When it was over, after Baylor had added a final field goal that did not please Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley — “there’s a code of sportsmanship,” he said — in the visitors’ locker room at McLane Stadium, the coach’s message to his team looked forward.
Defensive end Isaiah Thomas described an emotional locker room after the Sooners’ first setback, a 27-14 loss to Baylor, which remains the only team to beat the Sooners in November since 2011 … four times.
“What would you expect?” Thomas said. “Guys cried, trying to wrap their head around a loss. It was the first time we’ve felt this way this season.”
Then, he offered the Riley’s postgame message to his team.
“Coach Riley also uplifted us, letting us know that we are still 9-1 and we still have the rest of the season in front of us,” he said. “There’s a lot of football to be played, opportunities to make a statement that this isn’t who we are.”
For better or worse, OU’s trip to Waco was only the first of three and possibly four very difficult games before bowl appointments come out.
While OU entered No. 8 in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings, Baylor entered No. 13, even coming off a loss to TCU.
Next up, the Sooners play host to Iowa State, which fell at Texas Tech on Saturday, but remains a dangerous team one year after reaching the conference title game. After that, it’s Oklahoma State, in Stillwater.
The Cowboys entered Saturday No. 10 in the CFP rankings.
If the Sooners win both, or perhaps even just one of them, they’ll have a shot at their seventh straight Big 12 championship on Dec. 4 in Arlington, Texas.
H-back Jeremiah Hall was one of the more pointed Sooners during his postgame meeting with the media.
“We had too many plays where it was one or two guys blowing their job,” he said. “We acknowledged that at halftime and thought we would be able to correct it in the second half, but we never did and it came back to bite us in the butt.”
Still, he echoed the sentiments of his coach, too.
“Ultimately, we still have other goals in front of us,” he said. “We are … on a week-to-week basis. We still want to win these games out. We still want to make it to the Big 12 championship, win that game and see where everything else takes us.”
Three times OU has reached the playoff with one loss. However, entering the week at No. 8 and losing would appear to put the Sooners out of the race to reach the final four.
That doesn’t mean they can’t still respond to their first loss. Riley talked about that, too, after first talking about it with his players.
“That’s the advantage of winning your first nine games. You set yourself up to overcome something like this,” he said. “So, disappointed, obviously, that we have to overcome it, but it is what it is and so we’ll bounce back like we always do and like we fully expect to.”
Nothing less may do.
Before the Sooners and Bears even kicked off, the contest only figured to be the first leg of the regular-season’s most difficult stretch.
The rest of it remains.