Bowden is tricky, but hopes he doesn't have to be
Posted: Saturday January 02, 1999 05:14 PM
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
TEMPE, Ariz. (CNN/SI) -- Bobby Bowden has been trying to pull a fast one over on the big boys ever since he began his coaching career at tiny Samford in 1959.
Back then, he figured his team had to pull out all the stops to beat mighty schools like West Virginia. When he took over at West Virginia in 1970, it was the likes of Penn State and Pittsburgh that caused him to go deep into his playbook.
Even at Florida State, where the 69-year-old Bowden has been since 1976, the Seminoles have had to scramble for ways to beat Florida and Miami, Alabama and Auburn.
So Bowden, working on his 11th straight season with a team in the top four, went to his trick book early. Some of them worked, some of them didn't.
But his reputation as a gambler has stuck.
Bowden doesn't rely as much on trickery these days. After all, his Florida State team, which plays Tennessee for the national title Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl, is one of the biggest of the big boys now.
But the plays are still there for the pulling out as needed. This season against Florida, down by six points early in the third quarter, wide receiver Peter Warrick pulled up on an apparent end-around and clotheslined a 46-yard touchdown pass to split end Ron Dugans. The play gave the Seminoles the lead for good.
"I've always had trick plays in out game plans," Bowden said this week during preparations for Monday night's game. "I just put in trick plays that might help us in games sometimes. Some of them work, and people see that and think all of them work."
None has worked better than the puntrooskie against Clemson in 1988.
The Seminoles already had lost to Miami that year, so they badly needed the win against the Tigers in Clemson. Tied late in the game, Florida State lined up in punt formation. Clemson never saw what was coming.
The snap went directly to upback Dayne Williams, who stayed put and tucked the ball between his legs. LeRoy Butler came around from right end, took the ball from between Williams' legs, then ran down the left sideline before he was finally dragged down inside the Clemson 10-yard line.
The play led to the winning field goal in a 24-21 win, Florida State finished the season 11-1 and Bowden's reputation as a gambler was cemented.
"Our fans call trick plays the ones that work," Bowden said. "But it's a good sign if you don't have to use them."
If Bowden could have one of those trick plays back, it would be the now-infamous fumblerooskie he called against Auburn in 1990. The play was supposed to be simple: The center would fake the snap, then come back down with it and leave it on the ground, where a guard pulling around would pick it up and rumble downfield.
The snap went OK, the ball was on the ground, but the blocking upfront broke down and an Auburn defensive lineman actually fell on the ball, recovering the fumble.
Florida State was ahead by 10 points in the game but lost 20-17.
Both Florida State and Tennessee say they have some trickery in the playbook for Monday night's game. But, Bowden said, don't expect to see much from Florida State -- unless desperation sets in.
"You're not going to beat Tennessee," Bowden said, "on trick plays."
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