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Sooners' DBs don't give up any big plays

MIAMI -- They were the forgotten guys on a team drowning in publicity at the FedEx Orange Bowl.

Chris Weinke, Kory Klein
Kory Klein and the rest of the Sooners contained Heisman-winning quarterback Chris Weinke.

By gametime, everyone knew about Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel, and the linebacker duo of Torrance Marshall and Rocky Calmus, and little running back Quentin Griffin, and the receivers that moved from other positions and so on and so on.

Every story was flushed out over the season for the Sooners, everyone given their props, except one small group -- the secondary. Going into the biggest game of the year -- heck, the school's biggest game in the past 15 years -- no one gave a second thought to the Sooner secondary.

They were going to get burned. Florida State wouldn't skip a beat and would move the ball at will.

"It's funny, last year, the linebackers were the question mark. This season, it was the DBs, but they've proven week in and week out they will make the plays," Calmus said. "But for all the hype the linebackers and everyone else receives, it shows how many times they step up because they don't give up the deep ball or big plays."

It's one thing to stop a Big 12 team. It's another to hold in check the best offense this side of the St. Louis Rams. The Sooner secondary -- cornerbacks Ontei Jones, Derrick Strait and Michael Thompson and safeties J.T. Thatcher and Roy Williams -- confused, confounded and completely dismantled the Seminole passing attack.

And the Florida State offense isn't shut down very often. The last time? Try a 31-0 loss to Miami in 1988. DBs Michael Thompson, Derrick Strait and Roy Williams were 8 years old. Ontei Jones was nine. J.T Thatcher was 10.

"My feeling on the sideline is like when you're having a nightmare," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "In the normal nightmare, you wake up and nothing happened. This was a true nightmare. We couldn't get anything going offensively."

It was a nightmare that started in the Oklahoma film room. The Sooners watched film of the Seminole offense until their eyes were bleary. When that happened, they grabbed something to drink, rubbed their eyes and watched some more.

"We've been watching film of them ever since we had the chance," Williams said. "We know what they like to do. We know they are going to go deep and make big plays and we knew we weren't going to give them up."

Then they studied. And took tests. And studied. And took more tests.

"Our preparation is a credit to the coaches," Thatcher said. "We watched them, studied them. We took a test before the game and we knew what was coming at times in the game."

It showed. FSU quarterback and Heisman winner Chris Weinke was 25-for-52 passing with two interceptions. It could have been six picks, had Oklahoma held onto the ball at times.

"We felt good, like we were getting the upper hand," Williams said. "We were just executing our game plan, nothing different, and you could tell he (Weinke) was probably getting frustrated."

For all the talk about the FSU receivers and the star quarterback, it was the little Sooner unknowns who had the biggest impact in bringing the first national championship back to Norman since 1986. Fittingly, it was an interception by Jones that sealed the victory.

"The mindset we have is, we don't have to talk or get noticed," Thatcher said. "We prefer to let the pads and scoreboard do all the talking.

And the scoreboard said everything Wednesday night when it lit up: "Oklahoma Sooners -- National Champions."

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Oklahoma's Torrance Marshall grabs the Chris Weinke pass that sets up the first OU field goal.: avi 1437 k Real 56.6 | ISDN | T1 

ESPN Radio's Mike Gottfried analyzes the spectacular play of the OU defense.: wav 351 k Real 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6 HELP | ADVERTISER INFO | CONTACT US | TOOLS | SITE MAP
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