Jan. 2, 2001
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
MIAMI – Moments after losing the Heisman Trophy, Josh Heupel
and delivered a simple message to Oklahoma fans – smile and get ready for an
Orange Bowl victory.
The wait is over.
Heupel, a close second to Chris Weinke in the Heisman race, gets a
chance to upstage his rival when he leads No. 1 Oklahoma against No. 3
State in the Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium on Wednesday night.
But there are other important issues, too.
“This is not about a head-to-head competition,” Heupel said. “It’s
our team playing for the national championship.”
If the 12-point underdog Sooners win, there’s no debate. They would be
only undefeated team and surely would be undisputed champions when the polls
close early Thursday morning.
If the defending champion Seminoles win, however, they’d only be
at least a share of the title. That’s because of Miami (10-1), a team that
could cause more poll confusion in the Sunshine State.
The second-ranked Hurricanes, which defeated Florida State 27-24 on
needed to beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night to have a chance
stake a claim to part of the national championship.
Weinke isn’t worried about all of that. Oklahoma is the only thing on
“We’re focused and ready to play,” the 28-year-old quarterback said.
one has found a way to beat them this year. That is our goal.”
The Seminoles (11-1) are playing for their third national title, the
their seventh. The difference is Oklahoma is looking to win its first
championship in 15 years, while Florida State won in ’93 and ’99 and is on a
record 14-year run of top 4 finishes in The Associated Press poll.
“We’ve always told our players, ‘You’re the only team living in a
dynasty,”‘ Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Tuesday. ‘”Bama was in a
dynasty, Notre Dame was in a dynasty, Miami was in a dynasty, so-and-so was
a dynasty. … We hope we keep it alive.”
Oklahoma is ready, though.
“Our players understand we already have six national championships,”
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “So this is not a school not used to
Oklahoma (12-0) completed its perfect regular season with a 27-24
over Kansas State in the Big 12 championship on Dec. 2, while the Seminoles
haven’t played since beating Florida 30-7 on Nov. 18.
“It just gives us more time to put in a new wrinkle or two,” Bowden
Weinke threw for 4,167 yards and 33 touchdowns, but he’ll have to find
go-to receiver to replace All-American Snoop Minnis, who is academically
ineligible. Minnis caught 63 passes for 1,340 yards and 11 TDs.
“We’ll just move somebody else there and play with the same plays,”
said. “This just opens the door for somebody else to be a hero.”
As for Heupel, he threw for 3,392 yards and 20 TDs, and ran for seven
scores. The lefty also has a top-notch group of receivers, including Antwone
Savage and Curtis Fagan. Quentin Griffin, 5-foot-6, 183 pounds, ran for 783
yards and 16 touchdowns.
“From what I’ve seen, they’re a big-play offense,” Florida State
cornerback Tay Cody said. “Heupel is a great quarterback, a guy who has made
great decisions. It’s going to be a challenge.”
The Seminoles averaged 42.4 points and 549 yards and outscored
32.1 points. The Sooners put up 39 points and 429.2 yards a game and
opponents by 23.2.
“You better be able to play defense in this one,” Bowden said. “When
got a quarterback like we got and a quarterback like they got, a running
like we got and a running back like they got, receivers like we got and
receivers like they got, you say, ‘Hold it.’ It’s which defense can corral
other’s offense better.”
On defense, each team has an All-American – linebacker Rocky Calmus for
Sooners, defensive end Jamal Reynolds for the Seminoles. Florida State
10.3 points a game, Oklahoma 15.8 points.
Experience could be a factor, too.
Florida State is playing in its third straight Bowl Championship Series
title game, whose winner is automatically crowned the national champion in
coaches’ poll but not necessarily in the AP poll. Oklahoma is in a national
championship game for the first time since losing to Miami in the 1988
“That won’t have any effect,” Sooners defensive back J.T. Thatcher
“We’ve played in a lot of big games this season, and we’ve been in bowls a
Oklahoma will play in a record 17th Orange Bowl but its first at Pro
Stadium. The Sooners are 11-5, including wins over the Seminoles in the 1980
and ’81 games. Florida State is 3-2 in Orange Bowls.
Asked if he thought Oklahoma assistant Steve Spurrier Jr. might have
advice from his father, Gators coach Steve Spurrier, on how to beat the
Seminoles, Bowden produced his best line of the week.
“Not if they want to win,” he said.