January 1, 2001 - by
Orange Bowl QBs Take Different Roads To Reach Same Goal

Jan. 1, 2001



By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
MIAMI

They have taken distinctly different roads to the Orange
Bowl,
yet Chris Weinke and Josh Heupel have so much in common.
Weinke spent six years playing baseball before returning to college,
and at
the age of 28 he’ll try to lead Florida State to a second straight national
championship.

Heupel, the son of a football coach, showed up at Oklahoma two years
ago
from junior college and revived the once-proud Sooners, who are looking for
their seventh national title but first since 1985.

Weinke won the Heisman Trophy, Heupel was runner-up. Weinke led the
nation
in passing with 4,167 yards and threw for 33 touchdowns, Heupel led the
nation
with a 64.7 completion percentage. Weinke won a few quarterback-of-the-year
awards, Heupel won a few player-of-the-year awards.

The quarterbacks met on the postseason awards circuit and, according to
Weinke, “we got along fine. But when we see each other again, we’ll be
enemies.”

On Wednesday night, the quarterbacks will face off when No. 1 Oklahoma
(12-0) plays No. 3 Florida State (11-1) in the Orange Bowl, the Bowl
Championship Series’ designated national title game.

The Seminoles are 12-point favorites, and the outcome rides on the
right arm
of Weinke and the left arm of Heupel.

“Weinke is our key,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. “But he is
no
more valuable to us than Heupel is to Oklahoma. He is their key.”

During Sunday’s media day at the Orange Bowl stadium, Bowden got a
quick
up-close look at Heupel when the two met for the first time as the Seminoles
were leaving and the Sooners arriving.

“Hey, great to meet you son,” Bowden said as they shook hands. Heupel
smiled, and Bowden commented out of earshot: “What a good lookin’ kid.”
No arguments from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

“Josh is the major reason why a program that may have been faltering is
now
12-0 and competing for a national championship once again,” Stoops said. “He
brought us to this point.”

The quarterbacks operate different style offenses with equally
impressive
results.

Weinke, at 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds, takes the drop-back,
step-into-the-pocket approach and completed 61.7 percent of his passes. He
had
two 500-yard games, and in the Seminoles’ only loss – 27-24 to Miami on Oct.
7
– threw for 496 yards despite a sore left ankle.

Heupel, 6-2 and 214 pounds, is the gritty, gutty kid with great touch
on his
arcing passes. He’ll remain in the pocket and take his shots from defenders,
but can take off running for a first down, too.

Florida State leads the nation in total offense at 549 yards per game
and
ranks second in scoring (42.4 points), Oklahoma averages 429.2 yards and
ranks
seventh in scoring (39 ppg). The Seminoles beat the opposition by 32.1
points,
the Sooners by 23.2.

“We are similar quarterbacks in a lot of ways, but our biggest asset is
our
leadership,” Weinke said, “One thing always said about him is he finds a way
to get it done in a clutch situation. I think I’ve proven I’ve been able to
get
it done in those situations as well.”

Heupel simply says of Weinke: “He’s a great leader and a great player.”
Down the stretch, Weinke was the more efficient. Weinke had 11 TD
passes and
four interceptions in his final four games, Heupel five TDs passes and nine
picks in his. But Heupel always came up with plays to keep the Sooners
undefeated.

In the Big 12 title game, Heupel overcame three interceptions with two
TDs
passing and another running for a 27-24 win over Kansas State, in the 35-31
comeback win at Texas A&M, he twice converted third-and-8’s with runs to set
up
a late TD.

Weinke has a flair for delivering quickly after an opponent scores.
After
Georgia Tech went ahead of Florida State late in the third quarter, Weinke
hit
seven straight passes for 156 yards on two TD drives that gave the Seminoles
a
26-21 win.

“This year has really helped his timing with receivers,” Stoops said.
“He’s throwing things before they come out of their breaks and the ball is
right there. When he’s in rhythm, he’s very difficult to stop.”

Weinke was a high school All-American from St. Paul, Minn., in 1990 and
spent four days at Florida State before signing a $350,000 contract with the
Toronto Blue Jays. He never made it to the majors, and went back to
Tallahassee.

He started in 1998 only because of Dan Kendra’s season-ending knee
injury.
In his second game, he threw a school-record six interceptions in a loss to
North Carolina State, then sustained a severe neck injury against Virginia
late
in the season. The Seminoles lost the title game to Tennessee in the Fiesta
Bowl.

In ’99, he guided Florida State to a perfect record and the school’s
second
national title, and now has the Seminoles ready for another crown.

“That’s been the mission all year, to get this championship,” Weinke
said.

Heupel grew up watching game films with his father, Ken. It showed,
too. He
threw for 2,471 yards as a senior in Aberdeen, S.D., and was the state’s
prep
player of the year. Big-time schools did not recruit him, so he went to
Weber
State, where he was redshirted in ’96 and played in four games in ’97. Then
it
was on to Snow Junior College in Ephraim, Utah, where he threw for 2,308
yards
and 28 TDs and was noticed by Mike Leach, the Sooners’ newly hired offensive
coordinator.

Heupel visited, watched a few videotapes of Tim Couch running Leach’s
wide-open offense at Kentucky and was sold on the Sooners.

In his first season at OU, Heupel threw for 3,460 yards and 30 TDs and
led
the Sooners to a 7-5 record and their first bowl game since 1994.

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