NORMAN — Oklahoma faced unimaginable adversity last season.
Injuries ravaged the roster, including 12 starters.
And yet, with better field-goal kicking, OU could have still won 10 games.
With great field-goal kicking, maybe even 11.
Instead, in narrow losses to BYU, Texas and Nebraska, the Sooners missed a total of five field goals. And had to settle for an 8-5 record.
"It wasn't good enough," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "I can see, when you're out there past the 40, that's gonna be that way. But we missed too many in the 30 range that we have to make.
"It would have changed some games a year ago had we made them. So we got to make them."
Ironically, the rest of OU's special teams have been terrific.
In Tress Way, the Sooners boast one of the top punters in the country. Ryan Broyles is an electric return man. The cover units have lately been solid.
But to contend for a national championship, OU will probably require more from its place-kicker.
"We always want touchdowns. But there are times you need the three points, the for-sure points," Broyles said. "We have some guys.
"We just need to find that one that's ready to step up."
The Sooners aren't lacking for options.
Even with Way now focused solely on punting, OU still has four kickers vying for the starting job in Patrick O'Hara, Jimmy Stevens, Bryce Easley and Michael Hunnicutt.
"It's just gonna be who can be the most consistent," said Stoops, who also coaches the kickers.
O'Hara is the favorite to open the year as the starter. A walk-on out of Topeka, Kan., O'Hara took over for Way and Stevens last season with four games to go.
After he nailed a 47-yarder at Texas Tech, OU's question at kicker appeared to be answered. But O'Hara missed three field goals in the Sooners' final two games, preventing him from solidifying the starter's role.
Still, he feels confident with a year of experience behind him.
"The more reps you take, the more consistent and accurate you get," O'Hara said. "It's a mental thing. Kicking a year-and-a-half now, I feel much better about my kicking. I know what it's like to be in game situations. I'll be a lot more comfortable now."
If O'Hara stumbles, Stevens could be given another shot to be the place-kicker. Stevens was 11 of 11 on field goals from inside 40 yards last season. But his inability to be consistent from farther out cost him his job. Over the summer, Stevens worked on increasing his power and improving his distance, and is not ready to concede the job.
Neither are Easley or Hunnicutt.
Easley, a Norman North graduate who was sick last preseason before falling out of the competition, is healthy, talented and back in the mix.
Hunnicutt is a first-year walk-on out of Richardson, Texas, who, other than Way, might have the biggest leg on the team.
"I don't know who it's gonna be, but it's very important someone steps up," Way said. "Most important, for the guys on the team. They want to have that guy. Our offense is going to be extremely good, but they want to have that guy in case they have a couple mishaps in the red zone. They want to know someone is going to come in and tack up some extra points. Last year, myself included, we felt bad we couldn't give it to the team.
"The kickers, we need to be there to back them up."
BYU: It was a desperation shot, but Tress Way had the chance to beat BYU from 54 yards out. Instead, his kick came up several yards short, and the Cougars held on for the 14-13 upset.
Texas: Jimmy Stevens' 45-yard miss came back to the bite the Sooners, as Texas won by a field goal in this defensive struggle, 16-13.
Nebraska: OU's offense sputtered against what turned out to be the best defense in college football. Still, OU had four chances to come up with points on FGs. Way misfired on two and had another blocked, and the Huskers prevailed, 10-3.