Heisman candidate Peter Warrick's felony charge overshadowed Florida State's sixth win
After a week in which he surrendered himself to Tallahassee police to be charged as a felon and surrendered his position as a Heisman Trophy favorite, Florida State senior flanker Peter Warrick spent last Saturday afternoon on the sideline at the Seminoles' Doak Campbell Stadium dressed in jeans and waving a white towel. It didn't matter that Warrick was waving it to exhort his teammates to a 31-21 defeat of Miami. The imagery was unmistakable.
Through five games Warrick had caught four touchdown passes, rushed for two scores, thrown a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and averaged nearly 15 yards every time he'd touched the ball. Last week's events proved he can be stopped by a double team. It's just that no one figured it would be Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. On Sept. 29, Warrick and the Seminoles' third-leading receiver, Laveranues Coles, walked into the Dillard's department store at Tallahassee Mall and paid $10.70 apiece to a willing sales clerk for a combined $412.38 of Hilfiger and Polo clothes. The store's surveillance system recorded the transaction, and the state attorney based in Tallahassee chose to pursue the case as third-degree felony grand theft. Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden threw Coles, who had had a previous run-in with the law, off the team and suspended Warrick indefinitely.
Though some Florida State fans failed to take the scam seriously—a message printed on the window of a car headed for the stadium on Saturday read FREE THE DILLARD'S 2—Bowden and Seminoles athletic director Dave Hart acted quickly. They had decided to suspend Warrick even before the police pressed felony charges. At a team meeting last Thursday, Bowden told his players, "This is what I've been warning you guys about. Anybody that can give you something for nothing is no good. Something's wrong. You can't accept it." He then turned his attention to the receivers, some of whom had groused that too many of the Seminoles' passes were aimed at Warrick. "Hey," Bowden said, "it's a chance for another star to be born."
Saturday's game suggested that if Florida State could afford to lose two starters at any position, it was at wide receiver. Quarterback Chris Weinke threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns, completing 23 passes to 11 players, seven of them wideouts. "Everybody has been complaining about not getting his at bats," senior Ron Dugans said after he led the Seminoles with five catches for 80 yards. "Now's the time. A lot of guys make plays in practice. They just want to show the nation they can make them in games."
Before the game Warrick, who won't be allowed to play until the charge is dropped or lowered to a misdemeanor, stood before his teammates and apologized. "Pete is a guy who doesn't show a lot of emotion," Weinke said after the victory. "I know he felt as low as he has ever felt. He knows he let the team down." As Warrick stood before the team, freshman flanker Greg Moore spoke up from the rear of the locker room. "We got your back, Pete," he said. "We got your back."
These Dawgs Can't Hunt
It has been a long couple of weeks for Georgia coach Jim Donnan. On Sept 25, Pat Watson, his friend of more than 20 years and the Dawgs' offensive line coach, died of a heart attack at age 56. A week later the Bulldogs struggled to their second straight one-point victory, 23-22 over LSU, prompting questions in Athens about just how good—or bad—Donnan's 10th-ranked Dawgs actually were. The answer was clear after sixth-ranked Tennessee drubbed Georgia 37-20 on a rain-soaked night in Knoxville last Saturday.
The loss was crushing for the Bulldogs, who for the third consecutive year had entered the game undefeated. Since Donnan became Georgia's coach four years ago, he has stressed the importance of beating Tennessee and Florida if the Dawgs are to ascend to the upper echelon of the SEC. Under Donnan, Georgia is 0-4 against the Volunteers and 1-2 against the Gators. Worse, the defeats have been downright ugly: The Bulldogs have been outscored 228 to 104. "I'm heartbroken," said Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter after Saturday's game. "We wanted to make believers out of everybody. Instead, we let ourselves and our fans down."
Georgia's biggest obstacle against Tennessee was that the Vols finally started to play as if they're capable of repeating as national champions. For the first time since the season opener, junior running back Jamal Lewis ran with pizzazz. Though he gained only 79 yards on 22 carries, his fourth straight game under 100 yards, he made decisive cuts and posed a big enough threat to force the Dawgs to put nine men near the line of scrimmage. Volunteers offensive coordinator Randy Sanders responded by calling play-action passes—Tennessee's trademark last season. Not coincidentally, quarterback Tee Martin threw for 283 yards. "We weren't perfect, but we're getting there," said Sanders. "I feel a whole lot better now than I did a week ago."