Oklahoma shuts No. 1 debate

13-0 Sooners fill in championship blank, silencing Fla. State

Only late safety spoils shutout

Fumble in 4th sets up lone Orange Bowl TD 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 No. 1 ranking were legitimate accomplishments. They kept saying the 11-point spread given to favored Florida State in last night's Orange Bowl might have been a case of bookies playing mind games with the betting public.

"You know how bookies like to set traps," he 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 seventh in school history. Oklahoma (13-0) was expected to be awarded that title by both polls early this morning.

"To be honest with you, we fully expected to play that way," said Stoops. "And as a team, we expected to win."

Two field goals by Oklahoma place-kicker 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 poor snap to Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson with 55 seconds left ruined the shutout. The snap rolled to the 2-yard line and Ferguson took the safety.

A shutout would have been the first for Florida State (11-2) 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, who would have jumped over the Sooners in the Associated Press poll had Florida State won.

It also prevented Florida State from winning its second straight national championship, and third under Bobby Bowden. The victory by Oklahoma completed a remarkable turnaround under Stoops, who as Florida's defensive coordinator helped the Florida Gators crush the Seminoles in the 1997 Sugar Bowl national championship game.

"When I look at it now, I think it should have been Miami and Oklahoma," Bowden said. "We didn't look like we belonged here."

Trailing 6-0, the Seminoles appeared to be 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.

Leading 3-0 at halftime, Oklahoma got a boost to start the second half when Antwone Savage took the kickoff 36 yards to his team's 36. The Sooners converted three straight third downs and drove to the Florida State 17 and ate up nearly seven minutes with a drive that eventually stalled.

But after Florida State linebacker Tommy Polley tackled Oklahoma's Quentin Griffin for a 3-yard loss and Heupel's pass on third-and-11 from the 20 was batted away, Duncan narrowly missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt. The kick tailed wide right at the last second.

It didn't spark the struggling Seminoles, who immediately lost the ball on downs. The Sooners went right back to work. On third-and-nine from his team's 36, Heupel found Curtis Fagan for a 39-yard gain. On the next play, Heupel overthrew a wide-open Savage in the corner of the end zone.

The Sooners appeared to have converted another third down. On third-and-nine from the 25, a pass from Heupel went right through the hands of tailback Seth Littrell. But Duncan shook off the previous miss to make a 42-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter.

The Seminoles went to their no-huddle offense. But instead of the "Fast Break" attack Florida State ran to a national championship with quarterback Charlie Ward in 1993, this was more like a slow fade. Again, the Seminoles were forced to punt after only four plays, the last of which came when Weinke was nearly intercepted.

Florida State's defense, which was playing without emotional leader Tay Cody, who had been taken to the hospital at halftime with an injured spleen, continued to make plays and hope that the offense would finally come around.

It didn't help that Nick Maddox fielded an Oklahoma punt at his team's 9 and went 3 yards in the wrong direction before being tackled. It didn't help that Weinke's pass on first down was dropped by wide receiver Javon Walker at the Sooners' 30. It didn't help that Weinke was rushed into a bad throw on third-and-nine from the 7.

The Seminoles wound up running just 10 plays in the third quarter, which ended with the Sooners holding onto a 6-0 lead. It marked the first time the Seminoles had been shut out for three quarters since losing to Miami, 31-0, in 1988.

Led by Orange Bowl MVP Torrance Marshall, the Sooners time and again forced Weinke into bad decisions. At least a half-dozen passes were in the hands of Sooner defenders but dropped.

Marshall finished with 11 tackles, one interception and one batted ball.

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