The Stanford Cardinal believed this would be a defining season for the football program.
After an eight-year drought the team earned its way back into a bowl game, was in the Rose Bowl running until the final weeks of the season, and boasted a Heisman Trophy finalist in Toby Gerhart.
Thursday the team came up short in an attempt to win its first bowl game since 2001, but the loss won't diminish the strides made by Stanford this season, putting the program back on the college football map.
Just ask Oklahoma. One year after playing in the National Championship game, the Sooners got all they could handle from Stanford in the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve.
Even without starting quarterback Andrew Luck, who didn't dress for the game because of a broken finger, the Cardinal kept pace with Oklahoma throughout the game. Gerhart led the effort with 135 yards and two touchdown runs, both in the first half.
Stanford led 24-17 at the break, but the third quarter belonged to the Sooners. Ryan Broyles opened the half with his third touchdown catch of the game, knotting the score at 24-24. DeMarco Murray later punched it in from the one-yard line for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Cardinal came within four points in the fourth quarter after a Ryan Whitaker 21-yard field goal, but a final touchdown push failed in the final three minutes when Tavita Pritchard's fourth down pass attempt fell incomplete.
In his first start of the season, Pritchard was held without a touchdown pass and completed 8-of-19 attempts for 107 yards and two interceptions. He was no match for the Sooners' Landry Jones who threw for 418 yards and 3 touchdowns as Oklahoma earned its first bowl win in four years.
Stanford finishes the season with an 8-5 record. But while the team would have preferred to wrap up 2009 with a bowl win, it is still quite an accomplishment for a squad that won just one game three seasons ago.