Sooners show they deserve No. 1 ranking with fourth-quarter gut check

BERRY TRAMEL: The No. 1-ranked Oklahoma football team exorcised some demons Saturday night in Tallahassee.
by Berry Tramel Published: September 18, 2011

Demons begone.

Road demons. Fourth-quarter demons. Landry Jones demons. No. 1 ranking demons. Fire-breathing opponents and their psychotic fan demons.

All vanquished by the Oklahoma Sooners in the final nine minutes Saturday night in the shadow of the Florida capital. No. 1-ranked OU showed it deserved such status with a 23-13 gut-check of fifth-ranked Florida State.

When the Seminoles, seeking to return to college football's inner sanctum for the first time in a decade, scored 10 points to forge a 13-13, Bob Stoops sensed what we all knew.

Florida State smelled blood. Just like Missouri smelled blood last October, when it knocked OU from its No. 1 perch. Just like Texas A&M smelled blood last November, when it brow-beat the Sooners and made them question their toughness.

Those Sooners wilted under the pressure. These Sooners flourished. Landry Jones directed a season-defining touchdown drive, Javon Harris capped a sensational night of defense with a big interception and OU served notice that it is national-championship caliber.

“Probably as good a character in the fourth (quarter) that we have had since maybe the 2000 years down at A&M,” Stoops said. “It's just pleasing to win that way.”

A perfect win for Stoops, and not just because his brother Mark's Florida State defense shined even in defeat. No more questions about OU and Landry Jones on the road. What questions that weren't answered in Stillwater last Thanksgiving weekend were answered Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium.

“It's a statement,” said OU safety Tony Jefferson, as good a pick as any for the best player on the field. “We were determined not to lose it.”

After the Seminoles tied it 13-13, “we gotta swallow our teeth and we put our feet on the ground and kept playing,” Jefferson said.

Thanks to Jefferson and Tom Wort and Javon Harris and Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis and, well, we can name stout-hearted Sooners well into the night, OU's defense made this game reminiscent of the OU-FSU Orange Bowl of 11 years ago. That one finished 13-2, and this one seemed headed for a 13-3 finish.

Then backup quarterback Clint Trickett, inserted for banged-up E.J. Manuel, found a little magic and led the Seminoles to 10 straight points.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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