Cowart ripped his knee apart in the 1996 Orange Bowl and hadn't played again until Saturday. Three days before the game, he sat on a couch in Tallahassee, his left leg stretched out, decorated with two long, shiny scars carved by surgeons who repaired two torn ligaments. "I can't wait to run through a tunnel and listen to a crowd again," Cowart said. Against USC, he made a game-high 10 tackles, hearing the crowd with every one. "It was everything I'd hoped for," he said.
Despite this defensive dominance, Florida State nearly lost. At 7-7 with 13:28 to play, the Seminoles took possession on their own three. Senior center Kevin Long barged into the huddle and challenged his teammates, asking, "Y'all ready to go 97 yards or not?" On the second play, Busby threw a pass smack into Kelly's hands—a certain USC touchdown—at the Florida State 12. Kelly dropped the ball. Seven plays and five Busby completions later, Feaster scored from three yards out to put Florida State ahead. Two more Trojan drives were turned back before the Seminoles could escape from L.A., and before Bowden could measure the difficulty of the win and backpedal a bit.
"As far as reloading goes," he said, drenched with sweat in his dressing room, "I believe that one is still in question."