Oklahoma dominates FSU to win national title

Oklahoma has celebrated Heisman winners and champions before. It has had Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, the Boz, the Selmon brothers -- Lee Roy, Dewey and Lucious -- and Joe Don Looney.

But nothing as loony as this.

You could have said Oklahoma would have defeated Florida State in the Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium before a crowd of 76,835 Wednesday night and no one would have laughed.

But nobody could have imagined that Oklahoma, two years removed from a 5-6 season, would defeat Florida State, 13-2, to win the bowl championship series national title and, in so doing, would shut out the Seminoles until the final minute.

Florida State entered the game with the nation's No. 1 offense, averaging 42 points per game.

And the best it can take back to Tallahassee is a last-minute safety?

Say it ain't so, Bobby Bowden.

But it happened.

The show between the Heisman winner, Chris Weinke, and the runner-up, Josh Heupel, never amounted to much, giving way to a barbarian trench game between defenses and punting teams.

It was only fitting that Torrence Marshall, the Oklahoma linebacker who grew up in Miami and attended Miami-Dade Community College, would end up winning the game's most valuable player award.

The star of this game had six tackles, one interception and mud on his pants.

Yet, history will not remember the dreadful downbeats of this game, how laboriously and painfully it played on.

It will remember that Oklahoma, double-digit underdogs, laid defensive waste to a college football dynasty.

It will record that Oklahoma won its seventh national championship. No school has won more since 1950.

"Our players recognize that the history of Oklahoma is winning national championships," Coach Bob Stoops screamed at the crowd afterward. "We already had six national championships, now we have seven. You can't say that was then and this is now. This is Oklahoma football."

It will be written that victory brought unanimity to a splintered college game, but that would not be completely true.

Oklahoma's win left the Sooners as the nation's only undefeated school at 13-0, and the win prevented a possible split title between Florida State and Miami.

The BCS is saved in that respect. The Oklahoma crowning will be unanimous, in the final BCS coaches' poll and the Associated Press.

But Miami still has this argument: it deserved the chance to play Oklahoma, not Florida State.

Miami finished No. 2 in both the writers' and coaches' poll and defeated Florida State, but the Seminoles edged the Hurricanes out by .32 for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings. Only the top two schools in the BCS rankings, a combination of polls, losses, computers and strength of schedule, advanced to the BCS title game.

"You couldn't argue with Oklahoma, they're undefeated," Miami Coach Butch Davis said before the game. "But we deserved to be there too. We did what we had to do ... I really believe we're as good as any team in the country."

That argument is for another day. Wednesday night belonged to the Sooners.

A funny thing happened when Oklahoma hired Stoops away from Florida two years ago. Stoops came in heralded as a defensive specialist, but his teams the first two years made news because of their wide-open offense.

The Oklahoma defense, though ranked ninth this year, was largely overshadowed.

Until Wednesday.

Wednesday was all about defense and special teams. The Sooners swarmed and smothered. They held Florida State to 301 total yards, almost 250 yards fewer than the Seminoles' average.

Oklahoma held Florida State to 27 rushing yards.

"I'm shocked, I am shocked," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. "They whipped us so bad. I never thought they would ever do that."

The game produced points in drips and was won by punters, linebackers and safeties.

It was a 6-0 game in the fourth quarter, the product of Tim Duncan field goals of 27 and 42 yards.

Despite sputtering all night, Florida State was still only a touchdown removed from its second consecutive national title in the fourth quarter when Oklahoma closed the deal.

Weinke broke out of the pocket from his own 10 on third and six and got stripped by linebacker Rocky Calmus, safety Roy Williams recovering the free ball at the Florida State 15 with 8:30 left.

On second and five from the 10, tailback Quentin Griffin took a Heupel handoff on a draw play and raced into the end zone for a touchdown with 7:46 left.

Oklahoma appeared set to hand Florida State its first shutout since 1988, when Miami waxed the Seminoles, 31-0, in the season opener.

The only special teams glitch came with 55 seconds left, when a center snap sailed over punter Jeff Ferguson's head and he had to fall on the ball for a safety.

Ferguson turned out to be one of Oklahoma's unsung heroes. On a night when field position played a huge role, Ferguson averaged 41.1 yards on eight punts, five times pinning Florida State inside its own 20.

What went wrong with Florida State on offense?

Just about everything. Blame it on the 42-day layoff, or Weinke getting soft on the rubber-chicken circuit during his Heisman drive.

Weinke completed 25 of 51 passes for 274 yards, with two interceptions.

"I don't know if he was confused," said Marshall, who intercepted a Weinke pass in the first half. "I just knew we played great defense today."

The Seminoles sorely missed leading receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, who was declared academically ineligible for the game.

Bowden thought his team would be able to spread the ball around to a fleet of receivers, but no one stepped up to pick up for Minnis.

"I wish I could blame it on that," Bowden said.

Weinke was hurt by several dropped passes and key plays by Oklahoma defenders.

One of the biggest plays came in the fourth quarter. Trailing 6-0, Weinke heaved a long pass toward Anquan Boldin sprinting toward the end zone, but the possible go-ahead touchdown pass was thwarted when defensive back Derrick Strait batted the ball down at the last second.

It was one of those nights.

Oklahoma mixed up its defensive coverages and didn't give Weinke much to work with.

"We couldn't match up," Bowden said. "They'd do this, so we tried to do that; when we did that, they did this. They stayed a step ahead of us all the way defensively it seemed like."

The Oklahoma offense was not much better. Heupel, who finished second to Weinke in the Heisman voting, completed 25 of 39 passes for 214 yards.

No Heisman. No respect?

"There was no anger," Heupel said. "We don't care what the oddsmakers think. We believe in ourselves."

Heupel couldn't pick his way into the end zone, but his ball control passing game did keep the ball away from Florida State.

"Offensively, we moved the ball, we moved the clock," Stoops said. "We did what we needed to do to win."

A championship, if not perfect, performance.

"They just prepared in a way to win," Stoops said of his players. "There was never a day when we were just happy to be here. We prepared to win and we fully expected to."

Florida State finished 11-2.

Oklahoma finished first.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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