Florida State QB earns ultimate respect on big stage
Posted: Wednesday January 05, 2000 04:28 AM
Chris Weinke finally gained the respect he has sought since he came to Florida State three years ago. AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Chris Weinke erased all doubts by throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns Tuesday night to lead Florida State to its first perfect season.
Weinke had to shake off the rust from a six-year layoff when he came to Florida State as a 24-year-old freshman. Many were unsure if could regain his football skills and lead one of the country's top programs.
And some, including Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, were uncertain if Weinke would ever play again after a serious neck injury in the 1998 season.
He prevailed on both counts.
"This is something I've been waiting for," Weinke said. "I rehabbed eight months to win a national championship."
Weinke injured his neck against Virginia in November 1998 and didn't have any contact until the Seminoles' first game of the season against Louisiana Tech.
In what may have been his final game, Weinke found senior receivers Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans for two touchdowns each as the Seminoles shook off a furious third-quarter rally by Virginia Tech for a 46-29 victory.
Weinke, who missed last year's title game against Tennessee with a neck injury, completed 20 of 34 attempts and was intercepted once.
And just like he did at Florida in November, Weinke engineered two scoring drives after the Seminoles fell behind.
"It may be this team needs to get behind to get focused," said Weinke, who added he will announce his future plans at a news conference Friday.
"What a great way to go out," said Weinke, who then hinted he might stay at Florida State. "I don't remember the last time a team went undefeated two years in a row."
And Bowden was already lobbying.
'If this guy comes back, we'll be pretty darned good again,' he said. "We've got the nucleus."
Perhaps best known as the nation's oldest quarterback, the 27-year-old Weinke hit Warrick on scoring plays covering 64 and 43 yards and combined with Dugans on touchdown plays of 64 and 14 yards.
Weinke has won all but one of his 22 starts at Florida State.
Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward led Florida State to its first national title in 1993, but the Seminoles were beaten during the regular season at Notre Dame.
Weinke enrolled at Florida State in 1996 after spending six years as a minor league baseball player in the Toronto Blue Jays' system.
And he may have never won the starting job, but Dan Kendra was injured in the 1998 spring game and sat out last season rehabilitating a knee injury.
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