Familiar Faces Clash as Oklahoma Meets Florida State in Cheez-It Bowl
By Michaelea Neal
Florida Citrus Sports
Familiar faces return to Orlando as the Oklahoma Sooners meet the Florida State Seminoles in the Cheez-It Bowl on Thursday. Oklahoma hopes to finish its season with a win against a Florida State team looking to secure its first 10-win season under head coach Mike Norvell.
First-year Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables returns to the same bowl he won as defensive coordinator of Clemson in 2014 against the Sooners.
Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel also returns to Orlando after transferring to Oklahoma this year from the University of Central Florida. Gabriel’s offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, coached the quarterback at UCF during the 2019 season.
“Super excited for the opportunity but then also obviously spending time here, just seeing a lot of people that I was here with, which is really fun,” Gabriel said Monday.
Gabriel feels confident in his team’s game plan and preparation for the game. He has worked throughout the season to help familiarize other players with Lebby’s style of offense.
Lebby is known for showcasing his players’ talents while letting them play free and fast.
“I think just knowing the relationship between me and him and the trust and belief in his quarterbacks, in his system, and knowing that it puts us in a good position as well as all the skill positions,” Gabriel said.
A few opt-outs will allow room for young players to step up and make plays for the Sooners.
“The biggest thing is we got guys who are capable,” Lebby said. “They haven’t played a bunch, but they’re capable, so we feel great about where we’re at and got a ton of confidence in the guys who are going to walk out there.”
Oklahoma has struggled throughout its season to stay consistent as a team. The Sooners finished the regular season 6-6 and 3-6 in the Big 12. Oklahoma hasn’t had a losing season since 1998 and wants to finish strong. Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. is one of the veterans and leaders of this team, completing his third season with the Sooners.
“This year hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, but at the end of the day, we still have one more game to be able to go out there and set the record,” Mims said.
Defensive end Ethan Downs highlighted the mindset and perseverance of this Oklahoma team. Venables compares the season to a roller-coaster, but Oklahoma is determined to play its best game of the year.
“It’s always hard to have losses and a lot to persevere through, but with that perseverance, we’re still a very motivated team, a very driven team, and that shows our heart and our commitment to the program,” Downs said.