1981 Orange Bowl
47th Orange Bowl
1234 Total
Oklahoma 0378 18
Florida State 0737 17
DateJanuary 1, 1981
StadiumOrange Bowl
LocationMiami, Florida
MVPJ. C. Watts (Oklahoma QB)
Jarvis Coursey (FSU DE)
FavoriteOklahoma by 5½ points [1]
RefereeGene Calhoun (Big Ten)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersDon Criqui and John Brodie
Orange Bowl
 < 1980  1982

The 1981 Orange Bowl was the 47th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, on Thursday, January 1. Part of the 1980–81 bowl game season, it matched the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners of the Big Eight Conference and the independent #2 Florida State Seminoles.[2][3]

Favored Oklahoma rallied to win by a point, 18–17.[4][5][6][7][8]


Main article: 1980 NCAA Division I-A football season

The game was a rematch of the previous year, and both teams were on seven-game winning streaks.[2]


Main article: 1980 Oklahoma Sooners football team

The Sooners lost two non-conference games, to Stanford at home,[9] and rival Texas in Dallas.[10] They were champions of the Big Eight Conference for the eighth consecutive year. This was Oklahoma's twelfth Orange Bowl appearance, fourth consecutive, and fifth in six seasons.

Florida State

Main article: 1980 Florida State Seminoles football team

The Seminoles' only blemish was a one-point loss at rival Miami in late September.[11] This was Florida State's second major bowl appearance, after playing in last year's edition.

Game summary

After a scoreless first quarter, Ricky Williams put Florida State ahead with his touchdown run, and Oklahoma countered with a long field goal by Mike Keeling; the Seminoles led 7–3 at halftime.

To start the second half, Oklahoma drove 78 yards on twelve plays, and halfback David Overstreet scored from four yards out to take a 10–7 lead. A short field goal by Bill Capece tied the game at ten for the last tally of the third quarter.

Four minutes into the final quarter, cornerback Bobby Butler recovered a botched punt snap in the end zone to give the Seminoles a 17–10 lead. With 3:19 remaining, Oklahoma's fate laid in the hands of senior quarterback J. C. Watts, who had turned the ball over three times on fumbles. He led the Sooners on a 78-yard drive, culminating with an eleven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Steve Rhodes with 1:33 remaining. Down by a point, Oklahoma opted for the two-point conversion attempt, and Watts completed a pass to tight end Forrest Valora in the end zone for a one-point lead. Florida State tried to counter back, but Capece's 62-yard field goal attempt fell short, and the Sooners were victorious.[6][8]


First quarter
No scoring
Second quarter
Third quarter
Fourth quarter


Statistics   Oklahoma   Florida State
First Downs 18 23
Rushes–yards 55–156 60–212
Passing yards 128 51
Passes (C–A–I) 7–12–0 11–15–0
Total Offense 67–284 75–263
Return yards 18 −6
Punts–average 2–37.0 4–42.5
Fumbles–lost 7–5 1–0
Turnovers 5 0
Penalties–yards 4–32 5–58


Oklahoma climbed to third in the final AP poll and Florida State fell to fifth.

The Sooners' next Orange Bowl was four years later, the first of four consecutive; the Seminoles did not return for twelve years.


  1. ^ "Latest line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 1, 1981. p. 25.
  2. ^ a b "Seminoles, Oklahoma looking for opening". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. January 1, 1981. p. 46.
  3. ^ Axelrod, Phil (January 1, 1981). "Layoff worries Oklahoma". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 24.
  4. ^ Axelrod, Phil (January 2, 1981). "Sooners nip Florida St". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 13.
  5. ^ "Watts rates Sooners 3rd". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). Associated Press. January 2, 1981. p. 20.
  6. ^ a b c d "Sooners shock Florida State, 18-17". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 2, 1981. p. 3D.
  7. ^ a b c "Two-point conversion caps comeback for Oklahoma". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. January 2, 1981. p. 20.
  8. ^ a b Eidge, Frank (January 2, 1981). "Sooners rally to 18-17 win". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. p. 14.
  9. ^ "Sooners find Card up their sleeve". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. September 28, 1980. p. 3B.
  10. ^ "Sooner or later, it's Texas". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). October 12, 1980. p. 8C.
  11. ^ "Florida State's streak blown by the Hurricanes". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire service reports. September 28, 1980. p. 10B.
  12. ^ a b "Game-by-game recaps: 1981" (PDF). 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl media guide. January 2019. p. 38.