Sign of bad times: Sooners trying to wash away injury-filled, 5-loss season

Just inside the doorway that leads to Oklahoma's practice field, there's a reminder that last season was not acceptable for the Sooners.

There on an easel is a sign with all capital letters that reads: IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING YOU WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE THE SAME RESULTS.

And those results — matching a career-high five losses for 12th-year head coach Bob Stoops — just don't cut it.

There are plenty of excuses, mostly in the form of injuries to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford, NFL-bound tight end Jermaine Gresham and numerous others throughout the course of last year's 8-5 run. But the Sooners are used to playing for Big 12 championships and BCS appearances, not saving face with Sun Bowl victories.

"We don't want to be a five-loss team," quarterback Landry Jones said. "That's not what we're here at Oklahoma for and that's not what this program has been built on.

"This program has been built on championships and that's what we're working toward during fall camp, and hopefully that's how our season will turn out."

Regardless of how many players were on the injured list, the Sooners know they left wins on the field last season. Two of their losses were by a single point, while others were decided by a touchdown and a field goal in games that Oklahoma committed five turnovers.

All told, Oklahoma more than doubled its school-record 11 turnovers from its run to the BCS championship game a season earlier that featured the highest-scoring offense in NCAA history.

"I don't think this team has lost any confidence because we didn't have a good year last year," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "I don't think this team thinks, 'Well, last year everybody got hurt. We're going to be better.' I think this team feels like offensively it got exposed because there were guys that weren't ready to play."

Wilson said there was a lack of urgency and leadership from some players on the offensive line last season, and that was compounded by a series of injuries to the top tight ends and fullback Matt Clapp. The result hurt the running game and the offensive balance.

"We lost our identity," Wilson said.

Stoops is hoping that a year of unexpected experience pays off for players who were forced into playing time by injuries a season ago.

Jones steadied himself after being thrust in as Bradford's replacement on two separate occasions, and he threw for a season-high 418 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford in the Sun Bowl. By then, his blockers were able to find some continuity after four starters were injured and an unproven group of receivers finally shook off problems with dropped passes.

That impressive finish provided hope that Jones has the tools to replace Bradford and predecessors including 2000 Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel and 2003 Heisman winner Jason White. Those three are among five different quarterbacks to lead Oklahoma to Big 12 championships.

"Ultimately if that core around him is playing at a higher level, (Jones) has a chance to be really solid," Wilson said. "The quarterback gets all the glory and credit when everybody else is good. They stink when all those guys aren't good.

"I've got a feeling, No. 1, I think he's pretty good. I don't know if he's at the level of those other two because those are two Heismans. Unfortunately here, he's following two Heismans and a second place this decade."

A defense that shut out three opponents last season also lost three starters to the NFL draft, including No. 3 overall pick Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle. Also gone are both starting cornerbacks and two-thirds of the starting linebacking corps.

Left leading the way are all-Big 12 defensive end Jeremy Beal, top tacklers Travis Lewis and Quinton Carter, plus defensive tackle Adrian Taylor, who's working his way back after a gruesome ankle fracture in the Sun Bowl.

"I don't like having an 8-5 taste in my mouth. That's not us," Taylor said. "That's not what we've been doing here. That's not Oklahoma football. We come here because we want to win championships. We can't win championships with an 8-5."

The Sooners open the season with three straight home games, starting Sept. 4 against Utah State and followed by visits from Florida State and Air Force.