NORMAN — Bob Stoops cracked. Sergeant Stoic's shoulders slumped.
Mister Keep-Your-Chin-Up gave in to discouragement. Maybe even said the magic words. Why me? Why us?
Another Sooner star, this time tackle Trent Williams, would miss Bedlam, courtesy of a practice concussion. Add another patch to a threadbare offensive line.
"I was doing my darndest to stay positive, but it was tough," Stoops said in the most unStoopslike comment he's uttered in 11 Oklahoma football seasons.
The OU tribulations indeed were enough to make a grown man tell the truth.
But Saturday afternoon, the Sooners salvaged what little was left of this 2009 gut-punch.
They obliterated Oklahoma State's Fiesta Bowl dreams 27-0, keeping alive OU's Owen Field winning streak and restoring a little panache to a season gone sour.
"We had a lot to prove today, especially for the seniors," said defensive end Jeremy Beal. "We've had a difficult year."
The Williams concussion could only make the Sooners laugh at the absurdity of it all. OU's Senior Day festivities seemed to include as many ballplayers out of uniform as in. Williams. Jermaine Gresham. Brody Eldridge. Ryan Reynolds. Auston English. Sam Bradford on the video board.
This was a shell of the team expected to contend for a national championship.
Of course, the Cowboys could say the same thing. Without Dez Bryant, exiled by the NCAA, OSU's offense has been punch-and-Judy. No power hitting in this lineup.
Sans Dez, OSU has been playing station-to-station football most of this season. Three yards here, four yards there.
With a salty quarterback like Zac Robinson, that can work most of the time. But try that against this OU defense, and you're mincemeat. You have to hit home runs against the Sooners.
"Wish we would have played better," said State coach Mike Gundy. "Don't feel like we gave them our best."
Easy to say after six first downs, none in the first half. Easy to say after the Cowboys never got closer than the OU 45-yard line.
OSU's only scoring threats were a fumble lost by OU receiver Dejuan Miller that was overruled by replay and OSU linebacker Justin Gent's 55-yard fumble return that ended in a reverse fumble.
"The Texas Tech game (a 41-13 loss a week ago) motivated us a lot, especially the defense," Beal said. "Our egos took a hit after getting beat like that."
This Bedlam beatdown again shows what a waste of a championship defense this season has been. A defense like this, save the Tech game, is as good as Stoops has had.
"They've still got a lot of players who are going to play in the NFL," said Robinson. "For whatever reason, they just didn't play well last week.
"When they want to play well, they really do. I think they maybe had some extra motivation today. They just stuffed everything we did."
Stoops even said this performance ranks near the top of his Sooner days.
Bedlam could have gone 12 quarters and OSU wouldn't have scored. Which means the Cowboys were going to have to win this game with defense and special teams.
And when tight end Erik Mensik moved in at tackle and kept the line afloat, OSU's goose was cooked.
"I must admit, when I found out Trent wasn't playing, I kind of panicked a little bit," said OU tailback DeMarco Murray. "I definitely felt a little edgy."
But after a shaky first quarter — one turnover, two other near-turnovers, a missed field goal — the OU offense settled down and played OK, Ryan Broyles and Tress Way dominated the kicking game, and OSU's Fiesta Bowl hopes were gone long before the fourth quarter arrived.
Of course, the game was melancholy for the Sooners. Great victory. Winning season assured. Homefield win streak extended.
But more than anything, this game reminded the Sooners of what could have been.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.