Lessons Learned Fuel Sooners' Big 12 Championship Season
FORT WORTH, Texas - Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma players celebrated on the field at Amon G. Carter stadium, donning caps and T-shirts all proclaiming the same thing: Big 12 Champions.
Oklahoma's 24-17 win over TCU cemented the Sooners' eighth Big 12 championship under head coach Bob Stoops. In fact, the Sooners have won the Big 12 title in every even numbered season since Stoops came to Norman in 1999, in addition to winning the title in 2007.
Yes, the Sooners are Big 12 champions. Thanks to a 10-team conference playing a round-robin schedule, there's no way to break a potential tie between the Sooners and Kansas State, should the Wildcats defeat Texas Saturday night. However, the Sooners will win be all alone in first place should the Longhorns pull off the upset in Manhattan.
It's ironic the Sooners and Wildcats would share the conference title because earlier in the year, it was that same Wildcats team that showed Oklahoma wasn't a championship-caliber team—a fact revealed when Kansas State went to Norman and defeated the Sooners 24-19 in the third game of the year for Oklahoma.
Last season, losses completely derailed the Sooners' season, but this year's team responded to adversity in a way that showcased the overall growth in maturity from last year. Instead of folding, the Sooners responded with a vengeance, ripping off three straight victories before falling to Notre Dame at home.
Again, the Sooners had a chance to pack it in and quit on a season that still held a lot of promise. Once again, the Sooners chose to instead rally and make the most of their season. They didn't quit, and now, they stand on the precipice of going to a ninth BCS bowl game in Stoops' 14 seasons at OU.
It takes a level of maturity to understand that—while a national championship is the ultimate goal—there are other goals out there to be accomplished each season. OU's national championship dreams died the night Notre Dame's became a reality, but the Sooners showed maturity by coming back and winning the last five games of the regular season, displaying a high level of mental toughness in the process.
That toughness came in handy the last three weeks, where OU defeated West Virginia and Oklahoma State on fourth down touchdowns with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock, and defeated the Horned Frogs with a red zone stop with under a minute remaining.
Not only did the toughness come into play the past three weeks, but it was apparent all season for OU in games away from Norman. As recently as two years ago, the Sooners were crucified for their problems on the road. That wasn't the case this season. Capped by Saturday's win over TCU, the Sooners completed a perfect run through their six games away from Memorial Stadium in 2012.
No one was really sure what to expect from the Sooners this season. Anything from a national championship to a five-loss season seemed possible, but what happened was more impressive than anything most could have imagined.
The Sooners showed they had learned from their collapse at the end of last season; learned how to rebound from losses; learned how to look at each game one at a time, instead of counting the season a lost cause if it didn't result in a national championship.
All that learning helped turn the Sooners into what they are today: champions.