Seminoles give Bowden second national title
Posted: Wednesday January 05, 2000 09:10 AM
Florida State's Corey Simon gets a hand on the ball in the end zone after Virginia Tech fumbles on its first possession. AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Once known as the team that couldn't win the Big One, Florida State had the perfect answer.
With a wild Sugar Bowl victory, the Seminoles proved they are the Team of the Decade by winning their second national championship.
Leading the way was the sizzling Peter Warrick and the steady Chris Weinke, who helped hold off Virginia Tech and freshman Michael Vick to give the Seminoles a 46-29 victory Tuesday night.
In two of the past three seasons, the Seminoles played for the national title but lost to Tennessee in last year's Fiesta Bowl and to Florida in the '97 Sugar Bowl.
"It's a load off your shoulder to win this one," Florida State Bobby Bowden said. "This one I can enjoy. I already had a national championship ring, but these guys didn't have a ring. Now they do. I have two."
Before the game, he joked he was the guy responsible for giving championship rings to other coaches -- the Vols' Phillip Fulmer and the Gators' Steve Spurrier.
This time, it was a No. 1 start and a No. 1 finish. The Seminoles will be the first team to go wire-to-wire in The Associated Press poll since the preseason ratings began in 1950.
While they were a perfect 12-0 on the field, they were far from perfect off the field. At least five players were suspended or kicked off the team for various reasons, including Warrick, the All-American wide receiver suspended two games for his role in a shopping-mall scam.
"I wasn't really focused on last year. That's all behind me," said Warrick, who was voted the game's most outstanding player.
Warrick thrilled a Superdome crowd with a record 20-point game. He caught touchdown passes of 64 and 43 yards, returned a punt 59 yards for a score and snagged a 2-point conversion pass from Weinke.
The game was filled with big scoring plays and momentum swings. The Seminoles raced to a 28-7 lead, the Hokies (11-1) came back to lead 29-28 late in the third quarter behind the sensational play of Vick before Florida State pulled away in the final quarter.
The 27-year-old Weinke, playing perhaps the final game of his college career, completed 20 of 34 passes for 329 yards and four TDs -- two to Warrick and two to Ron Dugans. Warrick finished with six catches for 163 yards in the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl in history.
Vick threw for 225 yards and one TD and ran for 97 yards and a score.
"We did everything in our power we could, but that wasn't good enough," Vick said.
The Seminoles were automatically crowned national champs in the USA Today-ESPN coaches' poll under the Bowl Championship Series format.
All week, Warrick and his senior pals promised each other they would do everything possible to avoid losing three title games. They did -- in a big way -- and Bowden completed a remarkable year. He won his 300th game in the first father vs. son coaching matchup, celebrated his 70th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary and finally attained his first perfect season in 40 years as a coach.
Warrick, the All-American wide receiver who lost his chance at the Heisman Trophy after his arrest, came up with his best performance in the final game of his college career.
"I had to go out and let me have best game of my life," Warrick said. "It's great to be here and I'm just happy to be here."
In the first half, Warrick caught three passes for 100 yards and his punt return helped the Seminoles build a 28-14 lead after 30 minutes of big plays. Last season, he was held to one catch for seven yards against Tennessee in the title game. In three previous bowl games, Warrick totaled five catches and no TDs.
He opened the scoring with his 64-yard grab, then took a punt and blazed past Tech defenders for a 59-yard score and a 28-7 lead.
| CNNSI.com On-Site |
| "What does Peter Warrick do so well? It's yards after the catch. I was a little bit surprised. I thought going into the game that you'd see the guy playing a little quarterback. I was also concerned about last year's game where he only caught one pass. But that didn't happen today because FSU had some great schemes, running other wide receivers down the field, allowing him to get open underneath. You throw the 5-yard pass to Peter Warrick and you don't worry about it because the guy's going to run 40 or 50 yards after that. He's a great, great football player. I feel good for him. He made his statement tonight."|
-- CNNSI.com college football analyst Trev Alberts.
Late in the game, with half the crowd of 79,280 chanting "Peter Warrick, Peter Warrick," Weinke reared back and threw a 43-yard TD pass to the wide receiver, who caught the ball while diving into the end zone with a Virginia Tech defender draped over him. The chants rang out again and Warrick ran to the sideline to celebrate with his teammates.
"We made a great comeback in the second half, but they came back, too, and you have to give them credit," Tech coach Frank Beamer said a few minutes after taking a telephone call from President Clinton. "They keep popping at you and that Warrick, he had a great night. What a performance."
The loss ended Virginia Tech's dream season and a bid for its first national title in 107 years of playing football.
Vick was valiant in defeat. The 19-year-old left-hander overcame a lost fumble near the Seminoles' goal line on the opening drive and led the Hokies back from a 21-point deficit to a 29-28 lead with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
"They know how to come back, too," Vick said. "They are the No. 1 team in the nation."
Florida State regrouped and regained the lead as Weinke hit Dugans on a 15-yard score with 12:59 left in the game. Warrick caught a 2-point conversion pass from Weinke and the 'Noles were back in the lead, 36-29.
Florida State got the ball back when linebacker Bobby Rhodes' helmet knocked the ball from Vick's grasp and safety Sean Key recovered at the Hokies 34. The turnover set up Sebastian Janikowski's 32-yard field goal with 10:26 that put the Seminoles ahead 39-29.
And then came Warrick's best catch of all to seal the title. After stopping Tech on fourth down, Florida State took over at the Tech 43 and Weinke found Warrick, who held onto the ball with cornerback Roynell Whitaker hanging over him.
"This is something I was waiting for," said Weinke, who missed last year's title game with a neck injury. "I rehabbed for eight months for this one. We said last year we could go wire-to-wire and when we went down in the third quarter, we responded. And that's what it's all about, why we won the national championship."
Down 28-14 at the half, Virginia Tech seized the momentum. Vick threw a 26-yard completion to set up Shayne Graham's 23-yard field goal to make it 28-17.
The Hokies defense came alive and forced a punt, which was returned 46 yards to the Seminoles 36 by Ike Carlton, the cornerback subbing for injured Ricky Hall. Three plays later, Andre Kendrick raced 29 yards for a TD to pull the Hokies within 28-23. Kendrick stepped in for Shyrone Stith, Tech's 1,000-yard rusher who missed the second half with a sprained left ankle. Vick's 2-point conversion pass attempt was incomplete.
Cornerback Anthony Midget then intercepted a long pass intended for Warrick, and Kendrick scored from 6 yards out and the Hokies were ahead for the first and only time.
While Virginia Tech may be the undisputed champion on special teams -- 63 in the 1990s -- it was Florida State that excelled in that department, too. Sixty-eight seconds after Warrick's first score, it was 14-0 after linebacker Tommy Polley blocked a punt by Tech's John Kibble. Jeff Chaney scooped it up and went 6 yards for a touchdown with 2:14 left in the first quarter. It was the first time in Kibble's career he had a punt blocked.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © 2000|
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.