Sooners' DBs don't give up any big plays
By Joe Wojciechowski
MIAMI -- They were the forgotten guys on a team drowning in publicity at the FedEx Orange Bowl.
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
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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