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Oklahoma's Road To Recovery Will Be Longer Than Expected

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ARLINGTON, Texas -

The scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium told the entire story:

Texas A&M 41, Oklahoma 13

The Sooners' embarrassing loss in the Cotton Bowl to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies was a perfect picture of Oklahoma's season as a whole. For a half, the Sooners fought hard, controlling the clock and keeping the Heisman Trophy winner on the sidelines as a spectator to three OU drives that spanned 13 plays or more, and took at least five minutes off the clock.

The strategy worked, as the Sooners found themselves down by a single point at the half. The defense hadn't done the best job of containing Manziel, but had forced two punts and an interception to keep the Aggies at bay.

Then the second half started and the Aggies proceeded to blow the Sooners off the field. The offense sputtered, the defense collapsed, and Manziel continued his dream season by running and throwing for 516 yards and four combined touchdowns.

1/4/2013 Related Story: Johnny Be Good: Aggies Trounce Sooners In The Cotton Bowl

All season long, it appeared the Sooners were teetering on the edge between very good and mediocre. Losses to Kansas State and Notre Dame at home raised questions about the Sooners' toughness, but a blowout win over Texas, as well as tight, resilient wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma State kept fans from hitting the panic button on the overall quality of the team.

However, Friday night's performance proved once and for all the long forgotten sub-par performance in the season opener against UTEP was in fact a sign of things to come.

The Sooners were a good team, with plenty of talented football players on both sides of the ball. But they weren't a great team, a team ready to make a run at a national championship.

The offense was inconsistent all season long, sometimes exploding for huge yardage numbers and points, but vanishing against the few good defenses the Sooners faced along the way. The defense that showed signs of improvement at the beginning of the season proved to be pretty much the exact same defense from a year ago, surrendering yards and points at an astonishing rate in the last five games of the season.

Most of all, the Sooners lacked the fire that defined the dominant Oklahoma teams in the first six years of Stoops' time in Norman. Sure, the Sooners wanted to win. After all, who doesn't? However, there was no swagger, no brash, cocky attitude. No Torrance Marshall telling Chris Weinke at the coin toss of the 2001 Orange Bowl he had stolen Josh Heupel's Heisman Trophy.

As the Sooners' season ended amongst the familiar sounds of the Aggie War Hymn, a humbled OU team headed for the locker room and the off season. It will be a long one, full of questions about the direction of the program and everyone is going to have a solution to the problem.

There's no magic formula that will automatically return OU to national championship status. It's going to be a process. And the scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium, glowing with that lopsided final score, showed the process might be longer than originally thought.

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