Getting the job done
Heupel isn't flashy, but he leads his team to victory
Updated: Thursday January 04, 2001 5:11 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- Once again, the numbers didn't tell the whole story about Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel.
Heupel had a good-not-great night throwing the ball Wednesday, but came up with enough plays to keep the offense clicking in the top-ranked Sooners' 13-2 victory over No. 3 Florida State in the Orange Bowl, giving Oklahoma its seventh national title.
"It doesn't get any sweeter than this, baby," Heupel said as he tried to make his way off the field, surrounded by cameras and well-wishers.
Heupel stayed on the field for about 10 minutes after the game ended, even going over to lead the Oklahoma band in the fight song. He got a long hug from coach Bob Stoops, then pulled his high school coach out of the stands for a hug.
Heupel, the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Florida State's Chris Weinke, was 25-of-39 for 214 yards with one interception. He also ran a few option plays, a handful of draws and generally did whatever was needed on a night when both defenses stood out.
"He did what he had to do to win the game, that's why he's a winner," offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. "The bottom line is he's a winner. He proved that. He's 13-0."
Center Bubba Burcham echoed Mangino's feelings.
"He did what he needed to do. He fought through everything," Burcham said. "He did a great job. He's a great man and a great fighter."
Over and over this year, Stoops has pointed to Heupel as the main reason behind Oklahoma's remarkable turnaround in the past two years.
"I think there's no question he'll go down as one of the great all-time Sooner players," Stoops said in the days before the game. "And that's saying a lot."
When Heupel came to Oklahoma two years ago, he was coming to a school that had won 12 games in the previous three seasons, a school known for its ability to run the football, not throw it.
He was being asked to be the point man in the transition to a wide-open passing attack. And he succeeded beyond all expectations.
"I don't know if anybody could have foreseen the level he has played at," Stoops said. "We figured it would be a winning level, otherwise we would not have gone after him."
It was a winning level again Wednesday. Heupel entered the game amid speculation that his throwing elbow, which bothered him a bit late in the regular season, was still a problem. But he threw the ball well against Florida State.
"It was good enough to go on the field, therefore there's no limitations," Heupel said of the elbow.
His 36-yard completion to Josh Norman was the big play in a first-quarter drive that ended with a field goal. He made a bad play later in the quarter when he threw an interception near the goal line.
But he made perhaps the biggest offensive play of the night in the third, when he rolled to his right, then threw across his body downfield to Curtis Fagan for a 39-yard completion. That set up Tim Duncan's second field goal.
With Heupel in charge, the Oklahoma offense kept the ball 12 minutes more than the Seminoles.
As the game ended, several players hoisted Heupel onto their shoulders for a brief ride.
"Just pure excitement, enjoyment, a little bit of relief, such a sense of accomplishment," Heupel said. "It's a dream come true, a long time coming, and I wouldn't have rather done it anywhere but here," he said.
On his recruiting visit, Heupel asked Stoops if he felt Oklahoma could compete for a conference and national title during his stay. Stoops said yes.
Thanks in large part to Heupel, the coach was right.