Sooners answer No. 1 question

13-0 Oklahoma fills in championship blank, silencing Fla. State

Unanimous choice by AP

Only late safety spoils Orange Bowl shutout by 11-point underdogs

Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2

January 04, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners kept telling anyone who would listen that their perfect season and their No. 1 ranking were legitimate accomplishments.

They kept saying that the 11-point spread given to favored Florida State in last night's Orange Bowl game might have been a case of bookies playing mind games with the betting public.

"You know how bookies like to set traps," Stoops said.

The Seminoles fell into some kind of trap at Pro Player Stadium. The result was a boring but ultimately shocking 13-2 victory for Oklahoma, giving the Sooners their first national championship in 15 years and the seventh in school history.

"It's easy to say that Oklahoma is back," Stoops shouted into national television cameras as his players celebrated around him. "Our players recognize that the history of Oklahoma is about national championships."

Oklahoma (13-0) was the unanimous winner of the Associated Press media poll and was automatically crowned national champion under the Bowl Championship Series format.

Two field goals by Tim Duncan proved to be the only scoring until the Sooners recovered a fumble by Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke at the Seminoles' 15-yard line with 8:30 left in the game. Two plays later, Quentin Griffin raced 10 yards for the touchdown.

Only a safety with 55 seconds left kept Florida State (11-2) from being shut out for the first time since a 31-0 loss to Miami in 1988. The defeat prevented the third-ranked Seminoles from claiming a share of the national championship with the second-ranked Hurricanes.

It also prevented Florida State from winning its second straight national championship, and third under Bobby Bowden.

"In coaching, I'll have a nightmare on a Tuesday before a game and I'll wake up and be so happy," said Bowden. "This game was like a nightmare."

It was reminiscent of Florida State's 16-13 loss to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl national championship game two years ago. The Seminoles came in off a long layoff and looked flat for much of the game. Last night, after more than six weeks off, Florida State looked even worse.

Playing without leading receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, who was suspended because of academic reasons, the Seminoles could never get their offense untracked. Weinke, the Heisman Trophy winner, completed 25 of 52 passes for 274 yards, but could never go deep to his receivers.

Trailing 6-0, Florida State was seemingly on the verge of tying the game - and taking the lead - when two long passes by Weinke narrowly missed being completed. The first went through the fingertips of a diving Robert Morgan and the second to Anquan Boldin was knocked away at the last second by cornerback Derrick Strait.

Asked if the offense missed Minnis, Weinke said, "Obviously we missed him a lot. We never seemed to click. They did the same things defensively in the second half. I thought we'd start figuring it out. But we'd have a bad throw or a drop. There was always one person taking off a play at a time."

Oklahoma turned its first interception, by senior linebacker and Orange Bowl MVP Torrance Marshall, into a 27-yard field goal by Duncan for a 3-0 lead. The Seminoles had a chance to tie the game early in the second quarter. Deciding not to go on fourth-and-one from the Oklahoma 13, Bowden saw freshman place-kicker Brett Cimorelli badly shank a 30-yarder.

It seemed to set the tone of the evening - and the ineptitude - for the Seminoles, who fumbled three times, dropped numerous passes and committed penalties at inopportune times. It always appeared as if Florida State was on the verge of a comeback, but it would never come.

"We didn't take them lightly," said Florida State defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, a freshman from Burtonsville. "They just executed, especially on defense. We've got to put points on the board. I can't believe that we couldn't score a touchdown."

The most excitement, at least for the Seminoles, came with 55 seconds left in the game when a snap to Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson deep in Sooners' territory sailed over his head. Smartly, Ferguson scooped up the ball at his team's 5-yard line and ran back into the end zone for a safety.

On the ensuing drive, Florida State drove from its 16 to the Oklahoma 29. On second-and-10, Weinke's desperation pass into a crowd in the end zone was picked off by Oklahoma's Ontei Jones, who cradled the ball in his hands with 16 seconds left to play.

Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel (25-for-39 for 214 yards) took a knee, then pointed to the Sooners fans behind the end zone with his index finger in the air. The celebration began as Oklahoma fans tossed oranges onto the field. The Seminoles left the field in shock. Some, including punter Keith Cottrell, were crying.

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