Black's pick did the trick

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 2:03 a.m.

MIAMI You've heard of the immaculate reception.

This may go down as the Sunshine Strip.

With Florida ahead 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford was poised to lead to Sooners on a go-ahead scoring drive.

Bradford had his favorite target, senior receiver Juaquin Iglesias, open down the middle of the field for a potential big gain. But as the ball arrived, Florida sophomore strong safety Ahmad Black wrestled the ball away from Iglesias for his team-leading seventh interception of the season.

"I just snatched it out," Black said. "He probably didn't even know I was there."

Florida took over at its own 24-yard line, then put together an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to put the game away.

"We needed something to take the air out of their sails," Black said.

The interception, Bradford's second of the game, punctuated a night of missed opportunities for the Sooners. Twice, Oklahoma drove inside Florida's 10-yard line and in the first half came away with no points. In a previous second-quarter series, Florida defensive end Torrey Davis tackled Oklahoma running back Chris Brown on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line for a 2-yard loss.

Then, just before the end of the first half, Florida sophomore safety Major Wright came away with a Bradford pass deflected at the goal line for an interception, keeping the score tied at 7 at halftime.

"As ironic as it is, we've been so efficient the entire year in the red zone," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "We came up short on two different occasions."

For Black, it ended the unlikeliest of seasons. Originally projected as a second-teamer, Black was elevated to the starting job when junior Dorian Munroe was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Some expected freshman Will Hill to eventually overtake Black for the starting job, but Black emerged as an anchor in a Florida secondary that showed marked improvement this season.

"It's been a great year," said Black, who received 66 text messages and two voicemails on his cell phone during the course of the game. "I love my teammates. I thank Coach for giving me the opportunity and chance to show what I can do."

Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who first noticed Black's ability running down kicks on special teams last season, said that Black has made the most of his opportunities.

"Everybody says, too slow, too small," Strong said. "He just keeps making plays for us."

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