Jan. 3, 2001
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
MIAMI – Case closed. The Oklahoma Sooners are more than OK, they’re
A smothering defense shut down Florida State and Josh Heupel generated
enough offense to give No. 1 Oklahoma a startling 13-2 victory in the Orange
Bowl on Wednesday night and its first national title in 15 years.
Oklahoma (13-0) completed a perfect season and made the issue of a split
title a moot point.
Finishing as the nation’s only unbeaten team, the Sooners were automatically
crowned national champs in the coaches’ poll under the Bowl Championship Series
Oklahoma awaited The Associated Press media poll’s release early Thursday,
confirming the Sooners as undisputed champs.
No. 3 Florida State (11-2) came into the game as 10 1/2-point favorites and
were hoping to become the first team to repeat as national champions 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.
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
The left-hander from Aberdeen, S.D., completed 25 of 39 passes for 214 yards
and kept the Seminoles’ defense off balance all night.
Tim Duncan kicked two field goals and Quentin Griffin scored the clinching
touchdown on a 10-yard run up the middle with 8:30 left in the game. 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
Florida State got the ball back on the ensuing free kick, but Weinke’s
29-yard pass into the end zone was intercepted by Ontei 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 celebrate.
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 championship.
The Seminoles offense was a mess. Without All-American receiver Snoop
Minnis, suspended for failing grades, and offensive coordinator Mark Richt
perhaps preoccupied with his new job as Georgia’s new 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.
Oklahoma’s ferocious defense was the reason. 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.
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
After the game, second-year coach Bob Stoops thrust his fist in the air and
hugged players and assistants after Oklahoma clinched its seventh national
“To be honest with you, we fully expected to play that way,” Stoops said.
“And as a team, we expected to win. And it’s easy to say Oklahoma is back!”
And 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 as the Sooners’ defense nearly
handed Florida State its just its third shutout in coach Bobby Bowden’s 25
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
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, five for 33 yards against the Seminoles.
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 he used to work for,
such as his brother Mike Stoops 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 work hard and follow 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 started 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 after falling behind by
14 points on the first two Nebraska possessions.
It appeared as if 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, held off
Oklahoma State 12-7, and clinched its Orange Bowl bid with a 27-24 win over
K-State in the Big 12 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. It’s motivation.”