NORMAN — Word started circulating through the halls of the Switzer Center on Monday afternoon, eventually reaching the ears of Oklahoma starting right guard Tyler Evans.
Team meeting. Players only.
“I heard about it at the last second,” Evans said. “I thought it was a good thing. We probably needed it.”
It's what teams at most every level do from time to time, often when they're facing some sort of adversity. That's where the Sooners find themselves, now 6-1 after the stunning loss to Texas Tech this past weekend.
Three of OU's captains presided over the meeting: quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis.
Each spoke about staying the course and striving toward the same goals, including playing for – and winning – the school's eighth national championship. Examples of teams that have won titles with losses were brought up.
“You never know what's going to happen in college football,” Jones said Monday. “In '08, two one-loss teams played for it. LSU won it with two losses. It's still out there for us. Everything's out there in front of us. We've just got to limit our mistakes and learn from them.”
Part of the meeting, too, included Lewis addressing his teammates about comments made following the loss. He told reporters that if he could play with a broken toe, perhaps more of his teammates should suit up with various injuries.
Several Sooners were upset by that sentiment, a team source said. Lewis apologized Monday to offended teammates, the source said.
Coach Bob Stoops downplayed Lewis' comments and any tension that might have stemmed from them.
“He's frustrated. It's not a big deal,” Stoops said. “Our team is very close together and Travis is one of them. It's a good reason why I probably shouldn't let them go talk to you guys afterward, so we may do that, too.
“At the end of the day, not a big deal. I don't know what he meant by it. The bottom line is guys play or not play, depending on what the doctors allow them to do.”
One Sooners lineman, center Gabe Ikard, said it's “not as if everyone's down in the dumps” after the Red Raiders' 41-38 victory to end OU's 39-game home win streak. Evans, however, said some players' psyches were teetering a bit prior to the players-only meeting.
“It was definitely appreciated,” said Evans, a junior from Stafford, Mo. “There were a lot of guys who were down. A speech from them kind of gave life to everybody.”
Jones spoke Monday with reporters, but Lewis and Broyles – more and more hesitant to oblige with interview requests – were no-shows. Broyles was even supposed to be one of three Sooners included in Stoops' Tuesday news conference. Evans and defensive back Aaron Colvin came, but Broyles never appeared.
This week is without question a crossroads in OU's 2011 season, one that began with such promise. Stoops said in August that it was “about time” Oklahoma again won a national title. The season has been dubbed “Chase for 8” in social media circles.
The chase isn't over after a loss. But the energy and momentum is threatening to shift. It's up to the Sooners, with things such as the team meeting, to keep progressing and improving.
“It's important to continue to play,” Jones said. “We're obviously not just going to shut it down. Everybody wants to win. This place is built on winning. That's who we are. We're going to keep working toward that.”
What's gone is OU's ability to control its own destiny in the national championship picture. Now the Sooners have to pull for upsets of teams ahead of them.
“We have a chance,” Colvin said of his team, currently ninth in the BCS. “You never know how many things could fall into place.”
Added Evans: “All we can say is, ‘We hope.'”
Well, that's not all OU can say. Of course, it has to win out beginning Saturday at Kansas State — 7-0 and ranked eighth in the BCS.
“It's a definite gut-check game,” Evans said. “It's our character that's going to have to show, that we still have something to play for.”