A disappointing 2014 football season didn't remove any of the sting from Oklahoma's disastrous performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl. As OU fans tried to stomach what was taking place on the field, a popular expression that began to pop up on social media and on our game thread was that the program has hit "rock bottom."
The notion that a blowout loss at the end of an eight win season is rock bottom shows just how spoiled to winning we have come as the Oklahoma fan base. Any season that falls short of a championship will never be good enough at OU and that's the way it should be. The Sooners have set the standard for tradition in college football and that standard is championship or bust. However, that said, if you want to know what rock bottom looked like then I'll regrettably reintroduce you to the decade of the 90's.
Here are ten losses from the 90's that more closely exemplified rock bottom than what we saw on the evening of December 29th.
September 19, 1998 - California 13, Oklahoma 12: This was the third year of John Blake's tenure as Oklahoma's head coach and it was supposed to be the year of promise. After a 2-0 start the Sooners were dropped by the Golden Bears and it started a string of five consecutive losses that would ultimately lead OU's bowl drought to a fourth year in a row. Oklahoma completed 3 of 10 passes in this game for 77 yards.
October 24, 1998 - OSU 41, Oklahoma 26: The Cowboys matched Oklahoma's 2-4 record heading into this contest and the Sooners were hoping to end what was, at that point, a four-game skid. OU jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and led 13-7 at the half. However, O-State rallied to outscore Oklahoma 34-13 in the second half.
November 7, 1998 - Texas A&M 29, Oklahoma 0: Having ended their losing streak a week earlier by downing Iowa State 17-14, and avoiding a sub .500 season once again become a possibility. All Oklahoma had to do was win out over their final three games but the first in that stretch was a trip to College Station. The Sooners managed just 5 first downs on the afternoon and 124 total offensive yards to guarantee third consecutive losing season under Blake.
November 24, 1995 - Nebraska 37, Oklahoma 0: A week after dropping a 12-0 loss to the Cowboys in Norman, Howard Schnellenberger took his troops to Lincoln to get thrashed by Tom Osborne and the Cornhuskers. The Sooners turned the ball over three times in this game and committed nine penalties for 97 yards. Five is the key number here. OU was at five wins on the season and just needed to beat either OSU or Nebraska to make a bowl appearance. It was also the fifth consecutive year in a row the Huskers had downed the Sooners.
November 27, 1992 - Nebraska 33, Oklahoma 9: The Huskers made a habit of dominating Oklahoma in the decade of the 90's and this is just another example. In front of a sellout home crowd the Sooners trailed #13 Nebraska by a score of 10-9 at the half but were outscored 23-0 over the final two quarters of play. We'll come back to the 1992 season in a minute and discuss why this loss was so demoralizing.
November 15, 1997 - Texas A&M 51, Oklahoma 7: In the newly formed Big 12 Conference, this game made it clear that the Sooners were not capable of keeping pace with the teams at the top. This was the final of a four-game losing streak in which OU failed to even be competitive and were held to just a single touchdown in all four contests. Not scoring until the final minutes of the game a five turnovers aided the throbbing headache of Oklahoma fans that day.
November 1, 1997 - Nebraska 69, Oklahoma 7: Ah, back to the Huskers making the Sooners their whooping child in the 90's. This loss was sandwiched in between losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma State to make matters even worse. The Sooners were outscored 34-0 in the first half and held to 85 total rushing yards for the game on 50 attempts. At least the game was in Lincoln so Oklahoma fans didn't have to sit through it's entirety but could instead just turn off the TV.
October 5, 1996 - Kansas 52, Oklahoma 24: This wasn't even the Mark Mangino Kansas Jayhawks. This was Glen Mason's 4-7 squad that demolished OU to the tune of a 4.8 yards per play average and in Norman at that. John Blake started his first season at Oklahoma by going 0-4 and also lost to the Jayhawks each time he faced them.
August 23, 1997 - Northwestern 24, Oklahoma 0: This was a nationally televised kickoff special that was played in Chicago. It was the "bowl type atmosphere" that OU fans had been longing for but it ended very badly. After Oklahoma struggled to a three-win season in 1996, they started 1997 with a disastrous shutout loss to the Wildcats.
October 24, 1992 - Kansas 27, Oklahoma 10: This is where it all started. It was the beginning of what really was rock bottom for Oklahoma football. The Sooners' offense disappeared in the second half with OU getting outscored 10-0. Oklahoma turned the ball over three times on the day and the Jayhawks outclassed OU for the first time since 1984. Speaking of first times, the 1992 season marked the first time Oklahoma wouldn't win at least six games in a season since 1965.
Seriously? The Kansas Jayhawks? Yup, there was a time in which Oklahoma wasn't even up to par with Kansas. Now that's rock bottom! The Russell Athletic Bowl was horrible for the Sooners and their fans but was it rock bottom? Last I checked OU won eight games in 2014 and demolished Kansas 44-7 in a game that saw Samaje Perine set the NCAA single-game rushing record. Yeah, we were a long way from rock bottom in 2014.