The national championship has never seemed more mythical.
College football has been played in this land for 140 years, and for long stretches of Thursday night’s tractor pull between Florida and Oklahoma, it looked as if these two teams were trying to set the game back by at least half that. The first three quarters were so boring, they should have been moved from FOX to C-SPAN.
The Gators’ 24-14 victory over the Sooners did nothing to dispel competing claims from Southern California, Utah and Texas about who belonged in the top spot. Earlier in the week, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he was looking into whether the BCS violated antitrust laws by barring the 13-0 Utes — the only unbeaten team in college football’s top division — from the national title game.
If he actually mounts a legal challenge, the videotape of this could be entered into evidence as “Exhibit A.”
Afterward, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops actually said, “I thought it was a heckuva game.”
Right. Games like this moved political commentator George Will to say awhile back, “Football incorporates the two worst elements of American society: violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
And man, were there ever a lot of meetings.
Oklahoma employed a no-huddle offense all season long to ramp up the numbers of plays it could run en route to averaging 54 points a game. The Sooners averaged 80 plays during the regular season, but got off only 70 in this one because of a dozen penalties called on the two teams, a few reviews by the refs and some mysterious stoppages.
“I thought they had clock issues, they waved off a flag, whatever,” Stoops said, though he hardly helped matters by calling a time out at one point coming out of a time out. “Anyway, it interrupted play quite a bit.”
Yet even running 70 plays seemed nothing short of incredible, considering quarterback Sam Bradford did not take a single snap without first checking the sideline, where running backs coach Cale Gundy, quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel and offensive line coach James Patton — wearing identical black polo shirts — all passed along signals by wildly gyrating their arms before each play. The scene looked like something borrowed from an episode of the “Three Stooges.”
Besides those three, Stoops has another half-dozen assistants, plus a support staff that numbers 26 and includes a director of sports enhancement, a director of football operations and an administrative coordinator. For those who wondered why the Sooners bring a covered wagon to every game, apparently it’s to get the whole bunch of them home.
But Florida, which surrounds coach Urban Meyer with 10 assistants and his own support staff of 34, didn’t get much more bang for its buck. The Gators came in averaging 45 points a game, but looked like someone left the gearshift to that offensive machine back in Gainesville. They collected the lion’s share of penalties — eight — and couldn’t put any distance between themselves and the stumbling, bumbling Sooners until quarterback Tim Tebow took matters into his own hands. He called his own number and went pin-balling through the Oklahoma defense on every one of the six plays in Florida’s final drive.