Olivia Newton-John's hit song “Let's Get Physical” would have been appropriate in the weight room last summer during Oklahoma's offseason workouts.
Vowing to establish a presence in the trenches, the Sooners pounded out two first downs to close out a 23-13 win over Florida State on Saturday night in Tallahassee.
The game-clinching drive served two purposes.
It milked clock.
More importantly, the offensive line and running back Dominique Whaley set up Jimmy Stevens' 31-yard field goal to give the Sooners a two-possession lead with only 2:01 to play.
“They played with a lot of attitude on that drive,” said OU quarterback Landry Jones. “They played with a lot of toughness. That's what we need to close out games. Last year, we struggled a little in that situation.”
Running behind center Ben Habern and guards Gabe Ikard and Tyler Evans, Whaley was strong up the middle, driving to the 14-yard line.
“Short yardage and goal-line situations, being able to run the ball when we're running the clock out that was huge,” said co- offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “That's what you have to do on the road in a hostile environment.”
A stadium of garnet-clad, tomahawk-chopping, chanting FSU fans made it critical for OU's offense to run the ball to minimize crowd noise.
“Ben Habern did a fabulous job, him and Landry communicating in all that noise,” Norvell said. “It's not an easy thing. When you're playing against good players and good coaches you have to be able to communicate. Ben did a fabulous job.”
OU was held to 310 total yards. The Sooners ran for only 111 yards but pounded out 32 yards on the field-goal drive when everyone in the stadium knew they would run the ball.
“Pounding the rock when we needed to, getting those first downs late in the game was huge,” Habern said. “To finish out a game like that, on the road, was real important.”
The Sooners' physicality, though, had some shortcomings.
Twice in the second quarter OU had red zone failures, settling for field goals after driving inside the 5-yard line.
The first possession, the drive stalled at the 2-yard line.
Javon Harris' first interception gave OU possession at the Florida State 3. The Sooners got it to the 1-yard line, but a holding penalty resulted in another field goal.
“We had a good response at the end, but we gave up those two touchdown opportunities,” said offensive line coach James Patton. “I wasn't happy about that. Our guys weren't happy about that. That was disappointing.”
Patton and the O-line was pleased with the game-clinching drive but doesn't want a repeat of last season when the lack of a power running game inside the 5-yard line was costly in a loss at Texas A&M.
“We still have improvement to make,” Habern said. “We've got to get seven (points) when we have those kind of opportunities. We came away with three which is still points. But in tight games like this we have to punch it in.
“But overall the O-line did a good job. No. 1 versus No. 5, the crowd was into it the whole game. It was a big win for us to fight all the way through the game, then to wait for our chance to get our shot. The fourth quarter is one of the things we've emphasized.”