Bowden ties Bryant as FSU handles Va. TechPosted: Tuesday January 01, 2002 4:46 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 01, 2002 7:08 PM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Bobby Bowden matched Bear Bryant's victory total, leading No. 24 Florida State to a 30-17 victory against No. 15 Virginia Tech on Tuesday in the Gator Bowl.
The victory extended to 16 Bowden's unbeaten streak in bowl games that don't decide the national championship, and gave quarterback Chris Rix and the Seminoles a solid finish on what had been a year for learning.
Rix, a redshirt freshman almost benched by Bowden during the season, made the play of the day when he wrist-flicked a pass that Javon Walker turned into a 77-yard touchdown to give the Seminoles the lead for good.
The pass, which came as Rix was being leveled by a Hokies blitz, sparked a 17-point fourth quarter that allowed the Seminoles (8-4) to put the Hokies (8-4) away, much as they did in the 1999 Sugar Bowl.
That game was for the national championship and, while this one had no such stakes, the Seminoles saw it as the start of their new beginning.
Thanks to Rix, the future looks brighter, and Bowden will begin next season with 323 career victories, tied with Bryant and four behind Penn State's Joe Paterno in Division I-A history. Paterno also leads Bowden in bowl victories, 20-18.
"I can't hardly believe that," Bowden said of matching Bryant. "I'm thankful for the boys for making something like that possible."
The Seminoles trailed 17-13 entering the final quarter, but took the lead back on the first play.
Facing a third-and-5 from his own 23, Rix dropped back as the Hokies blitzed, saw Walker break behind corner Ronyell Whitaker on the right sideline and threw as he was slammed hard by linebacker Kevin McCadam.
Walker caught the pass and outran Whitaker to the end zone.
That made it 20-17, and when the Florida State defense stuffed Kevin Jones on a fourth-and-1 run from the Seminoles' 32, Rix went right back to Walker, again behind Whitaker, for 50 yards to the Hokies' 18 yard-line.
Xavier Beitia, who already had field goals of 50 and 47 yards, added a 35-yarder that banked through off the left upright to make it 23-17.
Rix also hit Walker with a 23-yard scoring pass with 2:14 left, giving the wideout four catches for a school bowl-record 195 yards.
Rix was 12-for-25 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Virginia Tech was held to 98 yards of offense in the first half, but used the long ball to score on its first two third-quarter possessions.
Grant Noel had completions of 30 yards to Andre Davis and 22 to Terrell Parham on the first drive, capped by Kevin Jones' 5-yard run.
After Beitia's 47-yard field goal, the Hokies responded fast.
Richard Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Hokies' 45. Noel hit Davis with a short crossing pass two plays later, and the senior sprinter outran three Seminoles to complete a 55-yard touchdown.
The offense was a welcome site for a crowd of 72,202 after a first half that showed why both teams came up short in their title hopes.
The Hokies had a 22-yard touchdown pass from Noel to Ernest Wilford brought back by a holding call, and Noel fumbled on the following play.
Eric Green intercepted Rix on the Seminoles' second play, but Richard Johnson's double-reverse pass to a wide-open Wilford was short, and the receiver dropped the ball inside the 10 after a hit by Malcolm Tatum.
As they did in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, the Seminoles took a page from the Hokies' book and used a blocked punt to set up a scoring drive. Marcello Church made the block, Ryan Reynolds recovered at the Hokies' 1 and Rix dove it in on the next play.