalize on their outstanding defensive.
However, the Sooner fans have some bright spots to keep them looking forward to 2010.
Landry Jones set an OU bowl recording passing for 416 yards in the Sun Bowl win over Stanford.
Improved passing efficiency, continued defensive excellence, and improvement in offensive line performance will be the keys for success for Oklahoma in 2010.