This Saturday when the 17th ranked Seminoles visit the 10th ranked Sooners, it will mark only the sixth time these two team have faced each other on the gridiron, but will feature two storied programs with a very rich tradition and history. Combined these two programs have won nine national titles, there have been 82 bowl appearances, and 54 conference championships. However, since the last meeting in 2001, these two programs have gone in different directions and it has been a complete and classic case of role reversal since the last time they meet. FSU is attempting to become relevant once again in the national college football landscape, while OU just 2 seasons ago was playing for the national championship. My how things have changed since our last encounter.
Many believe that this 2001game against OU started the FSU regression into mediocrity that many like to refer as "The Lost Decade." If you were to trace the origins of Oklahoma's resurgence as an elite team and a national championship contender, there you will find Florida State and the 2001 Orange Bowl.
But before we get further into how the programs have reversed their roles and positions since the last meeting, I would first like to discuss the history between these two teams.
I recently discussed the first meeting between FSU and OU in the 1965 Gator Bowl in which the Noles shocked the college football world by spanking the Sooners 36-19. FSUed gave a superb recount of the second meeting in 1976, during Bobby Bowden's first year, and the last time that Florida State had a losing football season. The other three match-ups between these two teams all occurred in the Orange Bowl Classic in 1980, 1981, and 2001(at JRS), all of which I attended, the first 2 as a student and the other 6 OB appearances as an alumni.
The 1980 Orange Bowl game followed the Noles 1979 undefeated regular season, which was the most important season to date (the only other undefeated team was in 1950) in the schools short football history. During the '79 season, the Noles, with our two headed QB, defeated Southern Miss (17-14), Arizona State in Tampa (31-3), Miami (40-23), at Virginia Tech (17-10), at Louisville (27-0), Miss. State (17-6), at LSU (24-19), at Cincinnati (26-21), South Carolina (27-16), Memphis State (66-17), and finally at Florida (27-16) keeping the despicable lizards win-less (0-10-1) for the fourth time in their history. Despite an undefeated season, the Noles had not yet garnered national respect and were only ranked #4 heading south to play the #5 ranked Sooners.
Here is a brief recap of the game, which was not pretty for those of us wearing Garnet and Gold that evening.
Julius Caesar Watts and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims each rushed for more than 100 yards, and the Sooner defense held Florida State to 182 total yards as Oklahoma defeated Florida State 24-7 in the 46th Annual Orange Bowl Classic.
For 17 minutes, it appeared Florida State would see its dream of a 12-0 season and possible national championship come true as it took a 7-0 lead on Mike Whiting's one yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
FSU had a chance to double its lead moments later. OU punter Fred Keeling's kick was blocked by Seminole cornerback Bobby Butler and recovered on the Oklahoma 17 by Keith Jones.
After a first down, FSU failed to gain more than two yards on three tries. Rick Stockstill fumbled a snap from center on an attempted field goal try as Oklahoma stopped the FSU drive and gained possession at its 19.
Following a 25-yard pickup by Sims and a sack by James Gilbert, Watts kept the ball on a sweep to the right and ran 61 yards for a score.
Watts' run was a sample of things to come for the Seminoles. Following the kickoff, Jimmy Jordan's first pass was picked off by Bud Herbert, who would intercept three passes on the night, and returned to the Seminole 10. Two plays later, Stanley Wilson got the call from the five and rambled in for the score and a 14-7 Sooner lead.
Fred Keeling made it 17-7 at the half with a 24-yard field goal, and the Sooners were on their way to victory.
The remainder of the game was a defensive standoff until Sims took a lateral from Watts and raced 22 yards into the Seminole end zone at 7:13 of the fourth quarter.
For the game, Sims gained 164 yards on 24 carries and Watts tallied 127 yards on 15 attempts. FSU was outgained in the game by a 447-182 margin.
The Noles would finish the season with an 11-1 record and a final ranking of #6, which was the best ever for FSU.
The 1980 season saw the Noles build on the success of the previous season and steamroll through the season while facing only one hiccup along the way at Miami. The season started with a shutout of LSU (16-0), another shutout of Louisville (52-0), East Carolina (63-7), then the 9-10 loss at UM when Bobby went for the win with a 2-point conversion attempt with :39 seconds left and Rick Stockstill's pass fell incomplete, then at Nebraska (18-14), then Pittsburgh came to Doak for Homecoming where we would be the only team to beat Dan Marino that season (36-22). Then Boston college (41-7), at Memphis State (24-3), Tulsa (45-2), Virginia Tech (31-7), and then the finale at Doak, beating the miserable reptiles from Hogsville for the fourth straight year (17-13).
So once again the second ranked 10-1 Noles would face off against the 4th ranked 9-2 Sooners on New Years day in the Orange Bowl, with the Noles seeking vengeance for the previous years defeat at the hands of OU.
This time it would be a hard fought game down to the wire, with the Seminole defense shutting down the potent Oklahoma wishbone attack and only giving up 146 yards. But once again the Sooners would put a dagger into our collective hearts by marching 78 yards, scoring, and converting the 2 point conversion with 1:27 left in the game against a Seminole defense that hadn't allowed a fourth quarter TD all season. The Nole defense forced the Sooners to rely on the pass but they could not stop the big plays when it mattered most during the Sooners late 4th quarter comeback, and despite OU's 6 turnovers, one of which was a bad snap on a punt recovered by the Seminole's for a TD.
For those of you that are gluttons for punishment, here is the video of the OU's game winning drive.
What you don't see in the video is the last 1:27 where FSU drives to the OU 45 yard line and Bill Capece misses on a desperation 62 yard FG attempt as time runs out. FSU lost the game 17-18 and finished the season ranked #5. This superseded the previous years #6 ranking and was now the highest ranking ever by a FSU team, but of little comfort to true Noles due to our hearts being ripped out at the last minute. An interesting anecdote was this was the first ever college football game where the officials wore microphones. It was rather strange being able to hear the refs discussing penalties over the stadium sound system and hearing the players talking to the refs who had forgotten to turn off their microphones.
Fast forward to the 2000 season. FSU is the defending National Champions after just having won our 2nd crystal trophy, and being the first team to go wire-to-wire ranked #1 from preseason to National Champs. At that point, we had been ranked in the top 4 for 13 consecutive years. Our QB with most of his supporting cast, as well as our dominate defense, was returning. We were once again poised for greatness, but again we experienced a hiccup along the way, and again at Miami.
We started the season playing BYU in the Pigskin Classic in Jacksonville and walked away with 29-3 win. Next we traveled to Georgia Tech (26-21), then North Carolina (63-14), Louisville (31-0), and Maryland (59-7). Then came the cursed wide right III at UM (24-27), Duke (63-14), Virginia (37-3), at NCST (58-14), Clemson (54-7), at Wake Forest (35-6), and finally ruining the Turds season (30-7). By thist time the winner of the Florida-Florida State game had gone on to play for the national title five of the last seven years.
Now the Noles could only wait for all the conference championships to be played to see if we had a chance to defend our national title. After the dust settled, it was determined that we would have the chance to, at worst, have a shot at a split title and a possible shot at back to back titles, first by beating an undefeated and the top ranked Sooners in the Orange Bowl, then hoping all the other pieces fall into place for FSU.
Meanwhile back in Norman after Oklahoma's 1981 win over FSU in the Orange Bowl, the Barry Switzer led Sooners slipped for a few seasons, regained their composure and won another NC in 1985 followed by a couple of one loss seasons. At that point, their house came crumbling down hard. In 1988 OU was investigated and found to have violated several NCAA rules. Oklahoma was placed on a three year probation including a two-year ban on TV and bowl appearances and a faced a reduction in scholarships from 25 to 18. In addition during a six month time frame, there was a shooting and a rape in the athletic dorm on Oklahoma's campus, Switzer's house was robbed with the help of one of his athletes, and an athlete was caught attempting to sell drugs to an undercover agent.
Then the OU coaching carousel started in 1989 after Switzer stepped down. He was replaced by Gary Gibbs (1989-94) who went 44-23-2, who was then replaced by Howard Schnellenberger (1995) who went 5-5-1, and who was then replaced by John Blake (sound familiar, think dirty, think UNC) (1996-98) who had 3 straight losing seasons (3-8, 4-8, 5-6), which were the most since the 1920's and the worst losing percentage since 1895.
Next they brought in Bob Stoops who finally started turning the program around with a 7-5 record in his first year, and a 12-0 regular season leading up to the 2001 Orange Bowl game, which brings us back to the game.
In a not too familiar scene, the potent Nole offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke was shut out of the end zone and once again OU had FSU's number. Many fans like to blame Mark Richt for this loss by claiming he was distracted once he was named the new coach for Georgia. However, I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and I would rather concede that Oklahoma's had a great defense and a brilliant game plan on that day. Here is a brief description of the game.
Case closed. The Oklahoma Sooners are more than OK, they're national champions.
A smothering defense shut down Florida State and Josh Heupel generated enough offense to give No. 1 Oklahoma a startling 13-2 victory in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday night and its first national title in 15 years.
Oklahoma (13-0) completed a perfect season and made the issue of a split title a moot point.
Finishing as the nation's only unbeaten team, the Sooners were automatically crowned national champs in the coaches' poll under the Bowl Championship Series format.
Oklahoma awaited The Associated Press media poll's release early Thursday, confirming the Sooners as undisputed champs.
No. 3 Florida State (11-2) came into the game as 1O 1/2 point favorites and were hoping to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Nebraska in 1994-95. Had the Seminoles won, No. 2 Miami (11-1) would have staked a claim to a share of the title.
Heupel completed 25 of 39 passes for 214 yards and kept the Seminoles' defense off balance all night.
Tim Duncan kicked two field goals and Quentin Griffin scored the clinching touchdown on a 1O yard run up the middle with 8:30 left in the game. Florida State avoided its first shutout in 12 seasons when Stanford Samuels tackled Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson in the end zone for a safety with 55 seconds remaining.
Florida State got the ball back on the ensuing free kick, but Weinke's 29 yard pass into the end zone was intercepted by Ontei Jones with 16 seconds left and the celebration began.
After Heupel took a knee and the clock ran down, The Pride of Oklahoma Band broke out in yet another rendition of "Boomer Sooner" and the players and fans converged on the field to celebrate.
The Seminoles offense was a mess. Without All-American receiver Snoop Minnis, suspended for failing grades, and offensive coordinator Mark Richt perhaps preoccupied with his new job as Georgia's new coach, Florida State generated just 301 total yards, 248 under its average.
Weinke was 25 of 51 for 274 yards and two interceptions and a fumble. He did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
Oklahoma's ferocious defense was the reason. Led by Orange Bowl MVP Torrance Marshall, the Sooners time and again forced Weinke into bad decisions. At least a half dozen passes were in the hands of Sooner defenders but dropped.
Marshall finished with 11 tackles, one interception and one batted ball. With Oklahoma ahead by only 6-0 in the fourth quarter, All-American linebacker Rocky Calmus made his presence felt. He knocked the ball out of Weinke's hands, safety Roy Williams recovered and two plays later, Griffin ran for his touchdown.
After the game, second year coach Bob Stoops thrust his fist in the air and hugged players and assistants.
It was obvious both teams were coming off long layoffs, the Seminoles last played 45 days ago, the Sooners 32 days ago.
Surprisingly for two high scoring offenses, the mistake filled first half ended with the Oklahoma ahead 3-0 on Duncan's 27 yard field goal 7:44 into the game.
The opening 30 minutes featured three turnovers, a missed 30 yard field goal by Florida State's Brett Cimorelli, wide right, naturally, and eight penalties, five for 33 yards against the Seminoles.
Weinke and Heupel each threw an interception, and Sooners receiver Andre Woolfolk fumbled after a 22 yard reception, with Clevan Thomas recovering at the OU 47.
On the next play, Weinke's pass was intercepted by Marshall. Oklahoma drove 44 yards in seven plays before the left footed Duncan kicked his field goal.
Since winning that Orange Bowl Oklahoma has averaged almost 11 wins per season, played for the national title 3 times, won the Big 12 conference title 5 times, and have made 3 BCS bowl game appearances. Lack of respect is no longer an issue for the Sooners since Bob Stoops has kept the Oklahoma in the national championship mix more years than not, and distanced the program from the mediocrity of the previous decade.
On the other hand, since losing that Orange Bowl game the Seminoles have not finished ranked in the top 10, much less contended for the national championship. FSU has averaged just over 7 wins per season (7.6) since the 2005 season, our average won/loss record since the 2001 OB loss to the Sooners is 8-5, this after finishing among the top four teams in the AP poll for 13 straight seasons before that Orange Bowl game in which we entered that game as a double-digit favorite. Also, FSU has only finished once ranked in the top 25 (#21 in 2008) in the past 4 years, and with the highest rank of #11to finish the 2003 season.
So how far has Florida State fallen since that January 3, 2001 loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl? It doesn't took too pretty:
- Have played in 3 BCS bowl games during past nine years and lost all 3, the last in 2005
- Only 1 10-win seasons (2003)
- The longest win streak is 6 in 2004
- The highest AP final ranking is 11th in 2003
- FSU has lost 42 games in the past nine seasons
- Three 7-6 records during the past four years
- Versus Top 10 teams, a dismal 6-11 W-L record
- Versus Top 25 teams, a miserable 13-19 W-L record
So if I may once again repeat a comment I previously wrote above. Many believe that this 2001game against OU started the FSU regression into mediocrity that many like to refer as "The Lost Decade." If you were to trace the origins of Oklahoma's rise as an elite team and a national championship contender, there you will find Florida State and the 2001 Orange Bowl.
Our lost decade has been discussed ad nauseum and I don't think it is necessary to rehash it here and now since we have now started the Jimbo Fisher era and it is hopefully in full swing. What many of us are hoping is that the Noles improvement comes Sooner than expected.
Now let's fast forward to Saturday when Florida State will enter the game ranked at No. 17 in the AP, which is our highest ranking since 2008. One way for Florida State to get rid of that bitter, bitter after-taste that is Oklahoma, would be a steal a huge road win against the Sooners.
By now everyone knows OU has won 31 consecutive games at home, which is the nations longest home win streak. A Seminole win would be FSU's third in its last five meetings with Top 10 opponents. FSU beat a self destructive #7 BYU team last season and beat a 2nd ranked Boston College with Matty Ice in 2007, both on the road.
A road victory on Saturday could be the start to re-establishing FSU as a force to be reckoned with, and could eliminate many of the doubts that exist about the status of our once proud program, but at the same time we must all keep our expectations in check and remember that it is way too early for national-title contention, and any discussions of that nature should be discouraged by the more reasonable and educated Nole fans.
A win on Saturday could give us a renewed level of respect and distance the program from the mediocrity of the previous decade. Again though we must temper our expectations, and we must accept the fact that a win on Saturday as the underdog, would only be the first step of the process.
"I think it’s a measuring stick for your team," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It’s a great indicator of where you’re at right now. It’s a great game in a big-time situation. One of the great environments in college there at Oklahoma. I’m anxious to see our guys and how they accept the challenge."
"It's an important game and a stepping stone for where we want to go and what we want to do, but there's a heckuva a lot of football to be played," he said. "This is just a great opportunity to find out where we are now.
"They understand that it's a great opportunity and you have to take advantage of those opportunities. It's one of the unique places to play. It's one of the experiences you will always remember in your life in college football. It's why you come to Florida State to play in games like that and have opportunities like that. They're embracing the opportunity. They're not fearing it. They're not overlooking it in any way, shape or form. They just think it is a big game and they want to play in it and play well."
Here are a couple of fun facts (however meaningless) to remember while watching the game.
- Jimbo Fisher is 1-0 against Oklahoma in big games, having served as Offensive Coordinator for LSU in the Tigers’ National Championship win over the Sooners in 2003.
- The Big 12 has a worse record against the ACC (.419 winning percentage) than any other conference.
- The Sooners have won 31 straight home games, so they gotta be due to lose.
SOMEONE TELL THE SOONERS THEY BETTER CIRCLE THEIR WAGONS BECAUSE THE SEMINOLES ARE ON THE WARPATH AND ARE ON THEIR WAY.