Perfect ending

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma is more than OK -- the Sooners are perfect and on their way to the Orange Bowl to play for the national championship.

Josh Heupel threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score as No. 1 Oklahoma completed a perfect regular season with a 27-24 victory over No. 8 Kansas State in the Big 12 title game on a chilly Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Sooners (12-0), the nation's only major unbeaten team, will get a chance for their first national title since 1985 when they play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, most likely against defending champion Florida State (11-1).

Oklahoma and Florida State were first and second in last week's Bowl Championship Series standings and, based on computer projections, seemed certain to remain that way Sunday when the final rankings are released and the BCS officially announces its bowl matchups.

''For us to talk about a national championship, we had to win this game,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ''So this was more like a regular-season game and that's the way we embraced it. I'm proud of our guys. This win defines our season.''

Heupel, in his final Heisman Trophy push, overcame a season-high three interceptions, completing 24 of 44 passes for 220 yards. The Sooners' defense held the Wildcats to just 239 yards -- 185 yards below their average.

''I think our defense may have been the story of the game,'' Stoops said. ''It was pretty special. You hold them to 239 yards for the day? That's pretty strong.''

Heupel threw a 1-yard TD pass to Trent Smith in the first half, ran 7 yards for a score in the third quarter and hit Andre Woolfolk with a 17-yard scoring pass 36 seconds into the final period to put the Sooners ahead 24-17.

Tim Duncan kicked his second field goal of the game, a 46-yarder with 1:25 left that proved to be the winning points.

K-State's Jonathan Beasley threw a 16-yard TD pass to Quincy Morgan with six seconds left, but the Sooners recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock as fans in the crowd of 79,655 tossed oranges onto the field.

''We'll enjoy this one for a day or two,'' Heupel said. ''It's been a long season and a great ride so far. I think everyone will get to enjoy this one and then we'll go get another one.''

A Sooners-Seminoles Orange Bowl creates the possibility for split national champions.

Florida State is ranked No. 3, behind No. 2 Miami (10-1), in both the AP media poll and the coaches poll. It is conceivable that if the Seminoles beat the Sooners and the Hurricanes win their bowl, the AP media poll could vote Miami No. 1 while the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll would be obligated to crown the Seminoles champions. Miami beat Florida State 27-24 on Oct. 7.

Also, No. 4 Washington (10-1) could be considered if the Huskies, who beat the Hurricanes 34-29 this season, beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl.

The BCS standings use the two polls, eight computer rankings, schedule strength and number of losses to determine the teams for its title game.

With the Orange Bowl set, the three other BCS games were busy finalizing their matchups. The Fiesta Bowl, which has the next two selections after the Orange Bowl, was expected to go with No. 5 Oregon State (10-1) against either No. 11 Notre Dame (9-2) or Miami.

The Sugar, with SEC champion Florida (10-2) as its host team, would be left with either the Irish or the Hurricanes, or it could go for No. 6 Virginia Tech (10-1). The Gators beat Auburn 28-6 Saturday in the SEC title game.

The Rose Bowl matches No. 4 Washington (10-1) against No. 14 Purdue (8-3).

Kansas State (10-3), which fell to 2-19 against Top 10 teams under coach Bill Snyder, appear headed to either the Cotton or bowl.

''I hope Oklahoma wins the national championship for the Big 12,'' Snyder said. ''We just weren't good enough to make a difference in the game tonight.''

With the score tied at 17, Heupel led the drive that saved the Sooners' season. He hit Smith for 28 yards and, after a 12-yard pass interference call against safety Jarrod Cooper, Quentin Griffin took a pitch and ran 22 yards on fourth-and-1 to the Wildcats' 17. On the next play, Heupel found Woolfolk open across the middle and hit him in stride in the end zone.

''That was just some Oklahoma football of old,'' Stoops said of Heupel's pitch to Griffin. ''We haven't forgotten totally about the option.''

Before the Sooners start thinking about the Seminoles, they're just happy to have made it through the Big 12 title game with their second win this season over Kansas State.

Twice in the first four years of this game, the league's national-title contending team lost and fell out of the championship chase. Texas stunned Nebraska in 1996, and Texas A&M beat Kansas State in double overtime in 1998.

Beasley finished 12-of-28 for 106 yards, while the Sooners held K-State to 133 yards rushing.

With the stakes never higher for the Sooners, the top-ranked team looked jittery in the first half but came away tied at 10. Safety Roy Williams recovered a fumble by Beasley on the fourth play of the game at the K-State 27, but Griffin was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Heupel threw interceptions on consecutive first-quarter possessions, the second of which set up Beasley's 10-yard TD run that put the Wildcats ahead 7-3 six seconds into the second quarter.

K-State moved to a 10-3 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Jamie Rheem with 7:58 left in the half before the Sooners cashed in on a blocked punt.

OU's Josh Norman raced up the middle past long snapper Neil Gosch and blocked Travis Brown's punt, giving Oklahoma the ball at the K-State 17. Heupel then found the range, hitting Damian Mackey for 7 yards, Griffin for 9 yards and finally Smith on a 1-yard scoring pass with 2:56 left in the half.

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