ATLANTA -- Jalen Hurts' return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium didn't turn out as well as the last time he played here.
In December 2018, after losing his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa, Hurts came off the bench to help Alabama rally from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half of a 35-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Hurts was back on the same field Saturday, this time as Oklahoma's starting quarterback after he left the Crimson Tide as a graduate transfer.
It's a shame he couldn't have brought Alabama's defense to OU with him.
Hurts and the No. 4 Sooners couldn't keep up with No. 1 LSU's high-flying offense in a 63-28 loss in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday.
While Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow threw for seven touchdowns (all in the first half) and ran for another score, Hurts and OU's offense mostly sputtered.
In his final college game, Hurts completed 15 of 31 passes for 217 yards with one interception and ran for two scores.
"It hurts me," Hurts said. "You talk about, how much it means to you and the team. It's supposed to hurt. This is not a good feeling. This is a feeling I've never felt before. Hurts me in my heart. When I decided to come to this school, I told Coach [Lincoln] Riley, 'I'm going to go win you a national championship,' and I failed to do that."
The Sooners went 12-2 in Hurts' only season and reached the CFP for the fourth time in five seasons. They have yet to win a playoff game.
It was Hurts' fourth straight season in which his team reached the playoff. He helped lead Alabama to a national championship in 2017.
"Moving forward, I definitely helped," Hurts said. "I already told them, 'I hope that you guys learn from this. I hope everybody learns from this.' It hurts me the most because usually, when you come up short with something, you can come back and you can fix it. I can't come back and fix it. I'll never play college football again."
With two more rushing touchdowns against LSU, Hurts raised his season total to 20, which tied Jack Mildren (1971) for the OU single-season record by a quarterback. He also broke the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,298 yards, breaking the previous mark of 1,289 set by Mildren in 1971.
While Oklahoma's offense wasn't as good as it had been for much of the season, defense was its biggest deficiency. Playing without suspended pass-rusher Ronnie Perkins and starting safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, who broke his collarbone, the Sooners had no answer for Burrow and his deep corps of receivers.
Making matters worse, safety Brendan Radley-Hiles was ejected in the first half for targeting following a vicious hit on tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, leaving the Sooners even more vulnerable in the secondary.
"We had a hard time, obviously, corralling [Burrow] back there," Riley said. "We're certainly not the only ones that have. They've got a good offensive line. We had a couple of opportunities to get him on the ground that we didn't. They made a couple of plays and scrambled, a couple pretty good coverage, competitive plays.
"Those things are going to happen from time to time. The biggest disappointment to me was the busts we had defensively. That's something all year we've done a tremendous job of."
LSU had 497 yards of offense in the first half. The Tigers finished with 692 yards.
"They were not one of the best defenses we've played at all," LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss said. "If I had to rank them, they're probably about fifth. They did a lot of talking out there on the field, but they didn't play like it."
Despite another setback in the CFP, Riley has no doubt his program is here to stay. The Sooners will lose Hurts and probably star receiver CeeDee Lamb, but they should again be favorites to win the Big 12 in 2020.
"We're continuing to make strides," Riley said. "There's no doubt about it. I mean, just putting yourself here four times in five years -- I mean, that's so hard to do, man. I mean, it's so hard to do.
"I think we've made some great improvements with the program. I'm excited about where we're heading defensively. I think we've just scratched the surface about how good we can get on that side. This program has championship DNA. We kind of find a way, and we'll be back."