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Best wins of the Bob Stoops era: No. 1, OU 13, Fla. State 2 (2001 Orange Bowl)

by Jason Kersey Published: August 31, 2012
Oklahoma players drench coach Bob Stoops after the Sooners won the 2000 national championship with a 13-2 victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. AP PHOTO
Oklahoma players drench coach Bob Stoops after the Sooners won the 2000 national championship with a 13-2 victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. AP PHOTO
No. 1 OU 13, No. 3 Florida State 2

When: Jan. 3, 2001

Where: Pro Player Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

Oklahoman headline: A RETURN TO GLORY


Championships are why the game is played; under Bob Stoops, the Sooners have won lots of conference, division and bowl championships, but they’ve only achieved the ultimate goal this one time.

The 2001 Orange Bowl, as many BCS title games have, was filled with pre-game controversy. One-loss Miami was ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, but it had handed Florida State its only loss of the season. Despite being No. 3 in both human polls, the Seminoles got the BCS nod.

The Sooners, noted for their prolific offense through the month of October 2000, had to rely on defense in the Orange Bowl against Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and Florida State, which entered the game averaging nearly 43 points and 549 yards a game, but managed 2 and 301, respectively, against OU on this January night.

Florida State entered the game a 10-point favorite over Oklahoma, and very few in the national media gave the Sooners much of a chance against the mighty Seminoles, who, with this appearance, had played in the first three BCS championship games.

And after the Seminoles’ first offensive play, it looked like OU’s skeptics might be right: Weinke hit Atrews Bell for a 35-yard completion. But that was really the extent of FSU’s big plays that night.

Weinke, without suspended All-American receiver Snoop Minnis, finished 25-of-51 for 274 yards, with two interceptions.

OU quarterback Josh Heupel, the Heisman runner-up, completed 25 of 39 passes for 214 yards and one interception. The Sooner offense as a whole didn’t produce many stats, totalling just 270 total yards, but still managed to hold onto possession of the ball for about 13 minutes more than FSU.

Oklahoma held a 6-0 lead until midway through the fourth quarter, when Weinke was scrambling toward a first down and linebacker Rocky Calmus forced a fumble, recovered by Roy Williams. Two plays later, Quentin Griffin scored on a 10-yard run.

Florida State scored its only points with 55 seconds left, when Ben Panter’s snap flew over punter Jeff Ferguson’s head. The Seminoles had 27 rushing yards and converted just 1 of its 15 third-down attempts.

Senior linebacker Torrance Marshall was named the game’s MVP with six tackles and a clutch interception in the first quarter. But his most memorable moment of the night came before the opening kickoff.

When team captains met for the pregame coin toss, Marshall told Weinke, “I’m here to get my boy’s (Heupel’s) Heisman Trophy back.”

Marshall wasn’t actually able to steal the Heisman from Weinke, but he did help Heupel earn another trophy. It was one much more important to the Heupel, now the Sooners’ offensive coordinator, and OU’s program as a whole.

Before Bob Stoops arrived in 1999, the Sooners had just completed a third consecutive losing season. But here, two years later, OU sat atop college football for the first time since 1985.

Since this night, Stoops’ Sooners have racked up accolades and wins over ranked opponents. They’ve won six more bowl games and seven more Big 12 championships. Two of Stoops’ players have won Heisman Trophies, and many more have been All-Americans.

But in three chances since Jan. 3, 2001, Stoops hasn’t been able to earn this win.

The 2001 Orange Bowl is the one victory he’s failed to duplicate for the past 10 seasons, making it — without question — the No. 1 win of the Bob Stoops era.

Here is Berry Tramel’s column from the game:

Don’t label this an upset; best team prevailed

MIAMI — Noted thespian Denzel Washington flipped the pre-game coin, which is only fitting.

For Oklahoma Sooner fans should hold dear to their heart and safely tuck into the corners of their minds the lads who staged this improbable revival. You should most definitely remember these titans.

Remember Torrance Marshall and Josh Heupel. Rocky Calmus and Frank Romero. Roy Williams and Andre Woolfolk. And their cohorts by the score.

They achieved something stunning and wondrous and historic. They went 13-0, won OU’s seventh national championship and turned college football on its ear.

“All year we saw it coming,” said OU cornerback Michael Thompson.

They were the only ones, and although the Sooner Schooner got crowded late in the season, America didn’t buy Oklahoma’s prowess until Wednesday night, when it landed live, in living color.

Oklahoma beat Florida State 13- 2 Wednesday night in the Orange Bowl, and neighbor, this was no upset.

An upset is inferior over superior. David over Goliath. Miracle on Ice. It’s never an upset when the best team wins.

And make no mistake, the best team won at Pro Player Stadium, a coliseum not named for Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke.

Not just the best team on this newly laid sod in Dade County. Not just the best team in Miami (sorry Miami U.). Not just the best team in Florida (sorry Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier and Howard Schnellenberger).

The best team in America.

“We were too motivated,” said defensive end Cory Callens. “Something good was going to happen.”

Something more than good happened. This was something historic. This was a head-kicking so stout that OU’s defensive performance might go down in history. Unstoppable Florida State, which plays freeway football, might as well have been in an Everglades swamp, for all the threats it mustered.

This was a verdict so resounding that the sport might very well stop and take inventory of itself.

In the last decade, football has gone south to Florida and gone so high-tech the real thing mimics video games. But on the third day of the second year of a new century, the Sooners brought it back.

Look hard, greenhorns. This was how football used to be played. Field position. Blood and guts. Playing tough instead of talking tough. It bears no resemblance to the wild shenanigans plaguing modern gridirons.

All the usual suspects – Marshall, Calmus, Williams, J.T. Thatcher – played old-fashioned football. But so did Jimmy Wilkerson and Kory Klein and Cory Heinecke and Derrick Strait and every Sooner defender.

“It’s one heck of a performance,” said OU co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “Our defense, our kids deserve all the credit.”

The tone of this game was set in the first series. Weinke threw a strike to Atrews Bell for 35 yards on the game’s first snap. Thompson appeared to be the victimized cover man. But three plays later, touted Florida State tailback Travis Minor took a swing pass in the open field, had only Thompson to beat and was dumped by a textbook tackle.

The Sooners tackled like that all night, proving that sometimes the old game is won by the old ways.

This was a defensive masterpiece. This is how Oklahoma has long won championships.

The Sooners seem to always be known for snazzy offenses. But they win national titles with defense.

Three other Sooner national-championship teams won Orange Bowls. The ‘85 Sooners gave up 10 points to Penn State. The ‘75 Sooners gave up 6 points to Michigan. The ‘55 Sooners gave up 6 points to Maryland.

And the ‘00 Sooners gave up 2 points to Florida State, which isn’t exactly the ‘55 Maryland Terrapins.

Florida State has terrorized college football 14 years running. Weinke, who is 28 years old and the only guy in shoulder pads old enough to remember the OU-FSU Orange Bowls of two decades ago, rates among the most prolific and most successful quarterbacks in college history.

But in the Orange Bowl, the Sooner defense made Weinke look past his prime, which for all we know he might be. Weinke completed just 25 of 52 passes and committed three turnovers.

The Sooners soured Weinke’s Heisman Trophy. But OU quarterback Josh Heupel’s play didn’t exactly demand a recount. Heupel played OK but was more tough than anything. He didn’t even have his usual cool-customer demeanor, making a couple of dubious plays.

Yet on this night, the Sooners didn’t need Heupel to win the game, they only needed him not to lose it.

On this night, the Heisman and any other hardware handed out belonged to someone wearing crimson and playing defense.

And save a little credit for OU’s Denzel. Bob Stoops matched Barry Switzer’s feat of a national championship in his second year as head coach.

In doing so, he raised the bar for every campus coach in America. Hire the right guy, and you, too, can experience a miracle.

The Sooners’ stunning ascension might be the stuff of miracles, but nothing in Chris Weinke Stadium on Wednesday night was miraculous.

Remember these titans. They are national champions.

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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