GLENDALE, Ariz. — One by one, the Sooners slew the demons.
Fourth quarter problems? Check. Oklahoma football, which once was defined by fourth-quarter excellence, found its way again with stellar play down the stretch against both Oklahoma State and Nebraska.
Road problems? Back-to-back road victories, at Baylor and Bedlam, put the Sooners in position to win another Big 12 championship.
Texas problem? A 28-20 victory over UT, before the Longhorns knew they stunk.
Close-game problems? Half of OU's 12 wins were decided by one possession. The Sooners were 6-0 in games decided by eight points or less; 3-0 in games decided by three points or less.
BCS problems? A Fiesta Bowl rout of Connecticut ended that five-game losing streak, and while yes, the Huskies were a sub-standard BCS team, 48-20 is what the Sooners should do to an inferior foe. And they did.
The only ghoul left to vanquish is the national championship problem.
The Sooners have lost three title games, a losing streak that can be difficult to break, because getting the chance is a monumental undertaking.
It's like Bob Stoops said earlier in Fiesta Bowl week: they don't drop names out of a hat. You've got to earn your way to the Big Bowl, and you've got to perform once you get there.
So while the paramount question for the Sooners most of 2010 was, can they win a top-heavy Big 12, the question for 2011 centers solely on the national crown.
The possibility exists, despite a schedule that includes road trips to Tallahassee, Dallas, Manhattan, Waco and Stillwater.
Loads of talent returns. Landry Jones and a solid offensive line. Young, exciting receiver/runners. Salty secondary. Linebackers, d-linemen. No holes are apparent on the 2011 Sooners.
Of course, you never know.
Only twice has Stoops returned his quarterback from a Big 12 championship team.
In 2008, the Sooners were great and played for a national championship.
In 2009, the Sooners suffered from plagues and curses and finished 8-5.
So nothing is assured. But nothing was assured in 2010. In November, this Sooner team drove Disappointment Boulevard. A second straight season without a division title, a second straight season in a minor bowl, seemed likely.
“We never stopped believing in each other and this team,” said linebacker Travis Lewis. “Once we got the ball rolling, and it all started (Nov. 20) with Baylor, guys got their confidence up.”
“We knew we were a special team. And we were a couple steps away from being where we wanted to be, ultimately, and that's in a national championship.”
Even when the Sooners were No. 1 in the BCS in October, you knew this team was flawed. Knew this team was not dominant. Knew this team seemed a year away from national championship talk.
What a difference a five-game winning streak makes. The Sooners reinvented themselves and laid waste to the gremlins that have gnawed at this proud program for several years. All but one.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He 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. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.