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Closer Look

Warrick's feet give Seminole fans reason to dance

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Thursday January 06, 2000 02:06 AM

  Peter Warrick Peter Warrick's three touchdowns and 163 yards receiving earned him Sugar Bowl MVP honors. AP

By Stewart Mandel, CNNSI.com

NEW ORLEANS -- Peter Warrick made his entrance to Tuesday's Sugar Bowl by casually dancing onto the turf when introduced. Later that evening, Seminoles fans would be dancing on the streets of New Orleans, thanks largely to Warrick's feet.

Time will tell whether the Florida State receiver's stunning performance in the national championship game will win over those who villified Warrick for his shoplifiting incident and subsequent suspension. But one thing is clear: he almost single-handedly won Bobby Bowden his second national title.

"It would have been hard to win tonight without Peter Warrick," the coach said of his player who scored a Sugar-Bowl record 20 of FSU's 46 points. "It was a team win, but in terms of firepower, he gave us a lot of bullets."

Warrick finished with six receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a 59-yard TD on a punt return.

Both Bowden and Warrick said the Hokies actually did a decent job covering him. But apparently not as good as Tennessee last year, which held Warrick to one catch for seven yards in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.

"They did some things to Peter Warrick we didn't expect them to do, but as you know, Peter Warrick is going to find a way to get the ball," QB Chris Weinke said. "He's the best player in the country, and anyone who watched tonight, in the stands, or on TV, now knows once and for all he's the best player in the country."

The 46-29 final indicated an FSU cakewalk, but the Seminoles could easily have missed out on the title without Warrick's heroics.

While Michael Vick led his Hokies back from a 28-7 first-half deficit to take a 29-28 lead in the third quarter, FSU's offense struggled. In order to avoid Moore and the intimidating Virginia Tech defensive line, Weinke had no choice but to rely largely on quick-drop outs and halfback draws.

CNNSI.com On-Site
"[Warrick's] an All-American. He probably should have won the Heisman. He's one of the more special players in college football. He simply catches the ball then makes a couple of guys miss him. And when he gets in the open field there's absolutely nothing you're going to be able to do because his speed is outstanding. And it's nice to throw him back as a punt returner every now and then."
-- CNNSI.com college football analyst Trev Alberts.

But with the score still 0-0 with 3:22 left in the first quarter and the ball at his own 36, Weinke deviated long enough to drop back and pump-fake, leaving Warrick to blow by corner Anthony Midget, haul in the pass and sprint 64 yards to the end zone.

"Coming into the game, I was so concerned about Vick making big plays, I knew he was going to make big plays, so I said, 'Pete, you're gonna have to make plays to counter his,'" Bowden said.

Warrick would also strike on a 59-yard punt return three minutes into the second half that put FSU up 21-7 and a diving, 43-yard TD late that broke the Hokies' backs. The last score came after a long timeout, with FSU fans chanting "Pet-er War-rick" before the teams returned to the field. With 7:42 left, the 'Noles probably should have been eating clock, but, Warrick said, "I asked them during the timeout, 'Do you want me to finish them right here?'"

Warrick denied to the end he wasn't trying to make a statement about being left out of the Heisman presentation and losing out on the Biletnikoff Award to Stanford's Troy Walters. But after a week of media hype in which Warrick was noticably focused and quiet, some teammates weren't so sure.

 
Peter the Great
Warrick's bowl history game-by-game
Year  Bowl  Rec.  Yards  TD 
1997  Sugar 
1998  Sugar  82 
1999  Fiesta 
2000  Sugar  163  2* 
* also returned a punt 59 yards for TD
"I think Peter felt like he had to make something happen," freshman receiver Nick Maddox said. "I mean, to not win the Heisman, to not even be invited? ..."

Now, it's on to the NFL, quite possibly as the No. 1 pick this spring, and along with it an exponential increase in fame and exposure. Like his former roommate/close friend Randy Moss, he will have to deal with overcoming a negative image despite all the talent in the world.

Warrick has said repeatedly that he learned his lesson from the Dillard's incident. When asked after the game whether, knowing he'd win the Sugar Bowl ring and MVP, he'd go through the whole season again, Warrick answered with an emphatic "yes."

"I didn't win the Heisman, I didn't win the Biletnikoff, but I can't gripe about that," Warrick said. "I came back [for his senior year] for two reasons: to graduate and to win the national championship, and I did both.

"I can't please everybody. If someone hates me, I'm still going to love them. I know that I'm a role model, that kids look up to me. I made a mistake, and I'm never going to make it again."

And it may be some time before college football sees a receiver like him again.

 
Related information
Stories
Seminoles claim second national title, rip Hokies
Weinke proves he's big-time in big game
Photo Gallery: Sugar Bowl fanfare
Multimedia
The Seminoles got a champion's welcome back in Tallahassee on Wednesday.
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