Age hasn't dimmed Weinke's brilliance
Updated: Sunday November 19, 2000 1:36 AM
By Stewart Mandel, CNNSI.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Football, by most accounts, is a complex game.
Yet there's nothing about it that Bobby Bowden can't explain in the simplest terms.
Take, for example, his view on whether his quarterback, Chris Weinke, is too old to win the Heisman Trophy.
"It's not like he's played for eight years," the coach said of the 28-year-old following No. 3 FSU's 30-7 victory over arch-rival Florida. "He's played four years just like Drew Brees and everybody else."
Hey. The old man's got a point.
While we're at it, let's tackle a couple other myths about Weinke's Heisman candidacy -- while imitating Bowden's grandfatherly style.
"What, were all the other guys who've won the thing throwing to chairs?"
"Boy, I know one thing -- that wasn't Wake Forest out there tonight, was it? And I sure would like to see that dog."
"He's maybe only played one quarter of bad football all season, and even against Miami, we got behind but he led us back and put us in a position to win."
OK, so that last one was actually a real quote from FSU offensive coordinator Mark Richt -- Bowden's more analytical voice. But he, too, has a point.
Weinke's 23-of-44, 353-yard, three-touchdown day in Saturday's blistering of supposedly the fourth-best team in the nation was his grand finale in what can safely be declared one of the more amazing seasons ever turned in by a college quarterback. The numbers: 4,167 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions.
It turns out something really was decided in Tallahassee this week: the Heisman.
"Now that the game is over we'll wait to see what happens with the Heisman Trophy," said Weinke. "I have done everything I can for the things I have control of. I cane out and answered the bell for every game this season."
All this, despite his not being at full strength for most of the season. An ankle injury has affected Weinke since before that Oct. 7 Miami game. Last week against Wake Forest he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of practice Monday and Tuesday.
And on top of all that, he spent the day before the biggest game of the season laid up in a hospital -- and that night in a bed normally used by team doctor Kris Stowers' 11-year-old son -- with "flu-like symptoms." Not that everyone was buying it.
"I thought he was trying to pull one of those 'Win one for the Gipper' deals," said receiver Atrews Bell. "He looked good all week."
Weinke said he was fine by early afternoon Saturday, and it showed. He began Saturday night's game with a flurry, completing 8 of 12 throws for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. At one point, he threw consecutively a 42-yard pass to Bell and a 34-yard touchdown to the wide-open Marvin Minnis.
Minnis, who finished with eight catches for a whopping 187 yards, appeared to have his way with Florida's defenders ("I couldn't believe they were going to try to play us man-to-man; no one can guard us man-to-man," he said), but made a point of crediting Weinke.
"He made great throws, it wasn't just that I was open," said Minnis. "He's been making better and better reads [all season.]"
Weinke cooled down a bit after his quick start, throwing two interceptions and misfiring on others in the second and third quarters, but still managed to deliver the knockout blow on a 51-yarder to Minnis late in the third to go up 27-7.
Afterward, he pumped his fist in the air and played to the crowd, full of the kind of excitement you'd expect of ... well, someone 10 years younger.
"He wasted six years playing baseball when he probably should have been playing football," said Bowden. "Then he comes back, breaks his neck and almost couldn't walk. But he came back, he wins the national title ... I couldn't be prouder if him."
Dadgummit, coach, yes you could! But only if he wins that dang trophy.
Stewart Mandel is college sports producer for CNNSI.com