MIAMI, Fla. -- As the clock ticked down on Adrian Peterson's fabulous freshman season, there was nothing he could do to prevent Oklahoma's loss in the Orange Bowl.
"My mind was blank," Peterson said after the 55-19 defeat to No. 1 Southern California. "I was in a little daze, my own little world. I was not really thinking of playing football."
How's this for a wakeup call? Next season, the burden of carrying Oklahoma will fall on Peterson's sturdy shoulders.
This season's team wound up 12-1 and No. 3 in the polls, a showing that will be tough to repeat. That's because seven of the Sooners' 11 starters on offense will be gone, including 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White.
The candidates to replace White at quarterback include redshirt junior Paul Thompson (who has logged two years in a backup role), Tommy Grady (this year's backup), and Rhett Bomar (a highly regarded recruit from Texas).
The new QB will have a retooled offensive line, without All-American tackle Jammal Brown and all-conference center Vince Carter. He'll need a new target to replace the school's career leading receiver, Mark Clayton. Guard Wes Sims, tight end James Moses and receiver Brandon Jones are leaving, too.
The Sooners will also need to shore up a defense that allowed Matt Leinart's Orange Bowl-record five touchdown tosses and his 332 yards passing. USC racked up 11 plays of at least a dozen yards, including throws of 33, 50 and 54 yards.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops defended his secondary after a poor performance against Oklahoma State by saying the Cowboys made some remarkable plays. But the weakness was exposed again and again in the Orange Bowl as the Trojans' receivers simply ran past Oklahoma's defenders.
"You can't get in these big games and make mistakes like we did," Stoops said. "You know, the turnovers early in a big game like this, you can't have them, you know, and also, you can't give up big plays. In the end, that was it. That was the biggest part of it.
"I'd like to think we can take care of some of that. It wasn't real complicated to do so, and we didn't get it done."
The secondary's most respected member is a senior, Antonio Perkins, who will leave along with strong safety Donte Nicholson. The Sooners will also lose three seniors from a talented defensive line: ends Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson, who combined for 18 sacks, and tackle Lynn McGruder. The Sooners will also need to groom a new middle linebacker to replace Lance Mitchell.
"Hopefully we can get in it again next year and have a shot to win," he said. "That's what happened a year ago, and there weren't any far-reaching effects."
Of course, the Sooners have plenty of positives to look back on from an undefeated regular season and a third Big 12 title in five years.
Peterson set a school record by running for 1,925 yards and finished second to Leinart in the Heisman voting. White, who set team career records for passing yards (8,012) and touchdowns (81), was third.
"We also know that we had a pretty good run this year," White said. "That's something we're going to keep our heads up about."