Oklahoma Sooners Football: Was 2011 Stoops' Worst Season?

Eric PennellCorrespondent IIDecember 5, 2011

WACO, TX - NOVEMBER 19:  Head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners at Floyd Casey Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the official announcement of the Sooners' invitation to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Insight.com Bowl, having originally being pegged as the near-unanimous favorite to win the program's eighth national championship, only one word comes to mind.

Ouch.

The Sooners didn't just disappoint in any ordinary fashion, either. It was dramatic. It was gut-wrenching.It was hard to watch.

How bad was it? Looking back over Bob Stoops' 12 years at the helm, there have been a few other painful seasons worth mentioning in comparison to the 2011 campaign.

After scoring more points in a season than any other team in 2008 and falling just short of a national title, 2009's squad was destined for prosperity. However, future NFL stars Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham missed the entire season due to injury and true freshman Landry Jones floundered through the season with a 58 percent completion rate and 14 interceptions.

True, their 8-5 mark was worse than the current 9-3 squad, but four of their five losses were by a combined 12 points and the team finished strong with a 27-0 suffocating of OSU at home and a Sun Bowl victory over Stanford.

There was a sense of hope for the future after the 2009 season. Oklahoma had managed eight wins in the face of crippling injuries. Things could only go up from there, right?

Another bitter-pill-of-a-season was in 2005. Rhett Bomar beat out Paul Thompson for the starting job after Jason White ended his historic career in Norman. The team stumbled out of the gates with a 2-3 record after losing to TCU at home and receiving a pair of thumpings from UCLA and Texas.

STILLWATER, OK - DECEMBER 03:  Oklahoma State Cowboys fans hang on the goal post after a 44-10 win against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After that, however, the team won six of their last seven games including a 42-14 Bedlam win and an upset over No. 6 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. Like 2009, their 8-4 record didn't seem so bad because of the strong finish. You could almost taste the optimism in the air!

So that leaves us with 2011, by far the most disappointing in Stoops' tenure in Norman. Never have the expectations been so high and the fall from grace so disheartening.

The Texas Tech loss on homecoming? Inexplicable. After the Red Raiders broke OU's nation-leading home winning streak, they lost their remaining five games by an average margin of 30 points and finished ninth in the conference.

The Baylor scorching? Perplexing. Yes, Robert Griffin III is an incredible athlete, but watching Stoops get outcoached and the secondary being burned over and over again was just plain weird.

The Bedlam beatdown? Embarrassing. Believe it or not, the scoreboard wasn't the worst part. The Sooners seemed to accept defeat before they even got off the bus in Stillwater and never once showed any signs of life.

They disgraced fallen teammate Austin Box who just one year earlier, left everything he had on that very field while helping lead the Sooners to a hard-fought victory.

2005 was bad, but the expectations were much lower and the team finished strong. 2009 hurt, but at least there were specific, identifiable reasons (injury), and the team fought hard for the full 60 minutes in every game.

Despite the unfavorable records in both of those seasons, the teams learned from their mistakes, grew together as a team and got better as the season progressed.

2011 was a little bit of everything: lack of motivation, poor execution, insurmountable injuries, high preseason expectations that produced overinflated self-entitlement amongst players and coaches, lack of heart, bad luck, inconsistent performances up and down the roster, players literally quitting the team... the list goes on.

Let's hope this season was a jab in the ribs for a program that had gotten a little too comfortable.

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