10 Keys to Sugar Bowl
Posted: Monday January 03, 2000 11:39 PM
The Hokies' defense will likely key on WR Peter Warrick, hoping for a repeat of Warrick's 1999 Fiesta Bowl performance. Andy Lyons/Allsport
By Stewart Mandel, CNN/SI
NEW ORLEANS -- With all the press conferences and several open practices, it's hard to believe anything surprising could happen during Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech. Nevertheless, here's our best guess at 10 things to watch for:
1. Run, Michael, run No amount of preparation could enable FSU to completely slow down slithery Hokies QB Michael Vick. Even with the 'Noles' speed on defense, expect Vick to still cause some damage on the ground.
"A guy like that usually gives us problems considering the type of defense that we run," said FSU corner Mario Edwards. "When the quarterback gets out of the pocket, that could hurt us for big yardage. He is a player, so he is going to make some plays, but what we have got to try to do is eliminate the big plays."
2. Peter the great No 7-yard night for Peter Warrick this year. His two-game suspension for the Dillard's incident allowed FSU to get as many as nine other receivers in the mix, and they can do it again if Tech keys too much on Warrick.
"We're not going to change the scheme that got us here," said Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster. "We may do some different things with Peter Warrick. But, if you do too much with one guy, they have other athletes at other positions that can hurt you."
Warrick should find his spots, and once he gets the ball -- look out. Plus, we could see him out of the backfield and behind center at various points as well.
3. One will slip Virginia Tech's special-teams success is well-documented. But look for at least one punt return to go awry. Hall, the regular returner is likely out, and backup Ronyell Whitaker was slowed this week by a leg-muscle injury.
Beamer said either redshirt freshman Terrell Parham or true frosh Shawn Witten could get the call. Neither has returned one this year. The national title game -- specifically one in a dome -- is not the ideal time to break them in.
4. Moore to talk about FSU fans and maybe some others are rooting for a flop from Tech All-American DE Corey Moore to finally shut up. Fat chance. No one's completely silenced him -- on the field, at least -- all season, and in a possible mismatch, FSU will be rotating freshman tackle Brett Williams against Moore about half the time.
On the flip side, it's unlikely Moore would have more than a modest impact against the 'Noles' usually sturdy line. The same goes for the John Engleberger and the rest of the Hokie D-line, which won't get to Chris Weinke as much as some previous QBs.
5. No Minor role Sometimes it seems like speedy FSU tailback Travis Minor has fallen off the face of the earth since his breakout freshman year in '97. But in fact, he's rushed for over 1,600 yards and scored 14 TDs the last two years. Expect him to contribute Tuesday.
"There is no doubt that with the pass rush they bring, the best thing to do sometimes is give it to the running back on a draw and let him find that hole," said Bobby Bowden. "I hope we have success with it to help neutralize their pass rush."
6. Don't forget Andre While Warrick is more of an all-purpose playmaker, Virginia Tech has a dangerous deep threat in Andre Davis, who had eight catches of 50 or more yards this season. FSU's cover men have proven vulnerable at times, suffering 80-yard plays by both Georgia Tech's Dez White and Miami's Santana Moss.
Expect Davis to get open for at least one long bomb, especially later into the game when nerves settle down.
7. Here's the kicker Sebastian Janikowski's kicking prowess is well known. So are some of his other exploits. But there's a reason Bowden says the Polish native will be kicking Tuesday night "as long as he's living and breathing."
While championships are often decided by big plays, FSU with Janikowski need only gain field position and/or move the ball a tad to get on the board. Expect a similar performance from Janikowski as the Florida game, where he nailed three field goals -- one from 54 yards.
8. Orlando Brown, steer clear Like most bowl games and particularly last year's Fiesta Bowl, we could see a whole lot of penalty flags, especially early on. Though both teams deny it now, nerves will be at a high, naturally leading to some false starts/offsides. And for several linemen on both sides, this will be their first game in a dome.
9. Let's hear that Hokie yell In terms of "dome-field advantage," Virginia Tech is expected to bring more fans than Florida State. And if behavior around town is any indication, they'll be loud. But remember, it's almost impossible for one team to have a strictly crowd-based advantage on a neutral site. Even if 60 percent of the stadium is rooting for you, that's still 40 percent less than you're accustomed to at home.
10. You make the call Fans who watched last year's Fiesta Bowl remember the blanket of Tostitos promotion throughout the telecast and around the stadium. Same deal this time, except for Nokia.
Last year Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer received a bag of Tostitos just after winning the national title. In a championship sight fit for the new millennium, after Bowden or Beamer wins this year, look for him to deliver the postgame speech on a Nokia cell phone.
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