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Michigan St. 37, Florida 34
Posted: Saturday January 01, 2000 07:43 PM
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ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Plaxico Burress is the first candidate for Player of the 21st Century.

Burress caught a career-high 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns and Paul Edinger kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired to lift ninth-ranked Michigan State to a 37-34 victory over No. 10 Florida in the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Edinger calmly split the uprights from the right hashmarks to make a winner of Bobby Williams in his first game as Michigan State coach. Williams took command of the Spartans (10-2) on December 5, five days after Nick Saban departed to take over the troubled Louisiana State program.

"This was a very big win for Michigan State," Williams said. "I am very rpoud of the way these kids performed today. I thought we played an entire game for 60 minutes. I am extremely proud of the way our team fought back and the way they competed for the entire game."

"I means a lot, winning on national TV and picking up a bowl win," Burress said. "He (Williams) has made all the right decisions and you can't say enough about him and our coaching staff. I wanted to come here and play as hard as I could and be a human vacuum."

Playing on New Year's Day for the first time since 1989, Michigan State received touchdown passes of 37, 21 and 30 yards from Bill Burke to Burress, a 6-6, 230-pound junior who may have been playing his last college game.

"I'm about 60-40 on leaving," Burress said. "I just want to be happy and weigh my options."

The final one came with 10:46 to play and Burke hit Gari Scott for the two-point conversion to tie it, 34-34.

The Spartans used a penalty on Florida (9-4) to begin the game-winning drive on their own 45-yard line and Burke hit Burress for a five-yard gain to midfield. Lloyd Clemons carried four times for 28 yards to set up Edinger, who was wide right on a 46-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter.

"I looked up at the clock and saw three seconds remaining and I just wanted to win one for us," Edinger said. "It was like any other kick, I was just happy to get a chance to win the game."

Florida is riding a three-game losing streak for the first time in the Steve Spurrier era.

"We've lost three in a row," Spurrier said. "We're 9-4 and we're not going to be in the top 10 and we're not going to win ten games this year. That's the way it is in 1999. I think we'll have a strong team next year and hopefully, we'll win more than nine next year."

Burke completed 21-of-35 passes for 257 yards with two interceptions and Clemons totaled 105 yards on 20 carries for Michigan State, which snapped a four-game bowl losing streak.

Burress, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, provided Michigan State with a 26-21 advantage by outjumping Bennie Alexander and hauling in a 21-yard score with 1:10 left in the third quarter.

Florida answered 67 seconds later, as Travis Taylor caught his third touchdown pass of the game, a slant over the middle from Doug Johnson that he turned into a 39-yard score. Taylor totaled 156 yards on 11 receptions.

"We wanted to come out and play our game and that's to throw the ball around and catching a lot of passes, making yards after the catch," Taylor said. "You mouth off a little before the game but that is all right."

The emotional third quarter included several minor skirmishes.

Michigan State defensive end Hubert Thompson and Florida offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker were ejected after one fight, while Gators defensive back Demetrius Lewis was thrown out soon after.

"The bad blood came from the anticipation of playing the game," Williams added. "I think some of our Florida kids had a little something to di with it, too. You could feel it starting to build."

Florida mounted a 37-yard drive early in the final period and grabbed a 34-26 advantage when running Robert Gillespie recovered his own fumble 93 seconds into the quarter.

The Gators had a three-game bowl winning streak stopped. They lost in the postseason for the first time since falling to Nebraska, 62-24, for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 1996.

Florida led 7-3 after one quarter, courtesy of Johnson's 12-yard scoring pass to Taylor. Johnson, a senior, was 24-of-60 for 288 yards without an interception. He also ran for a one-yard score with 33 seconds left in the first half.

"Doug played well," Spurrier said. "He has played pretty well since he has been here. His statistics bear that out. He has played well. I am proud of him, hanging in there. I wish we had given him a better play or two there in the fourth (quarter)."

A wild second quarter saw a combined 31 points. During the period, Burke hit Burress for a 37-yard touchdown and Johnson and Taylor hooked up on an eight-yard TD. Linebacker T.J.

Turner brought back a fumble 24 yards for a score to give Michigan State a short-lived 17-7 lead.

The teams combined for 767 yards of total offense with Michigan State holding a 400-367 advantage.

"We can't control what everybody does, we can control what we do," Florida linebacker Andra Davis said. "We are all men, so we aren't going to let anybody walk all over us. We are going to stand up for ourselves and that's what happened."

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