PASADENA, Calif — There was the season Bob Stoops didn’t know when to punt and when not to punt against Texas.
There was the onside kick he called for against West Virginia just as his Sooners climbed back into the Fiesta Bowl.
There was the day Stoops punted a second time to Tyreek Hill and Oklahoma State won a Bedlam game it had no business winning on Owen Field.
They are the mistakes a coach can’t make, decisions that may typically be gotten away with, yet the day you don’t, it costs you everything.
The final score was 54-48 Georgia inside the Rose Bowl Monday and it’s hard to pin the loss on any single moment, and yet it’s even harder to entertain a single scenario by which the Sooners don’t beat the Bulldogs had Austin Seibert been told to do anything other than the thing he did with seconds remaining in the first half.
CeeDee Lamb — yeah, CeeDee Lamb!!! — had just thrown — yeah, thrown!!! — a touchdown pass to Baker Mayfield — what!!! — that put OU on top 31-14 with 6 seconds remaining in the first half.
And that was when Seibert walked out to execute a squib kick, one of those grounders that’s supposed to get through the other side’s first line of players, except that it didn’t.
Tae Crowder snared it like he was playing the hot corner, and the Bulldogs used 4 seconds to throw a 9-yard pass to Terry Godwin, leaving one second for Rodrigo Blankenship to kick a 55-yard field goal, which he did.
It was the beginning of an epic defeat from the jaws of victory that still hardly feels real.
Riley said it gave Georgia “a little bit of juice” and that the Bulldogs were able to “steal three points on us” and then he said this:
“It was a good call, and Austin’s been great with those. He just didn’t hit it well and [it] ended up going right to their guy, which is the one thing you can’t do and we did.”
He got it right, right up to the moment he called it a “good call.”
Seibert could have kicked it deep. Seven other times he kicked off and five were touchbacks.
Seibert could have kicked one of those deep onside kicks high school teams kick all the time, a kick that tends to be fair caught.
Seibert could have kicked the ball out of bounds and given Georgia the ball on the 35-yard line, from which it could not have gotten into field goal range and left itself any time to kick its field goal.
Basically, the Sooners went with the only option that could have turned out the way it turned out, and it wound up being the difference in the game.
“I don’t really know that there’s one thing,” Riley said, asked to tell what sticks in his craw the most about the loss.
Like maybe don’t give up 300 yards on the ground for the first time all season, because that would have helped, too.
But that wasn’t a coach’s call. That happened in the normal course of things.
The squib was a decision that didn’t have to be made and shouldn’t have been.
OU had all the momentum, a receiver had just thrown a touchdown pass to his quarterback, the Sooner playbook was a dance floor and Riley was Fred Astaire.
Afterward, Georgia coach Kirby Smart went on and on about how poorly his defense played, but it played poorly because Riley was one, two and three steps ahead of it in the first half.
OU was looking at a 17-point lead and the ball to begin the third quarter after closing the first two in style. Instead, it was a 14-point lead with and all the momentum lost.
Out of the half, OU went three and out. Georgia scored on a one-play, 50-yard drive and for the first time, it looked like the Bulldogs might win the game.
It’s not a high crime. It’s not state secrets fumbled away. It’s still just sports.
But it was a crushing call.
Sometimes it happens that way. It’s true that good ideas go bad all the time, but you know what goes bad far more often? Bad ideas.
This was one.
It’s a hard way to end such a terrific season, a hard way to say goodbye to Baker Mayfield and a hard way to remember the otherwise crazy successful opening campaign of a young first-year coach.
Then again, giving up the biggest comeback in Rose Bowl history is supposed to come with a defining moment.