Miami, Fla. (Jan. 1, 1981) — Oklahoma was not supposed to be able to pass. But that’s what it
took for the Sooners to beat Florida State in the 1981 Orange Bowl. With time running out and
the Seminoles leading 17-10, J.C. Watts — a swift quarterback who led a notorious Oklahoma
running game — drilled an 11-yard touchdown pass to split end Steve Rhodes with 1:27 remaining.
Going for the win on the conversion, Watts rolled to his right and hit tight end Steve Valora to
give the Sooners an 18-17 win over upset-minded Florida State in the 47th Annual Orange Bowl
A Florida State fumble recovery and a missed field goal kept Oklahoma off the board in the first
quarter, and FSU took the lead when Ricky Williams capped a 70-yard touchdown drive with a
one-yard plunge. Bill Capece converted and the Seminoles led by seven.
The score remained the same until OU’s Fred Keeling hit a 53-yard field goal with two seconds
remaining in the half.
Oklahoma took the second half kickoff and marched 78 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead. On
second and goal from the FSU four, halfback David Overstreet took a pitchout to the right and
On the following series, FSU drove from its own 20 to the Oklahoma 27, only to watch Capece’s
44-yard field goal attempt sail right. The Seminoles recovered a Watts fumble three plays later.
This time Capece’s field goal from 19 yards was good, and the score was tied at 10.
With 13 minutes left in the game, Keeling dropped back to his own 18 to punt. The snap sailed
through his hands and into the end zone, where Bobby Butler recovered for a touchdown and a 17-10
The teams traded punts and Oklahoma took over on its own 22-yard line, trailing by seven with
3:30 on the clock. Then, Watts abandoned the forte of the Sooner offense — running — and went
to the air.
Then Chet Winters hauled in a 14-yard pass to the Florida State 21 for another first down.
After a 10-yard scramble by Watts, the senior quarterback found Rhodes in the end zone for
Two completed passes gave Florida State the ball on the Oklahoma 45 with just five seconds
remaining. Capece attempted to give Florida State the win with a 62-yard field goal, but
the attempt fell six yards short and the Seminoles had lost to the Sooners in the Orange
Bowl for the second straight year.
Score By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F FSU 0 7 3 7 17 OK 0 3 7 8 18 Scoring Summary FSU - R. Williams 10 yd. run (Capece kick), :49 OK - Keeling 53 yd. field goal, :00 OK - Overstreet 4 yd. run (Keeling kick), 8:59 FSU - Capece 19 yd. field goal, :13 FSU - Butler recovers fumble in endzone (Capece kick), 11:07 OK - Rhodes 11 yd. pass from Watts (Valora pass from Watts), 1:27 Team Statistics FSU OK First Downs 23 18 Rushes - Yards 60-212 55-156 Passing Yards 51 128 Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-15-0 7-12-0 Plays-Total Offense 75-263 67-284 Punt Return Yards 34 84 Punts - Average 4-42.5 2-37 Fumbles - Lost 1-0 7-5 Interceptions - Yards 0-0 0-0 Penalties - Yards 5-58 4-32 Time of Possession 33:28 26:32 Third Down Cov. 8-17 8-16 Individual Statistics Rushing: FSU - Stockstill 14-9, Whiting 9-55, Platt 17-45, Unglaub 1-4, R. Williams 19-99; OK- Watts 25-48, Winters 1-4, Rhymes 12-29, W. Ledbetter 3-9, Overstreet 4-42, J. Ledbetter. 3-31, Wilson 5-25, Shepard 1-1. Passing: FSU - Stockstill 11-51-0; OK - Watts 7-12-0. Receiving: FSU - Childers 2-12, H. Johnson 2-1, Whiting 3-6, McKinnon 1-8, Platt 1-3, R. Williams 2-27; OK - Valora 2-47, Rockford 1-11, Overstreet 1-7, Rhodes 2-53, Winters 1-14.