MIAMI — Sam Bradford might have made his poorest decision of the year, trying to hit Manny Johnson as the first half neared an end. Instead of scoring seven or three points after reaching the 6-yard-line, Oklahoma scored none.
Stunningly, again, in a huge game that became a loss, Bob Stoops made a strikingly bad decision, sending Jimmy Stevens out to kick a 49-yard field goal that barely cleared the offensive line, rather than going for it, facing fourth-and-5, at the Florida 32.
The Sooner defense stepped up for 31⁄2 quarters on the biggest stage of all and part of it included two interceptions of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the same number last season’s Heisman Trophy winner had thrown over his previous 13 games. Only the highest scoring on offense in the history of the modern collegiate game failed to put points on the board with either gifted drive.
The Sooners did not do so much of what they had done all season long Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium. And yet for all of that, OU did not lose its third BCS championship game in six seasons 24-14 to Florida so much as the Gators took it away. And quite literally at that.
“They just made the plays at the end,” Sooner defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
Tebow made plenty of them with his feet and even his arm, yet none was singularly as big as the one turned in by Gator strong safety Ahmad Black, who ripped the ball right from the arms of Juaquin Iglesias, who only appeared to have set the Sooners up at the Florida 24 with 10 minutes left to play.
It was the play of the night and the story of the game. Of the contest’s other 143 snaps, none were so crushing to Sooner fortunes, yet plenty were just another example of what Florida was able to do in the moment and of what OU was not.
It was that way when the Sooners only went backwards after reaching the 1-yard line halfway through the second quarter. It was that way late in the third when Bradford hit Quentin Chaney for 25 yards and Iglesias for 13 before facing third-and-1 at the Florida 28, only to hand the ball to Chris Brown for a 4-yard loss.
Not once could the Sooners break on through to the other side. Again and again the Gators wouldn’t let it happen.
By converting third down after third down after third down, they wouldn’t let it happen. And by stone cold stopping OU just as Bradford and the offense appeared to be hitting a stride, they wouldn’t let it happen.
It didn’t matter that Brown ran for 110 yards. It didn’t matter that Jermaine Gresham was knocked out of the game only to return and catch a game-tying touchdown. It didn’t matter because one team had the answers and it wasn’t OU.
It didn’t really matter that Tebow ran for 109 yards and threw for 231. It only mattered that one team did all that was required and the other couldn’t.
“In the second half, down the stretch, down in the fourth quarter there, we came up a play or two short. They made them,” Stoops said. “But it was a heck of a game.”
That is the Sooner Nation’s solace. But after five consecutive BCS bowl losses, it’s not a whole lot to take into another tormenting offseason.
Last season concluded in embarrassment. The year before was a lark of a loss as Boise State converted miracle after miracle.
Two years prior it was another embarrassment, right here at Dolphin Stadium, to USC.
The year before OU closed with a Sugar Bowl thud.
The only thing Thursday night had in common with all the rest was the part about the other team finishing with more points than OU.
At least it wasn’t a flop.
Florida was just too good.