MIAMI- Torrance Marshall and top-ranked Oklahoma made their statement
early, even before the kickoff. "I tried to intimidate from the coin
toss," the Sooners linebacker said. "I told Chris Weinke that he stole
my boy's trophy." His "boy," of course, is Sooners quarterback Josh
Heupel, who finished a close second to Weinke in the Heisman Trophy
race. But after the Orange Bowl, as Heupel stood in the end zone to lead
the school band in the fight song, all the hardware belonged to
Marshall earned the MVP award for leading a defense that denied No. 3
Florida State a share of its second straight national title, and the
Sooners seized the top prize with a 13-2 win Wednesday night. Oklahoma
(13-0), 10 1/2-point underdogs against the Seminoles (11-2), also made
the issue of a split title a moot point. They were a unanimous No. 1 in
The Associated Press media poll and were automatically crowned in the
coaches' poll under the Bowl Championship Series format. Sooners coach
Bob Stoops received the national championship trophies Thursday, along
with his award as AP Coach of the Year. Heupel was the AP Player of the
Year. "It was an excellent all-around team effort, but one expected by
us," Stoops said at a news conference, referring to his team's role as
the underdog. "We respect everybody but are not intimidated by anybody."
Oklahoma won its first title since 1985, smothering a team that led the
nation in total offense and averaged 42 points. The Seminoles wound up
at No. 5 - the first time since the 1987 season they finished out of the
top four spots. "When I look at it now, I think it should have been
Miami and Oklahoma," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "We didn't look
like we belonged here." Miami (11-1), which beat Florida a day earlier
in the Sugar Bowl, had hoped a win by the Seminoles would give it the AP
title. Instead, Hurricanes coach Butch Davis watched the Sooners win the
lowest-scoring Orange Bowl since Penn State beat Missouri 10-3 in 1970.
"Give Oklahoma credit," said Davis, whose team finished No. 2. "To
finish 13-0 against a strong schedule and to perform the way they did
this evening is highly commendable."
Only a bad snap over punter Jeff Ferguson's head in the final minute,
which resulted in a safety, prevented Oklahoma from handing the
Seminoles their first shutout since 1988, a 31-0 loss in the season
opener. "I think we had confidence right from the get-go, right when we
found out who we were going to play," co-defensive coordinator Brent
Venables said. "We just did a variety of things." As expected, the
Seminoles came out throwing. And when Weinke hit Atrews Bell for a
35-yard completion on the first play of the game, Florida State fans
started shouting, and the Seminoles' band began blaring the school's
famous war chant. It would be the last time all night they would be so
loud. By the time Ontei Jones picked off Weinke's pass in the end zone
with 16 seconds left, it was all over and the Sooners' band had struck
up several choruses of "Oklahoma."
Marshall made six tackles and had an interception. "Everybody doubted us
all year, but this is a great group of football players here," he said.
Weinke finished 25-for- 51 and threw two interceptions. Star running
back Travis Minor was held to 20 yards on 13 carries. "We couldn't seem
to click or get on a roll," Weinke said.
The Seminoles were minus their top receiver, All-American Snoop Minnis,
who was academically ineligible -- he could only watch on the sidelines
as his team sputtered. "I was frustrated, Chris was frustrated. They did
a good job frustrating all of us," Florida State offensive coordinator
Mark Richt said. Last month, Richt took the job as head coach at
Georgia. He stayed on with the Seminoles through this game and admitted
his attention was diverted. "I'm sure that's going to be said," he said.
"I did the best I could. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. It's an
awful lot to try to get accomplished for one person. I'm sorry that we
just didn't finish on a strong note."
Heupel outplayed Weinke in the matchup of seniors, completing 25 of 39
passes for 214 yards and keeping the Seminoles off balance. "We don't
care what the media or oddsmakers think," Heupel said. "We believe in
Tim Duncan kicked two field goals and Quentin Griffin scored the
clinching touchdown on a 10-yard run up the middle with 8:30 to play (video).
The Seminoles' best chance to score came midway through the second
quarter. But the kicking game failed. Brett Cimorelli missed badly from
30 yards, kicking a knuckleball that sailed wide right -- of course --
and the Sooners held their 3-0 lead. Oklahoma led 6-0 when All-American
linebacker Rocky Calmus made a key play, forcing Weinke to fumble near
the Seminoles 20 midway through the fourth quarter. Roy Williams
recovered for the Sooners, and they quickly scored a touchdown that made
it 13-0. "Great preparation, great game plan, great DBs," Calmus said.
"We just had to get into our comfort zone and relax. We knew it would be
a defensive game."
The Seminoles finished with 301 yards, far below their average of 549.
"We simply could get nothing going offensively," Bowden said. "They did
a great job of confusing us defensively." (video)
OU- FG Duncan 27
OU- FG Duncan 42
OU- Griffin 10 run (Duncan kick)
FSU- Safety, Ferguson tackled in end zone
FSU- Minor 13-20, Weinke 4-7
OU- Griffin 11-40, Heupel 13-23, Works 6-16, Littrell 2-8, Mackey 2-5
FSU- Weinke 25-51-274
OU- Heupel 25-39-214
FSU- Bell 7-137, Minor 5-9, Boldin 3-31, Morgan 3-21, Golightly 3-15
OU- Griffin 6-23, Mackey 4-23, Works 4-3, Norman 3-49, Woolfolk 3-41,
Savage 2-23, T Smith 2-13, Fagan 1-39