Oklahoma football: Sooners lose bowl heartbreaker to No. 13 Florida State

The Oklahoma Sooners lead the Florida State Seminoles 17-11 at the half of the Cheez-it Bowl game at Camping World Stadium on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.Fsu V Oklahoma577Syndication Tallahassee Democrat
The Oklahoma Sooners lead the Florida State Seminoles 17-11 at the half of the Cheez-it Bowl game at Camping World Stadium on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.Fsu V Oklahoma577Syndication Tallahassee Democrat /

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. The better team may have won the Cheez-It Bowl game, but this outmanned Oklahoma football team played one whale of a game.

No. 13 Florida State outlasted the unranked Sooners, winning 35-32 on a field goal with under a minute to go in the game. FSU’s Ryan Fitzgerald connected on a 32-yard field goal with 55 seconds remaining in the game to seal the win for the Seminoles and secure a 10-win season for the first time since 2016.

Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel was sacked on a 3rd-and-8 play at the OU 27-yard line as time expired ending the Sooners’ chances for the upset as well as OU’s opportunity to avoid its first losing season since 1998. The Sooners finish the season at 6-7, but there was a lot to like and plenty of momentum to build on from this game for the next season.

Florida State started out the game with a 70-yard opening drive that stalled on the OU 5-yard line. The Seminoles settled for a 22-yard field goal by Fitzgerald to take an early 3-0 lead. Oklahoma responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive of its own with Gabriel connecting with Jahlil Farooq on a 22-yard touchdown strike to put the Sooners in the lead 7-3.

The Sooners pushed across another touchdown early in the second quarter to go up 14-3 and had the opportunity to extend the margin to 21-3, but a 16-yard touchdown run by true freshman running back Gavin Sawchuk was negated by a holding penalty. The Sooner drive stalled after that. Zach Schmit missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt and OU walked away with no points. That turned out to be a major turning point in this game.

Florida State promptly marched 72 yards on six plays for a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion, and in the matter of two minutes, the Oklahoma lead was cut to three at 14-11.

The Sooners tacked on a 41-yard field goal by Schmit just before halftime to extend the lead to 17-11 at the break.

Florida State grabbed its second lead of the game at the 5:33 mark of the third quarter. After being pinned back on its own six-yard line following an Oklahoma punt, the Seminoles mounted a13-play, 94-yard drive over three minutes for a go-ahead touchdown at 18-17.

Faced with a 4th-and-6 from the FSU 36-yard line, Gabriel’s pass to Drake Stoops fell incomplete and the Sooners turned the ball over on downs The Seminoles took over possession late in the third quarter and moved the ball down to the Oklahoma 38-yard line. Facing 4th-and-3, OU defensive back Billy Bowman picked off a pass from Florida State’s Jordan Travis, thwarting a Seminole scoring drive and turning the ball over to the Sooners at their own 20-yard line.

The fourth quarter provided the biggest offensive production of the night with the two teams combining for 32 points. After the OU interception, the Sooners began the fourth quarter with Gabriel hitting Marvin Mims for a 31-yard completion to the Florida State 40-yard line.

A series of running plays by Jovante Barnes and Sawchuk advanced the ball to the 15-yard line and Sawchuk took it in from there on a 15-yard touchdown run to put Oklahoma back into the lead, 25-17, with 13:22 remaining in the game.

Florida State began the ensuing possession on its 25-yard line. Six plays and 75 plays later, the Seminoles were in the end zone and the extra point by Fitzgerald tied the game at 25-25.

With 10:59 to go in the game, Oklahoma took possession at its own 25-yard line and advance the ball down to the Florida State 41-yard line, the big play being a 21-yard completed pass to Drake Stoops. On 3rd-and-2, Sawchuk broke off a nine-yard run but lost the ball, and Florida State’s Jammie Robinson recovered at the FSU 32-yard line.

The freshman running back’s fumble proved costly, as FSU quarterback Travis led the Seminoles on a 6-play, 68-yard scoring drive to go up 32-25.

The Sooners, showing no quit, responded with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took nearly three minutes off the clock and was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown scamper by Barnes, tying the score again at 32-32.

With just 3:32 remaining in the game, Florida State mounted a 61-yard drive that stalled at the 14-yard line and milked two and a half minutes off the clock. Faced with a 4th-and-9 atnd with 55 seconds remaining, the Seminoles settled for a field goal by Fitzgerald that proved to be the game winner.

Oklahoma lost the game, but the Sooners have no reason to hang their heads. Playing with a patchwork offensive line with three starters out of the game and without their No. 1 running back and one of the best in the country, Oklahoma stood tough and withstood every punch the high-powered Florida State offense threw at them.

Florida State came into the game ranked 13th in the country in total defense and 12th in the country in rushing offense. Yet, the Sooners, without their best running back and an inexperienced offensive line outgained the Seminoles 253 to 169. Both Barnes and Sawchuk totaled more than 100 yards rushing.

The Oklahoma defense gave up more than 500 yards to Florida State, but it was able to make big stops at critical points in the game. FSU was just 5 of 12 on third-down plays and 0 for 3 on fourth-down attempts.

This was a terrific game by the Sooners, who were 10-point underdogs in the game. It did not end in a winning effort, but there were a lot of good things to celebrate and build on for next season.