COACH STOOPS SET THE TONE WHEN WE FIRST GOT TO MIAMI. AS SOON AS we got off the plane we took a bus straight to the practice field and ran gassers. I hated that we were running, but this was a business trip. We were here to kick Florida State's a--, not take in the sights. Besides, it's not as if the locals welcomed us with open arms. I remember walking down South Beach, and Floridians were looking at us as if we were some kind of country boys that they were just going to whup. They had an arrogant, cocky air.
So did the Seminoles—who were favored by 11 points, according to the experts. Back then they had a lot of teams trembling in their cleats. But we had beaten Nebraska, come back against Texas A&M and overcome Kansas State twice—first at their place, then in the Big 12 championship game. We were battle tested.
So when we found out we had to play Florida State, we were like, Bring it on. And we had a heckuva game plan for 'em. No disrespect, but their playbook was so simple. We knew they'd sweep right, sweep left, throw a deep jump ball and run screens and draws all day. There was nothing magical about what Florida State had to offer.
That night it was as if we had the perfect spades hand. For any play they tried, we had the perfect counter. In the first quarter Torrance Marshall intercepted Chris Weinke, and that set us up for the field goal that staked us to a 3--0 lead. I had a chance at my own big play in the second quarter. With 1:07 left Weinke threw deep middle into triple coverage. I tipped the ball, and it ricocheted off my other teammates before dropping to the turf.
For me it was a wake-up call. I was like, Damn, I really have to be on point so that I can make the most of the next opportunity. And especially with the game being such a defensive struggle—the Seminoles laboring to sustain drives, and us failing to finish ours off—I knew I needed to make something happen.
After yet another quarter of Florida State posting three-and-out after three-and-out and us driving short of the end zone (we added a field goal at the 4:24 mark of the third), my chance came again. With less than nine minutes to go and FSU facing third-and-six from its own 10-yard line, Weinke got the snap out of the shotgun, and we blitzed. As he took off to his left and scrambled toward the first down, our linebacker Rocky Calmus swiped at his right arm. The ball tumbled to the turf—right as I was about to unload on Weinke. I thought, Roy, get the ball, scoop it up, try to get some yards, do not fumble it—and I followed my inner voice to a T. Fortunately for me an official was a needed voice of reason. I was so excited after making that play that I started doing the Seminole chop. The ref came up behind me and whispered, "Don't do that." That piece of advice, which spared us a 15-yard penalty, helped the offense reach the end zone two plays later for the insurance points.
Still, that's not to say there weren't any surprises in the game. I don't think any of us foresaw our long snapper hiking the ball over our punter's head to give FSU a safety. It ruined what would have been the perfect ending to a perfect season—capping off a 13--0 season with a 13--0 score in the game that would bring us a national title. But it doesn't matter. That championship occupies a special place in my heart. It set the tone for all the OU players who have and will come after me by sending this message: Handle your business.