MIAMI -- Jimmy Johnson once lost to Barry Switzer by 49 points. That may have raced through his mind as he was being carried toward midfield a few minutes into Saturday morning. His first three seasons at Miami, his teams were losers in the greatest comeback in big-time college football history and in all of their bowl games. That also may have played a part in his postgame ride being so wild. No coach ever enjoyed winning the national championship more.

"I don't hide my feelings well," he said after the 20-14 victory over Oklahoma. "I don't try to."

Earlier this week, he had admitted: "Sometimes I feel like a professional wrestler. Not The Sheik or The Missing Link, the ones who hold the belt up and walk around. I'm the other guy, the one nobody knows.

"Last year at the Fiesta Bowl, Joe Paterno was Sportsman of the Year. I was the other guy. So I looked forward to playing here in the Orange Bowl. I didn't realize I'd be the other guy again." He paused and added: "But I don't mind the pro wrestling thing. The other guy might win one some day." Such as the 54th Orange Bowl, when he gave Oklahoma and Switzer a severe spanking in about every way possible.

Twinkling, Johnson referred to his reputation as a run-it-up coach, suggesting he learned it from Switzer.

"I'm on the sideline {as coach at Oklahoma State}," he said, "and the scoreboard is going click-click . . . click-click . . . click-click. It ends: OU 63, Oklahoma State 14. I thought to myself: 'Hey, this is pretty good. I might try it when I get to Miami.' "

For anyone not deeply attached to Miami, this collision for the national championship offered little that will linger. What it may be known for, a year or so from now, is serving as a springboard for another Hurricanes quarterback making a run at the Heisman Trophy.

Did the name Steve Walsh ring any football bells before around 8:30 Friday night? Probably not. Until a performance more surprising than it should have been, he was the unheralded one in Miami's Quarterback Begats.

The procession is familiar: Jim Kelly followed by Bernie Kosar. Then came Vinny Testaverde, who grabbed the Heisman but could not pass the favored Hurricanes past Penn State with the national title on the line in the Fiesta Bowl last year.

Walsh threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-14 victory Friday night. He is a hotshot who passed 4,700 yards in high school and earned mostly A's in the classroom.

Pardon one dissenter, but it was Walsh who deserved the postgame award voted to linebacker Bernard (Tiger) Clark. Walsh gave the Hurricanes the versatility that eventually separated them from the run-obsessed Sooners.

Miami meant to feature Walsh quickly and often, having him drop back on the game's first play. Nobody was open, so he scrambled for a slight gain.

Soon, he was afire. Favoring Michael Irvin, he pitched Miami to the Sooners 30 with four completions. Then he backpedaled and tossed a soft spiral Melvin Bratton might have had to work to miss in the end zone. This touchdown gave Miami hope for a point barrage that went unrealized. Walsh was part of the reason, his last pass of the half being completed but to a Sooner. Oklahoma then tied the game shortly before intermission.

While Miami's players were executing better than Oklahoma's, Johnson was out-thinking Switzer. Going for his fourth national title, Switzer's mind a few times seemed as limp as the leg he hurt late in the regular season.

The Sooners run and then run some more. They have an offensive line bigger than most in the NFL, with two tackles not good enough to play regularly who are expected to be drafted.

Yet Switzer twice chose not to go for it on fourth down with less than the length of the football stopping drives. He's usually bolder than that.

Johnson, meanwhile, decided to shoot for a first down, rather than a field goal, on fourth and four from the 29 near the end of the third quarter. He might lose this fourth postseason game at Miami, but not without trying for a knockout punch.

Back went Walsh. Toward him charged a blitzer; calm as you please, the redshirt sophomore flipped the ball to Bratton, in the area the blitzer vacated, for the first down. Three plays later, Walsh hit Irvin in the end zone for what amounted to the winning points.

That 17-7 lead got three points larger -- and Miami started celebrating with much of the fourth quarter still remaining. Walsh had stepped on a bench and, regal-like, received congratulations.

Several other players went through private rituals they had planned a year ago, before Penn State, but never got to execute. All of a sudden, an Oklahoma blocker thundered into the end zone.

What Switzer had done was borrow a trick from Nebraska's Tom Osborne, the quarterback leaving the ball on the ground, a guard picking it up and dashing downfield.

Nebraska used the play three times in important games. Each time, including the loss to Kosar here four years ago, it produced a touchdown. Also, Nebraska lost each time.

Switzer seemed to get Miami's momentum back sooner than necessary after that touchdown. Instead of pinning the Hurricanes deep in their territory with a long kickoff, he chose an onsides squibber with 2:05 left.

Miami was forced to punt, the Sooners then fumbled and Johnson was atop the shoulders of players.

"I have been been hurting three or four years," he said. "This makes the hurt feel a bit better than three hours ago."