Sooners Shift Gears in Goals

NORMAN, Okla. — The word character is so often mentioned when talking about anything in sports.

But the time couldn't be better than now to illustrate it with this group of Sooners.

It was National Championship or bust, the Chase For Eight, as it was dubbed before the season.

Now that's out.

They have been jacked in the jaw and punched in the gut by having their BCS Title aspirations snapped last weekend in a 45-38 loss at Baylor.

But a lot is still in front of them, and character will dictate just how many goals they pick off.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables uses a little phrase to sum it all up.

"It's not that these types of times build your character; it's these types of times reveal your character," Venables said.

Indeed, a team with weak character would fold up since their goal of winning a national title has evaporated.

A team with strong character would, instead, put that on the back burner and achieve the next attainable goal on their list.

For the Sooners, that's going after the Big 12 Championship, which is still conceivable should they win their final two remaining games.

Make no mistake: The loss last week was devastating.

Ask any number of players.

"That one definitely hurt," said quarterback Landry Jones. "You know, we had some big goals in front of us... it hurts, you know, because this team was definitely capable of playing in that game and we have the talent to play in it. So, I mean, it definitely sucks."

"It's depressing," said field cornerback Demontre Hurst. "We knew going into that game we pretty much just had to finish out these last three games after our bye week. But unfortunately we didn't get the W, so it kind of messed up our chances and you know, it's kind of depressing but we can't win them all."

"I mean, it's tough, but we can't dwell on the past," said strong safety Aaron Colvin. "You always gotta move forward, so we're going to come out, we're going to prepare like I said before. But you know, it is a disappointment."

But moving on, finishing the season strong, and achieving the rest of their goals is definitely possible.

Just look at last year.

The Sooners lost a couple of games after being the No. 1 team in the country and fought back to win the Big 12 Title and the Fiesta Bowl, capturing victories in their final five games of the season.

Stoops outlined the challenge of doing just that, again.

"It'll be a big challenge for us to pick up and make some improvement this week and give ourselves a chance to still compete for the Big 12 Championship," Stoops said. "You know, that possibility is still there. We need to win this week to have that chance and that's what we're focusing on right now."

And it at least seems like the players have moved on from the BCS Title aspirations and accepted the next best thing: winning the Big 12 for an unprecedented eighth time.

"Right now, we still got the Big 12 Championship in front of us and hopefully a BCS game if we take care of business these last two weeks," Jones said. "So, that's what our mindset is right now. And we got to move on and we got to make the best of it, and I think the team's in a good place right now where we're capable of doing that."

Defensive end Frank Alexander, who has had a monster year with a team-leading 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, concurred.

"We still got two games left for the season plus a bowl game," Alexander said. "We win these two games, the Big 12 Championship, we still could end up going to the BCS game, so I feel like we still have some success."

Same with Hurst.

"Basically we just have to move on and try to get the Big 12 Championship and just move forward from there," Hurst said.

See, this team could easily throw the towel in right now.

Heck, all the national pundits before the season figured there was absolutely no way OU would come up short of a national championship berth, so it's easy to realize why that would be such a letdown and potentially wreck the rest of the season.

But win the Big 12 after all the adversity, and it's a successful year.

Even if it was labeled as a BCS Title or bust 2011.

It looks like OU has the right mindset, perhaps the right character to get that accomplished.

Maybe, just maybe the Sooners will reveal that they have that character built inside them.

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