Friday, December 13, 2002
Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
MIAMI -- Josh Heupel was hoisted on his teammates'
shoulders, still cradling the game ball in one arm while thrusting
a fist in the air and shouting to the world. The Oklahoma Sooners
had proved everybody wrong.
Gathered at the 20-yard line after their startling 13-2 victory
over heavily favored Florida State, the Sooners hooted and hollered
about their first national championship in 15 years.
"It doesn't get any sweeter than this, baby," the quarterback
No. 1 Oklahoma used a smothering defense Wednesday night to shut
down the third-ranked Seminoles and Heupel generated enough offense
to lead the Sooners to a perfect season.
"To be honest with you, we fully expected to play that way,"
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "And as a team, we expected to
Oklahoma (13-0), 10½-point underdogs against the Seminoles
(11-2) also made the issue of a split title a moot point.
Finishing as the nation's only unbeaten team, the Sooners were
the unanimous winners of The Associated Press media poll. And they
were automatically crowned national champs in the coaches' poll
under the Bowl Championship Series format.
"Our players recognize that the history of Oklahoma is winning
championships," Stoops said. "We already had six, now we have
seven. We have a great history in the Orange Bowl."
Florida State finished fifth in the AP poll and fourth in the
coaches' poll. The Seminoles were hoping to become the first team
to repeat as national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95. Had the
Seminoles won, No. 2 Miami (11-1) would have staked a claim to a
share of the title.
"When I look at it now, I think it should have been Miami and
Oklahoma," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "We didn't look
like we belonged here."
Miami coach Butch Davis also praised the Sooners.
"Give Oklahoma credit," Davis said. "To finish 13-0 against a
strong schedule and to perform the way they did this evening is
It was the lowest scoring Orange Bowl since Penn State beat
Missouri 10-3 in 1970.
Heupel more than made up for his runner-up finish to Florida
State's Chris Weinke in the Heisman Trophy race by outplaying him
in the biggest game of his life.
The left-hander from Aberdeen, S.D., completed 25 of 39 passes
for 214 yards and kept the Seminoles off balance all night.
"We don't care what the media or oddsmakers think," Heupel
said. "We believe in ourselves."
Tim Duncan kicked two field goals and Quentin Griffin scored the
clinching touchdown on a 10-yard run up the middle with 8:30 to
play. Florida State avoided its first shutout in 12 seasons when
Stanford Samuels tackled Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson in the end
zone for a safety with 55 seconds remaining.
Florida State got the ball back on the ensuing free kick, but
Weinke's 29-yard pass into the end zone was intercepted by Dontei
Jones with 16 seconds left and the celebration began.
After Heupel took a knee and the clock ran down, The Pride of
Oklahoma Band broke out in yet another rendition of "Boomer
Sooner" and the players and fans converged on the field to
For a flustered Florida State, the loss added another chapter to
its list of blown title opportunities. Three times in the last five
years, the Seminoles lost a bowl game that could have given them a
Without All-American receiver Snoop Minnis, suspended for
failing grades, and offensive coordinator Mark Richt perhaps
preoccupied with his new job as Georgia's coach, Florida State
generated just 301 total yards -- 248 under its average.
For the 28-year-old Weinke, this may have been the poorest
performance of his record-setting season. He was 25-of-51 for 274
yards and two interceptions and a fumble. He did not throw a
touchdown pass for the first time this season.
"We simply could get nothing going offensively," Bowden said.
"They did a great job of confusing us defensively."
Added Weinke: "I wasn't hitting. If the quarterback isn't
throwing very well, you're not going to be successful. It was
tough. It was frustrating after gaining so many yards all year."
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 six tackles, one interception and one
batted ball. With Oklahoma ahead by only 6-0 in the fourth quarter,
All-American linebacker Rocky Calmus made his presence felt. He
knocked the ball out of Weinke's hands, safety Roy Williams
recovered and two plays later, Griffin ran for his touchdown.
Stoops hugged players and assistants after Oklahoma clinched its
seventh national title as many in the crowd of 76,835 at Pro Player
"It's easy to say Oklahoma is back!" he said.
Stoops is the reason. He spent seven years working for Kansas
State coach Bill Snyder and spent three years running the defense
for Florida under Steve Spurrier. He learned his lessons well since
the Sooners' defense nearly handed Florida State just its third
shutout in Bowden's 25 seasons.
It was obvious both teams were coming off long layoffs. The
Seminoles last played 45 days ago; the Sooners 32 days ago.
Surprisingly for two high-scoring offenses, the mistake-filled
first half ended with the Oklahoma ahead 3-0 on Duncan's 27-yard
field goal 7:44 into the game.
The opening 30 minutes featured three turnovers, a missed
30-yard field goal by Florida State's Brett Cimorelli -- wide right,
naturally -- and eight penalties.
Weinke and Heupel each threw an interception, and Sooners
receiver Andre Woolfolk fumbled after a 22-yard reception, with
Clevan Thomas recovering at the OU 47.
On the next play, Weinke's pass was intercepted by Marshall.
Oklahoma drove 44 yards in seven plays before the left-footed
Duncan kicked his field goal.
Florida State, averaging 42.4 points per game, was shut out in
the first half for just the second time this season. Miami led
Florida State 17-0 at halftime en route to a 27-24 win over the
Seminoles on Oct. 7.
The Sooners' remarkable return to prominence began in 1999 when
the 40-year Stoops took over a program that was 12-22 under John
Blake from 1996-98.
First, he plucked a group of assistants from schools where he
had worked. For example, he took his brother, Mike, from Kansas
State to run the defense and Steve Spurrier Jr. from Florida to
coach the receivers. Then he drilled a winning attitude into his
players, insisting that if they worked hard and followed his plan,
Sooner magic would follow.
When Heupel showed up from Snow Junior College in Utah to run a
new wide-open passing attack, Stoops had his field general. OU went
7-5 in '99 and his players became believers.
This season, the Sooners were No. 19 in the preseason poll,
easily won their first four games and then faced perhaps the
toughest October schedule in the nation -- No. 11 Texas, No. 2
Kansas State and No. 1 Nebraska. Not a problem as the Sooners
pounded the Longhorns 63-14 in Dallas, beat the Wildcats 31-14 at
Manhattan, Kan., and shut down the Cornhuskers 31-14.
It appeared as though Oklahoma hit the wall in November, but
rallied to win at Texas A&M 35-31 on Marshall's interception return
for a late score. Then it held off Oklahoma State 12-7; and
clinched its Orange Bowl bid with a 27-24 win over K-State in the
Big XII title game.
In the weeks leading to their game against Florida State, the
Sooners were given little chance of winning.
"We've been underestimated the whole season," Williams said
before the game. "We're used to it. We're not worried about it.
|Derrick Strait and OU's secondary intercepted two passes and shut down FSU's air attack.|