There were warning signs Oklahoma's defense might wash away a shot at a national title long before dark, ominous clouds rolled into Norman Saturday night.
All three phases can share blame for a 41-38 loss to Texas Tech that squashed hopes of the Sooners playing in the national championship game.
But at the top of the list is a defense that surrendered 572 yards.
“It's shocking,” said defensive end Frank Alexander. “You never want to give up that many yards. We pride ourselves on being a great defense. We didn't display that.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he wasn't shocked.
“I'm disappointed,” Venables said. “I watched what happened. I understand the fundamental things that broke down. It does not surprise me. You're going to get beat when you don't do certain things.”
The Sooners didn't do a lot of things. Didn't tackle well. Didn't cover well.
Texas Tech looked like a Mike Leach offense in Lubbock. The Red Raiders methodically marched to touchdown drives that covered 54, 78, 69, 72 and 74 yards.
“There's probably a combination of a number of things that broke down,” Venables said. “Some of it was just tackling. Some of it was some gap integrity. In the first half they had us on our heels.”
OU's defense looked national title contender caliber in a lopsided win over Texas.
The defense looked national title contender caliber in a statement win at Florida State, a game hyped for months.
OU's defense looked national title contender caliber in 20 of the first 24 quarters the first six games.
But the other four quarters — the first and fourth quarters against Missouri and the first half at Kansas — were signs this defense isn't consistent enough to be mentioned with Alabama's and LSU's dominant defenses.
“When anything breaks down you get exposed,” Venables said. “You can't cheat the game. It won't be any different and all of the sudden you come up with this new, magical plan and change up what you do.”
Defensive line play was supposed to be the Sooners' weak link.
Instead, the secondary has been the most inconsistent area.
With cornerback Jamell Fleming unable to play, Gabe Lynn started. Lynn was burned so many times OU coaches moved safety Aaron Colvin to cornerback and inserted Sam Proctor at strong safety.
Middle linebacker Tom Wort suffered a concussion at Kansas and was held out.
Defensive tackle Casey Walker suffered a thumb injury at Kansas and was held out.
The most costly injury was Fleming's knee injury, which could sideline him for another week or two.
After the loss, veteran linebacker Travis Lewis talked about the Sooners playing short-handed.
“It hurt us, and some of them couldn't help it,” Lewis said. “I know I played with a broken toe and the coaches would have had to drag me off the field for me not to play. So (I'm) disappointed in some of the guys.”
Told of Lewis' comment Venables said: “I don't have any comment for something like that. That doesn't, to me, warrant an answer.”
The Sooners, like last season, can regroup to win another Big 12 title, but next up is surprising Kansas State.
“All of us have to own it,” Venables said. “It stinks. You hate for it to happen but at the same time I think character will be revealed. I feel very strongly. We've got great leadership. We've got a bunch of guys that care”
Ryan Aber contributed to this report.
OU by the numbers
7 Texas Tech plays 20 yards or longer
27 Red Raider first downs
96 Plays Texas Tech ran
452 Texas Tech passing yards