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1981 Orange Bowl - OU-Florida St.
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 Posted: Wed Mar 25th, 2020 05:13 pm


From the Saturday Oklahoman & Times, January 3, 1981…


By Al Carter

MIAMI - It was as if the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida State Seminoles had swapped personalities.

The Seminoles were the ground demons. The Sooners threw the ball.

The Seminoles played the wishbone as if they'd seen it all their lives. The Sooners reacted to FSU's I-backs like something just arrived from Mars.

The Seminoles missed easy field goals. The Sooners kicked a record-setter.

But heritage was not so easily disposed of on this first night of the New Year.

The Sooners were still the fumblers. It almost killed them. But the Sooners are also Barry Switzer's boys.

And Barry Switzer is on an eight-year roll.

No Switzer team has ever lost three games in one season. And because of seniors J. C. Watts, Steve Rhodes and Forrest Valora, Switzer's 1980 team, as concerned as it was with rebuilding and development, won't either.

Given up for dead in the wake of turnovers and a fourth-quarter kicking game tragedy, the Sooners used the often-ignored passing tools of Watts, Rhodes and Valora to fuel a frantic drive that left a hopeful Florida State team beaten in the Orange Bowl Classic for the second straight year.

Watts hit Rhodes, a questionable participant in the game, for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:27 remaining and then found Valora for a two-point conversion pass that gave the troubled Sooners a pulsating 18-17 victory in the 47th OB classic.

The last-ditch drive, initiated from the OU 22 with 3:19 left on the clock, appeared doomed until Watts connected with Rhodes on a play that had been concocted at halftime in the Sooner locker room. It carried to the FSU 35.

The rally then survived two misguided passes that Seminole defenders graciously dropped, and culminated in Watts' roll-out strike to Rhodes, playing with an injured hamstring muscle.

The TD represented the first points to be scored all season off the Seminoles in the fourth quarter.

Valora, regarded for his wishbone blocking abilities and not as a pass receiver, was left unattended on the two-point attempt. He wrapped his hands around Watts' easy toss and OU had the winning points - and the worst of news for the majority of 71,043 Orange Bowl guests.

The points held up when a desperation 61-yard field goal try by FSU All-America Bill Capece on the game's final play fell short.

The teams had been locked in a 10-10 standoff early in the final quarter when punter Mike Keeling, a sophomore who earlier kicked an Orange Bowl record 53-yard field goal, let a helmet-high snap go through his hands with 11:07 left in the game.

The ball rolled to the Sooner end zone where FSU cornerback Bobby Butler recovered for a Seminole TD. It was OU’s fifth lost fumble of the game.

The outcome left both the No. 4 Sooners and No. 2 Seminoles with 10-2 records. Both were deprived of a national championship shot earlier in the day when No. 1 Georgia defeated Notre Dame, 17-10, in the Sugar Bowl.

Final wire service polls will be released Saturday and most observers feel the Sooners will finish in the No. 3 spot for the third straight season.

OU was a 24-7 winner in last year’s Orange Bowl, using its heralded wishbone to smother the Seminoles while shutting down FSU’s strong passing attack. The rematch was nothing like the original.

FSU outrushed the Sooners, 212 yards to 156. And the Sooners outpassed the Seminoles, 128 yards to 51. Watts accounted for all the Sooner yardage with seven completions in 12 attempts.

“I thought we had the game won,” Seminole coach Bobby Bowden said. “It was ridiculous for a wishbone team to throw the ball against us the way they did.”

The Seminoles jumped to a 7-3 halftime lead, displaying many of the offensive and defensive assets for which the Sooners are famous.

Using a cat-quick offensive line to carve up OU’s stout defensive front, FSU drove 70 yards on 11 plays late in the first half. Sophomore tailback Ricky Williams, who rushed for 99 yards on 19 carries, broke the scoring deadlock with 49 seconds left when he streaked past a Sooner blitz 10 yards for a touchdown.

The Seminoles hard-charging defense, meanwhile, effectively contained the OU wishbone offense, forcing two fumbles. OU’s second bobble, recovered by safety Monk Bonasorte, set up FSU’s 70-yard scoring drive.

The Sooners upstaged one of the Seminoles’ strength, their kicking game, to account for their only points.

Keeling boomed his 53-yard field goal on the final play of the half – extending OU’s NCAA record of having scored in 167 games – sent his team to the locker room in high spirits.

Keeling’s what-the-heck try came after Watts passed 11 yards to freshman Jim Rockford, who ran out of bounds at the FSU 36 with just two seconds left.

Facing a nearly still wind, Keeling rocketed the ball downfield, just over the crossbar. His boot far eclipsed the previous Orange Bowl best of 44 yards, set by Penn State’s Chris Bahr against LSU in 1974.

Looking for turnovers as a means of diffusing OU’s powerful wishbone, the Seminoles received a bundle. Watts, hit by FSU All-American nose guard Ron Simmons, fumbled on OU’s second play and defensive end Jarvis Coursey recovered at the Sooner 43.

OU held and then survived a mild threat later in the first quarter when Capece’s 49-yard field goal effort fell short.

The Sooner offense, ranked second in the nation in team rushing, found some success on its third possession. Overstreet picked up a perfect block from fellow halfback Winters and romped 29 yards to the Seminole 20.

Watts kept six yards to the 14 on the last play of the quarter. But on a third-and-three play, Coursey broke through to drag down Watts for a four-yard loss. Keeling then sliced a 34-yard field goal attempt just to the right of the upright and the score remained tied.

The Seminoles quickly mounted another threat, using the running of Williams and a Sooner facemask penalty to reach the Sooner 33.

But on fourth-and-inches, OU nose guards Johnnie Lewis and John Blake and tackle Richard Turner stacked quarterback Rick Stockstill for no gain and the Sooners took over.

Watts brought his team back the other way, passing to tight end Valora for 17 yards to the FSU 38 to convert a key third down play.

Watts picked up nine more for another first down at the Seminole 27. But on a third-and-nine, Watts stumbled across a fallen Overstreet on an option keeper and Bonasorte recovered at the FSU 30 with 4:49 left in the half.

Stockstill took exactly four minutes to lead his team to the end zone.

The junior completed passes to Dennis McKinnon for eight yards and to Sam Childers for six more. Starting tailback Sam Platt carried three straight times for 14 yards and Stockstill broke a naked reverse for five yards to convert a third down play.

Williams, Platt’s backup, then streaked through the left side of his line 13 yards and added six more on his next carry.

A play later from the 10, Williams split the right side of the Sooner defense again, blowing past blitzing strong safety Gary Lowell and stepping away from free safety Jay Jimerson at the five for the score with 49 seconds left.

Capece’s extra point gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead.

Backup Sooner fullback Weldon Ledbetter picked up a quick 25 yards after the FSU kickoff, fumbling the ball upfield and out of bounds to account for most of the pickup.

Defensive tackle Gary Futch sacked Watts for an eight-yard loss. With eight seconds left, the Sooners decided to run a play on fourth down and it paid off, Watts connecting with Rockford for 11 yards.

Keeling arrived to boot his 53-yarder and the half ended.

OU needed the first six minutes of the second half to march 78 yards in a dozen plays to take a 10-7 lead. The drive was not all typical wishbone.

Facing a third-and-11 situation and his team in a stall, Watts connected with Valora on a 30-yard pass-run play that carried to the Seminole 37.

On a fourth-and-one play, Watts hit a perfect seam as cornerback James Harris played Buster Rhymes, the pitch man. Watts rambled 20 yards to the FSU eight and then kept for four to the four.

Overstreet then put OU on top for the first time, taking a pitch four yards behind a block from Rhodes on Harris. Keeling’s extra-point put OU ahead, 10-7.

The Seminoles couldn’t get a break from their famed kicking game.

With Capece lined up for an apparent 50-yard try, holder Kurt Unglaub took the snap and bolted up the gut of the Sooner rush for four yards and a first down.

The Sooner defense stiffened a second time and Capece missed a 44-yard try with 4:24 left in the quarter.

With Stanley Wilson in street clothes with a bruised back, Weldon Ledbetter missed connections with Watts on a handoff, the ball squirted free and FSU linebacker Reggie Herring recovered at the Sooner 16.

A questionable third-down pass interference call on Sooner safety Ken Sitton gave the Seminoles a first-and-goal at the OU one. The Sooners managed to hold with the help of a procedure call and Capece tied the game at 10-10 with a 19-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

Game in Figures


First Downs: 18
Rushing Yardage: 55 – 156
Passing Yardage: 128
Passes Completed: 7 – 12
Interceptions By: 0
Punts, Average: 2 – 37
Fumbles Lost: 7 – 5
Yard Penalized: 4 – 32

Florida State

First Downs: 23
Rushing Yardage: 60 – 212
Passing Yardage: 51
Passes Completed: 11 – 15
Interceptions By: 0
Punts, Average: 4 – 42.5
Fumbles Lost: 1 – 0
Yard Penalized: 5 – 58

How They Scored


0-7 – Ricky Williams 10 yard run – 0:49

Drive: 70 yards in 11 plays.
Big Play: Rick Stockstill 5 yard keeper on third-and-four from OU 39. Bill Capece kick.

3-7 – FG Michael Keeling, 53 yards – 0:00
Drive: 38 yards in 6 plays.
Big Plays: Weldon Ledbetter 25 yard fumble to FSU 49. Jim Rockford 11 yard pass from J. C. Watts on fourth-and-eight from FSU 47.


10-7 – David Overstreet 4 yard run – 8:59

Drive: 78 yards in 12 plays.
Big Plays: Forrest Valora 30 yard pass from Watts on third-and-15 from OU 33. Watts 21 yard run on fourth-and-two from FSU 29. Keeling kick.

10-10 – FG Bill Capece, 19 yards – 0:13
Drive: 17 yards in 16 plays following Reggie Herring fumble recovery.


10-17 – Bobby Butler fumble recovery – 11:07

Capece kick.

18-17 – Steve Rhodes 11 yard pass from Watts – 1:27
Drive: 78 yards in 9 plays.
Big Play: Rhodes 42 yard pass from Watts on third-and-9 from OU 23. Valora pass from Watts.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From the Saturday Oklahoman & Times, January 3, 1981…


By Al Carter

MIAMI – Barry Switzer waved his hands through the air, gesturing backs in motion and receivers downfield and at times looking like Leonard Bernstein with the sound off.

Switzer was trying with invisible “X’s” and “O’s” to explain to a gathering of reports how (in his mind) his Oklahoma Sooners have the fire-power to consistently defeat incredible odds and why (in their minds) he is the luckiest coach on two feet.

Luck? After reviewing the final act of OU’s 18-17 Orange Bowl victory over Florida State Thursday night and recalling the events in the season leading up to it, the subject of Switzer’s uncanny good fortune was too much for writers to resist.

But Switzer did Friday at his post-game press conference.

“You’re getting into an area we’re not even going to get into,” Switzer said with a smile. “But you always wonder when that train’s going to stop.”

What bridges the Seminoles didn’t dynamite in front of the Sooner Express, the Sooners did. Five lost fumbles figured in every point FSU put on the scoreboard.

Switzer’s “train” sounded its whistle anyway in the final three minutes and the result was another improbable Sooner assault which, as in the Nebraska game, produced the winning points and left the opposition emotionally devastated.

In his eight seasons as Sooner coach, Switzer has field teams with more talent – maybe seven more. But with senior quarterback J. C. Watts holding the pen, the 1980 Sooners authored a chapter of OU grid history as impressive and mystifying as any national championship campaign.

Just 2-2 after four games, the Sooners rolled off eight straight victories, bumping off heavyweights Nebraska, 21-17, and Florida State with last-gasp drives that would have caused Cinderella to say “get real.”

A 43-yard run by Buster Rhymes against Nebraska and a 42-yard Watts to Steve Rhodes pass against Florida State gave the drives life.

Each march required a perfectly threaded pass from Watts on square-out routes, a third-down toss to Bobby Grayson to set up the winning touchdown against the Huskers and an 11-yard strike to Rhodes for a TD that preceded a winning two-point pass from Watts to tight end Forrest Valora against the Seminoles.

Each drive survived probable disaster. Tackle Louis Oubre outmaneuvered three Nebraskans to recover a fumble just before Rhymes’ run. Watts rendered FSU two opportunities for easy interceptions. Both were dropped by Seminole defenders.

Luck? “We don’t need to dwell on it,” said Switzer, the winning coach in four of the last six Orange Bowls. “People might think we have a patent on it or something.”

Switzer admitted that while Watts was preparing to throw his 42-yard strike to Rhodes on a third-and-nine play, “I was trying to decide what we were going to do on fourth-and-nine.”

Improbable? Rhodes wasn’t expected to play because of a hamstring pull.

“Before the game he said it was tight and that he was at three-quarters speed,” Switzer said. “I said he couldn’t play at three-quarters speed. Later he said it had loosened up and he could run deep routes.”

Rhodes found single coverage on his TD grab, beating FSU All-American cornerback Bobby Butler with 1:27 remaining.

Switzer described in detail the two-point conversion, a “drag” pass designed to give Watts a run-pass option.

Lining up in a wing left with fullback Weldon Ledbetter in motion to the left, Watts counter optioned to the right with guard Don Key running interference. Valora blocked the end, then released. He was all alone when Watts’ pass arrived.

The play, used earlier for a 30-yard completion for Valora, was called to offset the hard charges on Watts by the Seminole defense, concerned that Watts might repeat his most valuable player performance of last year’s 24-7 Sooner victory over FSU in the Orange Bowl.

He did.

“The cornerback doesn’t have a chance on that play,” Switzer said. “He has to take the pitch man on the option play. The safety has to take the tight end if he releases. But the safety was beaten on the play because he played the run.”

Switzer said the Sooner defense was troubled early by FSU’s use of split backs instead of the Seminole’s usual I-formation attack. FSU slapped a double-team block on the nose guard, hooked the tackle and stunned the Sooners by sending swift tailbacks Ricky Williams and Sam Platt inside the penetration of the OU linebackers.

Notably ineffective was linebacker Mike Reilly, who, Switzer said, injured his shoulder early and had trouble tackling.

“Those were the two best inside runners we’ve seen all year,” Switzer said. “Their running game was definitely better than Nebraska’s.”

Switzer noted another big play: a fourth down sideline pass to Jim Rockford with two seconds left in the first half. It appeared the Sooners had nothing to lose on the play – and also nothing to gain.

But Watts alertly called time out and sophomore kicker Mike Keeling, battling inconsistency all season, came on to blast an Orange Bowl record 53-yard field goal.

Early in the fourth quarter, Keeling muffed a punt snap, the ball rolled into the Sooner end zone and Butler recovered to snap a 10-10 tie.

“We didn’t play well at all,” Switzer said. “You look at a lot of the games we play. We not only have to play our opponents, but we have to play ourselves and that’s quite a burden. Nobody turns the ball over like we do. We shouldn’t have been good enough to do that (seven fumbles, five lost) and beat Florida State.”

“But we did.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From the Saturday Oklahoman & Times, January 3, 1981…

Seminoles' Butler Thought His Team Had Game Won

By Floyd Stanley

MIAMI - Bobby Butler thought he had won the game when he fell on a fumble in the end zone to put Florida State ahead with only 11:07 left in Thursday night's Orange Bowl.

But then, Bobby Butler also thought he had Steve Rhodes covered.

He was wrong on both counts. Rhodes shook free for a miraculous 42-yard catch while Oklahoma was working on a miraculous fourth-quarter touchdown drive, then shook free of Butler again for the 11-yard TD completion from J. C. Watts which gave the Sooners a chance to win.

Butler was on the other side of the field when OU tight end Forrest Valora caught the two-point conversion pass which propelled the Sooners to a breath-taking 18-17 Orange Bowl victory over the No. 2-Ranked Seminoles.

He didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, Butler appeared relieved that he had no part in that bit of Seminole doom. Like coach Bobby Bowden and the rest of the Seminoles, Butler was frazzled and disbelieving.

"I thought we had it won," Butler said of his end zone recovery of OU punter Michael Keeling's punt snap blunder.

Rhodes proved otherwise. "It was a zone (on both passes), but I more or less handled it man-to-man," Butler said. "It (Rhodes' TD) was a good pass, a good catch, everything."

OU's victory was by no means entirely Butler's fault, however. Twice on that gut-wrenching drive Watts threw the ball into the hands of Seminole defenders. Both fell harmlessly away.

The first, on a first-and-10 from the FSU 21, shouldn't have.

Seminole tackle, James Gilbert had flown in to smash Watts, who lofted a feeble pass attempt which floated directly into the hands of nose guard Garry Futch, substituting for injured All-America Ron Simmons.

"Always," sighed Futch. "It will always be in my dreams."

"I didn't even recognize the screen. The quarterback went down and the ball just came flying out, coming right at me," Futch continued.

"Right when the ball was coming my brain said, 'Catch it, fall down, roll over and win.'"

"But when it touched my hands my brain started saying, 'Run with it and score.' I couldn't have scored anyway."

Linebacker Reggie Herring, perhaps the most talkative of the Seminoles, was distraught at the Sooner victory.

"Luck is on their side," he said. "It has to be luck for a good defensive team to drop two interceptions. We came back, we got ahead (17-10 on Butler's recovery), but dang!"

"They made a super catch here (obviously Rhodes'), a super catch there (Rhodes again), they just executed, but I still feel we outplayed them."

"They showed they were a great team there at the end, but I don't fell ashamed. We're a great team too."

"It hurts, man. It hurts to lose that way. There ain't no reason we should have lost," Herring said.

Bowden was more realistic.

"They played excellent," he said, squinting against the television lights. "Every time we do something we get a penalty. We score a touchdown that would have won the ball game (the Seminoles later settled for a Bill Capece field goal), and we can't even do that (because of a motion penalty)."

"We made too many mistakes to win," Bowden confessed.


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 Posted: Wed Mar 25th, 2020 05:40 pm



Sooner Magic.

And there's a reason he's The King.


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 Posted: Wed Mar 25th, 2020 09:50 pm




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 Posted: Sat Mar 28th, 2020 04:45 am



K2C Sooner

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 Posted: Sat Mar 28th, 2020 05:01 am


SwampSooner wrote:

Watching that....Barry and others need a haircut.:dude:

And how could JC throw the ball wearing a defensive linemans shoulder pads? Same with Rhoades catching it. We've come a long way with the shoulder pad thing.

Thanks for the memories.....:ou:

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