The world wide web crashed in the wee morning hours of Sept. 23. OU had lost to Kansas State, and Sooner fans vented the new-fashioned way. They tweeted and Facebooked and emailed. Some were rational. Some were not.
Some were resigned. Some were outraged.
But all were of the same belief. The Sooners had slipped. Oklahoma football no longer could be considered elite.
Three months later, OU awaits a Cotton Bowl showdown with old foe Texas A&M. October, November and December brought glorious and thrilling victories (Texas, West Virginia, OSU) and another debilitating defeat (Notre Dame).
For the first time in the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have gone two straight seasons without an outright Big 12 title or a BCS bowl berth. So is the sackcloth crowd right? Have the Sooners fallen from elite status?
The answer clearly depends on how you define elite.
Make the club exclusive, and OU is on the outside looking in. The Sooners over the past few seasons are not at the same table as Alabama or LSU or Oregon. Maybe not even Wisconsin, which despite five losses is in the Rose Bowl for the third straight season.
Loosen the requirements a tad, and the Sooners are in with both cleats.
Is Ohio State elite? The Buckeyes went 12-0 this season and have won 51 games the last five years. OU's resume over the last three and five seasons is slightly better than the Buckeyes.'
Is Florida elite? The Gators went 11-1 this season and beat the Sooners for the 2008 national title. OU and Florida have the exact same record, 52-14, over the last five years.
The problem is, in the early part of this century, the Sooners were elite no matter how tight you squeezed the restrictions. The first five seasons of the 2000s, OU won a national title and played for two more.
But in the last eight years, OU has played in only one Big Bowl, that loss to Florida. The Sooners remain the Big 12's premier program — outright championships in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, plus a co-championship with K-State this autumn — but has fallen on the college football food chain, though not necessarily far.
I ranked the best college football programs of the last three years, the last five years and the last 10 years.
I've got the Sooners sixth since 2010, fifth since 2008 and fifth since 2003. That's remarkable consistency.
But OU has not returned to the throne since its 2000 national title. And thus the rub.
Big Bowl defeats to LSU, Southern Cal and Florida left the Sooners branded as a program that couldn't quite close the deal. And now that OU has gone a fourth straight season without reaching the national title game, a sense of dread mixes in with a sense of reality, fostering a belief that OU might not return soon.
The truth is, the Sooners need a talent upgrade to get back to the inner-circle elite. Not a huge upgrade, but an upgrade.
OU was not that far off in 2012. A play or two from beating both K-State and Notre Dame. But also a solitary play from losing to West Virginia and OSU.
Every championship team needs fortune to stand alone at the end. Alabama got it from a K-State loss at Baylor this year and an OSU loss at Iowa State last year. Notre Dame got it from the officials vs. Stanford. OU got it in 2000 from Torrance Marshall's unlikely interception.
But everyone knows the 2012 Sooners weren't unlucky. They just weren't quite good enough. The offense was the strength of the team, but in the two OU defeats, the offense withered. The defense played alternately inspired and awful.
The answer for Bob Stoops is not an overhaul. The answer is perseverance and dedication. Keep working hard. Keep believing in the things you know work. Developing great players, which is just as important as recruiting great players.
The Sooners aren't that far off, even if they don't meet certain standards of elite.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.