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Turning points for Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners

In the course of a football season, there comes a time of adversity. Coaches like to say that how a team handles that adversity generally determines what type of team it is. If you leap off the ship when the boat starts to take on water, you aren't championship-caliber. It's the teams that turn adversity in their favor, then triumph, who have the best chance to take home the trophy at the end of the season. Which brings us to No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Oklahoma. Both faced a turning point in which the teams could have folded. Instead, they persevered. And Thursday, they meet for the BCS title.

When things went wrong for Florida

The Gators were No. 4 in the rankings and 3-0 when unranked Mississippi, led by first-year coach Houston Nutt, rolled into the Swamp on Sept. 27. Florida's victory was considered such a given the Gators barely got any pub on national talk shows that week. The Gators led 17-7 at halftime and seemed fully in command. But back-to-back UF turnovers to begin the third quarter led to a tie at 17. The Gators fell behind, then scored what appeared to be the tying touchdown, but the extra point was blocked. Then on fourth and 1 at the Ole Miss 32-yard line in a now-infamous UF play, quarterback Tim Tebow was stopped on a run up the middle. The Rebels won 31-30.

What Florida did

In an emotional speech that he spent the first hour after the loss preparing, Tebow stood teary-eyed in front of a room full of reporters and uttered what became the rally cry for the Gators. He promised that "a lot of good will come out of this" and that the nation would never see a team work harder than Florida would work the rest of the season.

The last word

"I think we all changed our approach. I think it was a collective deal there. It was an eye-opener. As a team we realized that every week, every week you've got to come out here with a passion and energy, and every week you've got to play great. The margin of error in college football, specifically in our conference, is very, very small. … That was a great lesson to learn. … It brought our team closer and tighter." — Florida OL coach and new offensive coordinator Steve Addazio

When things went wrong for Oklahoma

The Sooners were 5-0 and the No. 1-ranked team on Oct. 11 entering their annual Red River rivalry against Texas. And for the first three quarters, they showed why. Twice in the first half, Oklahoma led by 11, then led by eight in the third quarter. But Texas quarterback Colt McCoy rallied the No. 5 Longhorns. When Texas hit a 28-yard field goal with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter, OU trailed for the first time all season. Oklahoma regained the lead 35-30 with 7:37 to play but lost 45-35.

What Oklahoma did

The Sooners held a team meeting after the loss to regroup and remind each other that the season hadn't ended. After watching film, they challenged each other to come together and right the ship. Since then, the Sooners have been on a roll. In their last five games, Sam Bradford, above, and Oklahoma have scored 60 or more points.

The last word

"We came in the next day and immediately watched film. We watched film on that Sunday and Monday of the same game. Then we had a big team meeting. We talked about the things that we did wrong, what we didn't accomplish and things like that. And then we said let's get it right. And we got it right." — Oklahoma offensive lineman Duke Robinson

Turning points for Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners 01/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 2, 2009 9:40pm]

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