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College Football Classic Rewind:OU Stymies ‘Noles to Win National Championship

Posted on September 14, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 2001 Orange Bowl was the designated national championship game for the 2000 season and it featured a team that was expected to be in the game and another team that was not expected to be there.

Ever since Barry Switzer resigned as head coach following the 1988 season, the Sooners went 61-50-1 in the next 10 seasons and played in only three bowl games.

After the 1998 season, Oklahoma hired Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, who had helped the Gators win the 1996 national championship, in hopes of restoring the Sooners to prominence.

Stoops went 7-5 in his first season as head coach but things took off in 2000 as the Sooners went undefeated thanks to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Josh Heupel, who finished second in the running for the Heisman Trophy and a defense that allowed under 16 points per game on average during the season.

Despite being 12-0 and #1 entering the title game, the Sooners were 10 ½ point underdogs to their opponent, the Florida State Seminoles.

Florida State was the defending national champion and were perhaps the most dominant team during the 2000 season.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, averaged 42.4 points per game while the defense held opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game as the Seminoles won at least 10 games for the fourteenth consecutive season, all under the direction of head coach Bobby Bowden.

Despite their dominance, most experts believed that the Seminoles should not be in the title game because they lost one game, a 27-24 nail-biter to arch-rival Miami, who also finished the season with one loss and believed by most experts to play opposite Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

However when the BCS final rankings were released, FSU was ranked ahead of Miami, and it was the ‘Noles who got a chance to win back-to-back national titles.

While they were heavily favored, the Seminoles faced two issues as they entered their title tilt with the Sooners.

Offensive coordinator Mark Richt had accepted the head coaching job at the University of Georgia, perhaps distracting him from constructing a good game plan against the Sooner defense, and wide receiver Snoop Minnis, Weinke’s best target, had been ruled academically ineligible and had to sit out the game.

These two issues looked to cause problems for the Florida State offense, but It certainly did not look like that the Seminoles offense would have such trouble as Weinke connected with Atrews Bell for a 35-yard gain on the first play of the game.

But the Sooners defense rose up and forced the Seminoles to punt following the big play to start the game.

Both teams traded punts until Oklahoma’s second possession when Florida State cornerback Tay Cody stripped Andre Woolfolk of the ball after the Sooner receiver had made a 22-yard reception.

The fumble was recovered by Clevan Thomas at the Sooners’ 47-yard-line, giving the Seminoles an excellent opportunity to take the early lead.

But on the first play following the turnover, Florida State gave the ball right back to Oklahoma when linebacker Torrence Marshall picked off a Weinke pass and returned it back to the Sooners’ 47-yard-line.

The Sooners got three points off the turnover as Tim Duncan drilled a 27-yard field goal, which was set up by a 36-yard pass from Heupel to Josh Norman, to give Oklahoma a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

On their next offensive possession, the Sooners drove from their own 26 to the Seminoles’ 15-yard-line in 10 plays, but disaster struck on the 11th play when Heupel threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Cody for the Seminoles’ takeaway of the game.
However, the turnover came at a price for Florida State as Cody injured his abdomen on the play and did not return to the game.

Torrence Marshall was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl in Oklahoma's 13-2 victory.

The second quarter was a stalemate was neither offense could get on track and both teams trading punts.

The only scoring opportunity during the quarter was by Florida State as they drove from their own 47-yard-line to the Oklahoma 13-yard-line where the Seminoles were faced with a 4th & 1.

Bowden decided to go for the field goal but the decision backfired when kicker Brett Cimorelli missed his 30-yard field goal attempt and the score remained 3-0 in Oklahoma’s favor as the first half come to an end.

Oklahoma received the second half kickoff and after Antwone Savage returned the kickoff 36 yards, the Sooners took up seven minutes off the clock as they drove from their own 46-yard-line to the Florida State 16-yard-line until the drive stalled.

Duncan came on to attempt a 37-yard field goal and it appeared that he made the kick as the ball went over the top of the upright.

However, the referees ruled that the kick was no good and the Sooners’ lead remained at 3-0.

The Sooners would get another chance for points on their next drive as a 39-yard completion from Heupel to Curtis Fagan helped Oklahoma to the Florida State 25-yard-line.

But Heupel missed an opportunity for the first touchdown of the game as he missed a wide open Savage in the end zone a few plays later.

Duncan came onto the field to attempt another field goal and this time he left no doubt as his n kick sailed through the uprights for a 42-yard field goal to increase the Oklahoma lead to 6-0 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Seminoles were able to put together their best drive of the game as Weinke lead the offense from their own 19 to the Oklahoma 35-yard-line.

But this promising drive ended with no points as the Seminoles turned the ball over on downs as Robert Morgan was unable to make a diving catch in the end zone on second down at the 35-yard-line and then Weinke’s fourth down pass that was intended for Anquan Boldin was broken up by Derrick Strait, giving the ball back to the Sooners.

Then on the next Seminoles offensive possession, the Sooners defense made the biggest play of the game as linebacker Rocky Calmus hit a scrambling Weinke, jarring the ball loose which was recovered by safety Roy Williams at the Florida State 15-yard-line.

Two plays later, running back Quentin Griffin ran it in from 10 yards out for the game’s first and only touchdown of the game to give Oklahoma a 13-0 lead with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter.

Chris Weinke struggled mightly against the Sooner defense in the 2001 BCS Title Game.

The fumble and the subsequent touchdown was the backbreaker for the Seminoles as they were unable to put together any good drives in the last minutes of the game.

If it weren’t for a bad snap that went over the head of Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson and into the back of the end zone for a safety, the Seminoles would have been shut out for the first time since their 31-0 drubbing at the hands of Miami in the 1988 season opener.

Instead, they got two points, still 40 points below their season average and gained only 301 yards of total offense, 248 yards below their season average, as the Sooners earned their seventh national championship with a 13-2 victory over the heavily-favored Seminoles.

Ever since this game, the two programs have gone in opposite directions as the Sooners have complied a 109-26 record, won six Big XII conference championships, and have played in seven BCS bowl games, including the National Championship game three times.

However, the Sooners have been unable to claim another national title under Stoops’ reign.

On the other hand, the Seminoles have fallen from the ranks of college football’s elite programs in the last decade.

Since their loss in the 2001 Orange Bowl, the Seminoles have gone 72-46, had to vacate 12 victories from the 2006 and the 2007 seasons because they used ineligible players, and won only three ACC championships.

But with a victory over #1 ranked Oklahoma this Saturday, Florida State could return to the ranks of the elite college football programs in America.

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