MIAMI, JAN. 1 -- Top-ranked Oklahoma was stymied by Miami for the third straight year, and once again it was the third quarter that was the turning point this year.

"Our inability to move the football in the third quarter and their kicking game was the difference," Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer said. "They were able to make the key plays on third and long. The best team won."

Miami and Oklahoma were tied 7-7 at halftime, but the Hurricanes scored 10 points in the third quarter to force Oklahoma to play catchup ball.

"When we have to throw the football, we're in trouble," Swtizer said. "Throwing every down, that's not our bag."

In the last two years, Miami has outscored Oklahoma 31-7 in the third quarter in beating the Sooners 28-16 in 1986 and 27-14 in '85. In last year's contest, Oklahoma turnovers helped push Miami out in front.

This time, Switzer said, "It wasn't our turnovers, it was their kicking game. When we were down 20-14, I thought we still had a chance. You never know what might happen."

With the score tied 7-7 and Miami driving in Oklahoma territory, linebacker Dante Jones stopped a screen pass to Miami's Melvin Bratton for a 6-yard loss. Then on fourth down, from their own 39-yard line, the Hurricanes' placekicker, Greg Cox connected on a 56-yard field goal with a slight breeze at his back.

After an Oklahoma punt, Miami drove against the Sooners defense and, on a third-and-11, Miami quarterback Steve Walsh hit Michael Irvin with a 23-yard scoring pass.

Switzer said the one turnover that may have cost Oklahoma came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson hit Keith Jackson over the middle for a 13-yard gain. Jackson coughed up the ball when he was hit by Miami's Selwyn Brown.

"I'll tell you what hurt us, it was when Keith Jackson fumbled," Switzer said. "If he doesn't drop that ball and we go in or kick a field goal, then it's a different ballgame."

"I was trying to run over him, and he just hit me extra hard," Jackson said. "Miami beat us two other times and it never bothered me like this. This time it was for the national championship, but the best team won the game."

Thompson, who rushed 19 times for 29 yards, said he was surprised Oklahoma's offense could not get untracked.

"I thought maybe our offense would be able to move the ball better," Thompson said. "I didn't think they would stop us like they did."

Thompson got Oklahoma going with less than three minutes remaining in the game as the Sooners passed the ball up the field using a combination of flea flickers and reverses.

Offensive guard Mark Hudson scored for Oklahoma on a 29-yard run when Thompson sat the ball on the ground and Hudson picked it up and barreled his way into the end zone.

"We never really felt desperate until there was about six minutes left," halfback Anthony Stafford said. "Even when we had the ball at the end, it was kind of the same way against Nebraska last year {Oklahoma scored 10 points in the last minute and a half to beat the Cornhuskers 20-17}. I was hoping the miracle would happen again, but it didn't."