OKLAHOMA CITY, Ok -- After a loss by Oregon earlier in the week, Oklahoma's path to yet another national championship game sure sounded simple. Win out and a trip to New Orleans seemed to be in the Sooners' grasp.
It got much trickier when starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt in the first quarter against Texas Tech, and now just getting to the conference championship game could be a complicated proposition for the No. 10 Sooners (9-2, 5-2 Big 12).
The status of Bradford and running back DeMarco Murray, who matched Adrian Peterson's freshman record with 15 touchdowns this season, is in question as Oklahoma prepares to face rival Oklahoma State on Saturday with a trip to the Big 12 title game on the line.
Coach Bob Stoops balked at the idea the Sooners' 34-27 loss at Texas Tech Saturday night was one of the more disappointing among his few losses in nine seasons at Oklahoma.
"You guys expect to say it because you're acting like we had it already chalked up. We didn't have anything chalked up," Stoops said. "Just because you guys are all talking about it and writing about it doesn't mean it's that simple as you like to put it. It's not easy to put it all together, and we obviously didn't."
Oklahoma's offense sputtered for a while after inexperienced backup Joey Halzle replaced Bradford, who suffered a concussion while tackling a Tech player who recovered a fumble, and got on track in time to make it close at the finish.
"Really the whole second half I felt he settled in and started feeling it a little bit better and did a nice job," Stoops said. "Sometimes I think you've got to be a product too of what's around you. Guys around him have to make plays."
Stoops pointed out that Halzle had a touchdown pass dropped and his blocking broke down several times. Penalties were also a factor.
"It wasn't Joey not getting us going," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
The defense didn't provide much help either. While Halzle and the offense were still scuffling, Oklahoma gave up 27 consecutive points, including touchdowns on three straight Tech possessions.
"I didn't even know he was out," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "I don't even pay attention to that stuff. I tell our players there's a lot of things that we can't control in the course of a game, and the only thing we can control is how we play. That's the bottom line.
"Whatever happens on the other side -- guys going out or not playing well -- it's still up to us to get off the field and find a way to make plays."
Injuries have turned into a major factor at this point for Oklahoma. Besides Bradford's concussion and Murray's dislocated kneecap, the Sooners also lost backup receiver Adron Tennell to a torn ACL, and defensive end Alan Davis to an injury that's received conflicting descriptions. Oklahoma was already without starting defensive ends John Williams, who had season-ending surgery on his Achilles' tendon, and Big 12 sacks leader Auston English, who missed a second straight game with a hairline fracture in his right leg.
Venables said the Sooners might use defensive tackles at end to avoid pulling a redshirt on an inexperienced freshman in the final regular-season game with so much at stake.
"You've got to find a way to win this game. That's all you're concerned about," Venables said. "You still have a chance to be the Big 12 South winner and champion, and get into the Big 12 championship. Everything that you stand for as a coach is on the line this week."