MIAMI - Points were tough to come by for the high-scoring Oklahoma Sooners, even when they had Florida backed up to the goal line.
Twice the Gators stopped Oklahoma inside the 10, stands that proved pivotal in the Gators’ 24-14 victory in the BCS national championship game Thursday night.
“That basically won the game for us,” linebacker Ryan Stamper said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”
The Sooners scored an NCAA-record 702 points during the regular season, averaging 54 a game. When reaching the opposing 20-yard line, they had scored 76 of 80 times, including 69 touchdowns. But they were stopped twice in the first half by Florida, and later had a field-goal attempt blocked.
The Gators, who ranked eighth nationally in yards allowed, kept Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford guessing with lots of blitzes. Bradford went 26-for-41 for 256 yards, and Oklahoma was 6-of-15 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
“Our defense was really jacked up to play this game, knowing this was the No. 1 offense in the country and playing against the Heisman Trophy winner,” Stamper said. “They have dynamic players, but we have dynamic players on our defense, too. We played our hearts out tonight.”
Oklahoma made 25 first downs but totaled a season-low 363 yards, well below its regular-season average of 562. Major Wright and Ahmad Black had interceptions against Bradford, who threw only six during the regular season.
“We had to make sure we contained them, because you can’t stop them,” Black said.
With the score 7-all, an interception gave the Sooners the ball at the Florida 26. Oklahoma picked up a first down at the 9, and two carries by Chris Brown advanced the ball to the 1.
But on third down he was halted for no gain by 298-pound tackle Torrey Davis, and on fourth down, Davis again stopped Brown for a 2-yard loss.
The Sooners forced a punt and drove 74 yards in the final 2:32 of the first half. But with a first down at the 6 and 10 seconds left, Bradford tried to throw to Manuel Johnson, and Florida’s Joe Haden tipped the ball. Three other defenders also touched it, and Wright made a juggling interception at the 3.
“That play took forever,” Wright said. “Joe Haden made a great play. He knocked down the ball. Stamper ended up hitting up the ball. Somebody else touched the ball, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I have to do something. Let me grab it.”’
“We had several opportunities that we could have capitalized on and didn’t,” Bradford said. “The red zone is a place where we’ve been very good this year, and to come out and play the way we did tonight and not capitalize when we had the opportunities is pretty frustrating.”
With Florida leading 17-14, Bradford threw long to Juaquin Iglesias. Black snatched the ball out of Iglesias’ hands for an interception at the Gators 24.
“It was just him and me, mano a mano,” Black said. “I read it and I was on top of him. As soon as the ball hit his hands, I grabbed it.”
Twice in the first quarter, the Sooners crossed midfield but were forced to punt. The Gators’ defense sealed the victory by stopping Oklahoma on downs at the Sooners 36 with less than 3 minutes left.
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BCS Championship Game
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Video: Football from NBC Sports
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