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SPORTS: University of Oklahoma

Sooners More Prepared For Stretch Run Of This Season

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Baylor's Terrance Williams catches the game-winning touchdown in a 45-38 win over OU last season. (AP Photo) Baylor's Terrance Williams catches the game-winning touchdown in a 45-38 win over OU last season. (AP Photo)
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Oklahoma Sooners have been in this position before. Granted, a year ago, their national championship dreams were dashed much later in the season, at the expense of Robert Griffin III's Heisman moment.

The Sooners' season unraveled after that, with an uninspiring performance against Iowa State, followed by a Bedlam walloping in Stillwater. The performance on the field was bad, but the attitudes in the locker room were even worse. After the season, many players transferred or were dismissed by head coach Bob Stoops.

This season, the Sooners feel they are better prepared to face the rest of the season with positive attitudes and good work ethic.

"I don't think we're going to shut it down and call it quits for the rest of the year," quarterback Landry Jones said. "There is some adversity coming with losing games and coming with different goals being out of the picture. We have a lot of pride in what we do and we're not going to shut it down. We're not going to stop trying and when game day comes around, we're going to put our best guys on the field and we're going to play hard."

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The Sooners are more equipped because they've made it a habit to take care of the little things both on and off the field. That has led to better performances in practice and in games this season.

"Guys have been taking care of the little things like that whether it's class or tutoring," center Gabe Ikard said. "Don't want to let football affect stuff like academics. I'd be very disappointed if they responded in a negative way to what happens on the football field."

The Sooners should be favored in each of their remaining five games, which include Bedlam in Norman, plus trips to West Virginia and TCU, both of which look much less intimidating than they did at the beginning of the season.

If the Sooners do win out, they should be in line for a BCS bowl berth since OU is still ranked No. 12 in the BCS standings even with two losses. Some projections have the Sooners facing Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, while some have speculated about a rematch with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said the approach the team takes week in and week out the rest of the way has to be the same whether the Sooners are coming off a win or a loss.

It's not easy taking a loss," McFarland said. "You have to be mature enough to not dwell on it. If it's a loss or if you win, you still have to approach the week with the same mentality. A loss or a win doesn't make you better for the next week, it's how you prepare throughout the week."

Even Stoops hasn't been shy in talking about the differences between this season and the end of last season.

"This team has been great to coach," Stoops said. "Their attitude, everything about them. We haven't had to this point the issues we had a year ago but we'll see. We're only a little over halfway through it."

No one in the Oklahoma locker room enjoyed going through the end of last season, but for those players that remained, it was a valuable lesson learned. This year, even with two tough defeats on their record, the Sooners are more prepared for the stretch run of the season thanks to the valuable lessons of a year ago.

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