- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

MIAMI What about Bob.

By the time No. 1 Oklahoma put the finishing touches on its flawless season by stifling No. 3 Florida State on Wednesday night at Pro Player Stadium, it was perfectly clear that there was only one brilliant Bobby on hand at the 67th Orange Bowl Bobby Stoops.

The Sooners (13-0) didn't squash the Seminoles 13-2 because they had better personnel on the field. They didn't drop the 'Noles because they hit harder, played with more intensity or whipped Florida State along the line of scrimmage. Oklahoma snuffed out the heavily favored Seminoles because Bobby Bowden and Co. were totally Stoopified by the Sooners' coaching staff.

Never in his career has Bowden, who is now 2-3 in national title games, been so shamefully outwitted, so mentally manhandled, so completely confounded by a man on the opposing sideline.

"We just couldn't get anything going at all, just nothing," said the 71-year-old Bowden, shell-shocked and babbling to an ABC inter

viewer moments after watching his team skunked offensively for the first time since 1988. "We just couldn't find it, didn't have it. I don't know. They did a great job defensively …"

So complete was Oklahoma's defensive mastery of the Seminoles (11-2) that the loquacious legend was at a loss for words.

The game plan devised by Stoops and his staff was relatively simple: jam Florida State's receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing between Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Chris Weinke and his targets, dare the Seminoles to run the ball by devoting seven defensive players to pass coverage on virtually every down and at all costs deny the Seminoles their beloved deep ball.

In his previous coaching incarnation as Florida's defensive coordinator, Stoops employed a similar title game scheme against Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl. In that game, the Gators held the the high-powered Seminoles to just 313 yards of total offense and just three second-half points in a 55-20 rout. This time Stoops' Sooners allowed the Seminoles 301 yards and frustrated Weinke into committing three turnovers.

Instead of taking the short, underneath routes Oklahoma was willing to concede, the same dink passing plays that allowed Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel and the Sooners to hold the ball for more than 36 minutes, Bowden's boys persisted in their attempts to stretch the field, resulting in a slew of low-percentage passes and a stream of three-and-out possessions.

Sure, the Seminoles missed leading receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, who flunked out of school before the title game. Without Minnis shagging Weinke's passes, Florida State did drop a half dozen passes, including a potential go-ahead touchdown that slipped through the hands of junior split end Robert Morgan on its first possession of the fourth quarter.

Maybe Minnis would have snared just enough long throws to pull the Seminoles through had he played, but the fact is they wouldn't have missed Minnis much if Bowden and offensive coordinator Mark Richt had simply adapted better to the Sooners' scheme. Instead, Florida State seemed to panic after its first two drives failed to result in scores.

The Seminoles, who led the nation in scoring at 42 points per game, aren't accustomed to patience. On their third possession, the Seminoles took over at the Oklahoma 47-yard line and immediately went deep down the middle. Orange Bowl MVP Torrance Marshall, one of Oklahoma's All-American linebackers, picked off the forced pass and the Sooners scored what proved the game-winning field goal seven plays later.

On its next two possessions, Florida State decided to try the run, giving Travis Minor four carries that netted eight yards and produced two punts.

Apparently, Bowden hasn't figured out that you can't run on decent defenses with flankers masquerading as tailbacks. In the 1997 Sugar Bowl, Warrick Dunn gained 28 yards on nine carries. With the title once again on the line two years ago at the Fiesta Bowl, Minor and Co. averaged 2.8 yards per carry in a loss to Tennessee. In last year's Sugar Bowl, Minor gained 35 yards on nine carries against Virginia Tech. And in the Orange Bowl, he totaled a laughable 20 yards on 13 carries, his inability to break arm tackles allowing Oklahoma to drop seven players into pass coverage with impunity.

Of course, Bowden had a perfectly healthy zone buster on his bench all game. But he refused to try Greg Jones, a 230-pound freshman with 4.5 speed who was rated the top tailback prospect in the nation last season, on even one possession because "he dropped the ball a few times back in two-a-days." Tremendous reasoning it's better to be safe and sorry. Now, that's sticking with the horsefly you rode in on.

In the 'Noles' lone impressive possession of the night, they threw pass after pass underneath to fullback Randy Golightly, surging patiently down the field to start the second quarter before Brett Cimorelli missed a 31-yard field goal. That marked the end of Florida State's patience as Bowden's boys spent the rest of the night trying to force the ball downfield into the teeth of the Oklahoma defense. That panicky strategy produced five drives of five or fewer plays in the final eight possessions.

"I think our guys just wanted it more," said Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Or maybe your staff just handed Bowden his headset.


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