Three times on Saturday night, the Oklahoma Sooners had the ball inches from the Texas A&M Aggies' end zone. The net result: zero points; immeasurable frustration.
It was emblematic of what this OU team is and has been, even when it was getting all that preseason hype as a potential contender for the national championship.
The 2010 version of the Sooners is so close to being an elite-level team. But it's just not.
OU has a decent offensive line – far better than the train wreck the Sooners were working with a year ago – but not all that good of one.
OU has a solid quarterback who seems to be improving, but he's doing so in nearly imperceptible increments.
OU has a high-motor, not-so-high-impact defensive line.
OU has a productive workhorse at running back who no longer strikes fear in any defensive hearts.
OU has a strong return game, but the special teams units are prone to coverage gaffes and "inconsistent" would be a compliment to the Sooners' kickers.
Honestly, though, how many of these truths about OU football were not self-evident in April? What about in August? In the moment, it's easy to be disappointed by what could have been, especially when looking back on dropped touchdown passes and snaps that go sailing through the back of the end zone. Still, OU looks about like the team I expected a couple months ago.
We did learn against A&M that this OU team isn't the gutless bunch that they've been made out to be. A few seconds into the third quarter, OU had spotted the Aggies a 19-0 lead in one of the most raucous venues in college football. It had all the makings of a complete collapse.
Yet, the Sooners scraped their way back into the game. Even when the Aggies appeared to have scored a kill shot on a deep touchdown pass with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, OU somehow forced its way back down to the A&M inch line not once, but twice.
OU didn't fall apart. The Sooners drew on every possible resource they had, and they came awfully close to overcoming all the mistakes that had put them in such dire straits in the first place. Catch a touchdown off a fake field goal, another foot near the goal line – who knows?
The Sooners offered some hope last night that they can still win out, even playing two of three on the road. Maybe that's some weak-tasting lemonade from all those lemons, but OU still has three games remaining and plenty left to play for, including a shot at the Big 12 championship. Before anyone starts writing off 2010 as another debacle, let it play out.