Jan. 3, 2001 -- There’s no dispute: The unbeaten and underdog Oklahoma Sooners are the national champions after beating defending champion Florida State 13-2 in the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami tonight.
No. 1 Oklahoma used a stifling defense and exceptional special teams play to shut down FSU’s explosive, top-ranked offense and the nation’s most prolific passer, Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.
Weinke, who threw for 4,167 yards in the regular season, was 25-for-52 with 274 yards passing, two interceptions and one fumble tonight. He led an offense that mustered just 301 total yards offensively and appeared dazed and confused without leading receiver Marvin “Snoop” Minnis, who sat out the game after being declared academically ineligible on Dec. 20.
Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel, the Heisman Trophy runner-up and Player of the Year, was 25-for-39 for 214 yards passing and had one interception as the Sooners (13-0) completed their perfect season.
With their commanding win, the Sooners silenced both their critics and the controversy over who was entitled to the national championship. No. 2 Miami, which beat Florida Tuesday night in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, believed it should share the national championship if No. 3 Florida State (11-2) had won.
Underdogs Finish on Top
The championship belongs solely to an Oklahoma team that, despite going 12-0 in the regular season, was 10½ point underdogs coming into this game. The Sooners began the season ranked No. 19 in the The Associated Press’ preseason poll but won four straight games over highly ranked teams in October to pave the way to the title game.
With the win, Oklahoma earned its seventh national title — and first in 15 years — and completed a perfect season under second-year coach Bob Stoops, who is credited with reviving a once-thriving program that had skidded in recent years.
Florida State, looking to become the first back-to-back national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95, narrowly averted a shutout when Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson wisely fell on the ball in the end zone and took a safety following a bad snap. That play with 55 seconds remaining gave FSU its only points of the game.
Weinke Fumble Leads to TD
The one touchdown came in the fourth quarter, when Oklahoma’s Quentin Griffin scored on a 10-yard draw play two plays after a scrambling Weinke had the ball stripped by Rocky Calmus at the Seminoles’ 15-yard line. Roy Williams recovered the ball for Oklahoma, setting up the short scoring drive that dealt the final blow to struggling FSU.
The score came with seven minutes and 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a game in which two teams praised for their offenses were instead staging a defensive showdown.
For the first time in 13 years, the Seminoles were held scoreless through three quarters. The team converted for a first down just once on third down, had negative-1 punt return yards and rushed for 17 yards all night.
Weinke, who had only 11 interceptions all season, was held to 113 yards passing in the first half and was quickly picked off in the first quarter by Torrance Marshall, a play that led to a 27-yard field goal by Tim Duncan to put Oklahoma ahead 3-0. Duncan’s 42-yard field goal with 4:24 left in the third quarter brought the score to 6-0.
Marshall also sacked Weinke and had six tackles. He was named the game’s most valuable player.
Dontei Jones added another interception for the Sooners when he grabbed Weinke’s desperation pass in the game’s final seconds, and the Oklahoma secondary nearly picked off several other passes as the defensive backs took away FSU’s passing game downfield.
Kicking Woes Continue for FSU
Marshall’s interception came one play after Andre Woolfolk fumbled and FSU’s Clevan Thomas recovered near midfield. FSU’s Tay Cody made his seventh interception this year in the final seconds of the first quarter, picking off Heupel inside the red zone and returning it to FSU’s 28-yard line.
Weinke connected with Atrews Bell on a 36-yard pass on the opening play, a dynamic start that suggested a possible offensive blowout by FSU. But the Sooners reduced to a whimper an FSU offense that averaged 42 points a game in the regular season.
FSU’s kicking woes followed the Seminoles into the national championship game; Brett Cimorelli’s 30-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter sailed wide right.
Oklahoma is now 3-0 against Florida State in the Orange Bowl, having last won 20 years ago when Barry Switzer was running the wishbone offense for the Sooners and FSU coach Bobby Bowden was just building the Seminoles into a powerhouse.