Q&A with SI's Layden and Maisel
Posted: Tuesday January 04, 2000 12:41 AM
Michael Vick continues to amaze everyone with his poise under the national spotlight.
CNN/SI spoke with Sports Illustrated college football writers Tim Layden and Ivan Maisel from New Orleans for a preview of Tuesday night's national championship game.
CNN/SI: What did you make of Corey Moore's outburst at Sugar Bowl media day on Friday?
Tim Layden: I didn't make too much out of it. After all, I was in Blacksburg nearly two weeks ago to talk to Corey Moore and he gave me the same act when it came to talking about Florida State before he calmed down and spoke a little bit about the game. The fact is showing that kind of attitude is the way Corey Moore gets himself fired up to play a big game. I talked to a couple of his teammates about it, whether he gives them those kinds of speeches, and they said, "No, not really. He saves his best stuff for you guys."
CNN/SI: Virginia Tech seems to be enjoying the spotlight, but the team also seems ready to play, tired of questions.
TL: Yeah, they had already been in New Orleans four days as of New Year's Eve. I talked to Michael Vick on Friday and it looked like the 19-year-old redshirt freshman quarterback had had it with the interviews and the questions more than anyone else on the team. There really wasn't any topic he wanted to talk about at all that day. He eventually walked off and said, "I've been answering the same questions for 40 days. This is the last day I'm talking. I'm ready to play the game."
CNN/SI: I don't know if we can overstate how special Michael Vick is, especially given that he's just 19 years old...
Ivan Maisel: Even the Virginia Tech coaches are amazed at how he has reacted this year. There was a game earlier in the season where they worked all week on a play when he was to throw to either the fullback or the tight end. Every time in one practice he went to one or the other. And at the end of the practice offensive coordinator Ricky Bustle said, "Okay, in case you need him, Ricky Hall will be right on the back line of the end zone." Bustle told me that once they got into the game, both the fullback and the tight end were covered and Vick didn't hesitate. He went right to Ricky Hall. That's just not a reaction you expect from a freshman.
CNN/SI: How do you think Chris Weinke will fare against Tech's very aggressive rush?
TL: It's interesting. Everyone knows that Chris Weinke is 27 years old, older than a lot of guys in the NFL, and he's got the personality to match. He's tried to stay above all the name-calling and trash-talking that goes with a national championship game like this. But there are two themes that he's heard being harped on since this game got made. One, that he's the less athletic quarterback of the two in the game. Two, that he's not going to finish the game because Virginia Tech's pass rush is going to get to him. When I talked to Corey Moore in Blacksburg a few days ago, he said if Weinke stands in the pocket, they better have their second-team quarterback ready to go. So this week I relayed those comments to Chris Weinke. And I asked him, "I know you're a mature guy, but does hearing that kind of stuff get you ready to go?" He said, "You bet. Hearing a guy say that I'm not going to finish a game gets me motivated to play even more than I already am."
The best thing to look at is the Florida game where the Gators had a good pass rusher, Alex Brown, and Florida State kept him off Chris Weinke by using fullback Dan Kendra to chip Brown every time he got into the backfield, take a shot at him, in effect, be the second guy blocking Alex Brown. Now they'd like to do the same thing to Corey Moore. The big difference is Alex Brown came from the weak side of the offensive formation, which is where Kendra lines up on every play. Corey Moore usually lines up on the strong side. That's going to force Florida State to either move Dan Kendra to the other side of the formation or use a halfback, Travis Minor or Jeff Chaney, to chip Moore, which takes them out of the passing game. It's an interesting dilemma for Florida State to solve.
CNN/SI: Bobby Bowden has said many times that if he loses this game, his world won't end. But there's no doubt he wants the perfect season very, very badly...
IM: Absolutely. The two things about Bobby Bowden that are the keys to his success are his humility and his enthusiasm. He doesn't do a whole lot of coaching anymore; he has one of the best staffs in the country. But he is still the heartbeat of this team. His players love him and they really want to win this for him.
CNN/SI: There's no disputing the fact that Peter Warrick must have more of an impact on the Florida State offense. But let's play devil's advocate: the Seminoles proved they could win without him, so what's the big deal?
TL: He's the most explosive player in the country and you absolutely have to put the ball in his hands if you're going to win a national championship game. They proved that last year in the desert. Florida State's going to do a lot of the same things they've done all season long. They're going to line up Warrick at quarterback and let him run. They're going to line him up at quarterback and let him throw. They're going to line him up at running back and run sweeps, they're going to line him up in the slot and run reverses. The thing that concerns Virginia Tech the most -- and cornerback Ike Charlton told me about this -- is when Florida State lines Warrick up in the slot late in the formation. That's going to force Virginia Tech to play him with either a strong safety or even a linebacker at times. In that case, he's going to catch the ball and they're going to have to tackle him or he'll make big plays.
CNN/SI: There's been a lot of talk about Virginia Tech's special teams, but what about Florida State's? Bobby Bowden doesn't overlook them, does he?
TL: Yeah, the buzz is all about Virginia Tech's special teams, but just remember the most effective special-teams weapon in the Sugar Bowl is Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski. He's not going to let Tech run back a kickoff. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said they didn't even work on kickoffs leading up to this game. The second thing is Janikowski's got field-goal range of probably up to 60 yards in a dome. So he's the guy who could decide this game more than anybody else on special teams.
CNN/SI: Tim, we'll start with you. What are your keys to the game?
TL: I'd break it down this way. On offense, I'd give a very, very slight edge to Florida State because I have a lot of respect for Peter Warrick and I expect him to make a big play somewhere in this game. On defense, I give a huge advantage to Virginia Tech. I think they're the dominant defense in the entire country. Florida State's defense has been overrated all year, just not the same quality as the Seminoles' defenses through the mid-90s. Special teams? Call it a wash. Tech might block a kick somewhere, but Florida State's got Sebastian Janikowski. Coaching? I'd give a very, very slight edge to Florida State out of respect for Bobby Bowden and all the big bowls he's been to. But I'm a little concerned because they haven't won their last two big bowls. Overall, though, I'm going to give the last championship of the century to Virginia Tech.
CNN/SI: One vote for Tech, then. Ivan, what do you say?
IM: Here's how I see it. On offense, Chris Weinke is a ninth-year junior, a 27-year-old; that poise is going to last a whole lot longer in the Sugar Bowl than Michael Vick's freshman poise. On defense, I give a slight edge to Virginia Tech, there's no question about it. And on special teams, let's point out that Florida State blocked more kicks than Tech's famed kick-blockers this year. But still, I'm not going to pick one over the other -- it's a wash. Coaching, a slight edge to Florida State just on experience, and I like the Seminoles, 20- 13.
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