Oct. 23, 1999
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – It was a victory only a mother could love.
Florida State’s Bobby Bowden sneaked away with career victory No. 300 on
Saturday night as the top-ranked Seminoles rallied for a 17-14 decision over
Clemson in major-college football’s first father-son coaching matchup.
In the weeks leading up to this historic game, Ann Bowden said she was
rooting for her husband of 50 years to win, but in a close game against her
son, Tommy Bowden.
“This is what Ann wanted, not me,” relieved Bobby Bowden said. “I’m just
glad it’s over so people will stop asking me about it.”
Tommy was a gracious loser, and even kidded with his parents during the
postgame news conference.
“She’s a traitor,” he said, smiling. “I’ve said that she wasn’t my
mother, she was my father’s wife.”
Then he called out to them: “Where’s she going? Heck, you see him seven
days a week. What about me?”
Ann Bowden, wearing a half-Florida State, half-Clemson sweatshirt, then
walked up to the podium and gave Tommy a hug.
“To get that close … I’m very proud of this team,” Tommy, in his first
season at Clemson, said. “My father has 300 wins and has won 10 games a record
12 years in a row. They come back. They have weapons.”
With star receiver Peter Warrick back in the lineup after his legal case was
favorably resolved on Friday, the Seminoles (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast
Conference) were more lucky than good in beating the Tigers before a record
crowd of 86,200 at Memorial Stadium.
Warrick caught 11 passes for 121 yards, and Sebastian Janikowksi’s third
field goal – a 39-yarder with 5:26 left – broke a 14-all tie and kept Florida
State alive in its drive for the national championship.
Clemson (3-4, 3-2) had its bid to send the game into overtime ended when
Tony Lazzara’s 42-yard field goal attempt fell short with 1:57 left in the
Bowden joined Bear Bryant, Pop Warner, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Joe Paterno as
the only major college coaches to reach 300 victories.
When the game ended, Bobby Bowden was hugged by several of his players, then
lifted on their shoulders as the group made its way to midfield to meet Tommy
At the center of the field, father and son were pressed together by a horde
of photographers. They spoke briefly before heading off the field accompanied
by security guards.
“I’m very happy my players and coaches let me win my 300th,” Bobby Bowden
Asked if he though his team was still No. 1, he added: “We probably are,
but I don’t think we played like it.”
On a day of upsets – No. 3 Nebraska, No. 9 Michigan, No. 10 Alabama and No.
11 Michigan State lost – the Seminoles came back from a 14-3 halftime deficit.
Janikowksi’s second 33-yard field goal of the game cut the margin to 14-6
early in the third quarter. The Seminoles pulled even on Travis Minor’s 1-yard
touchdown run and Chris Weinke’s 2-point conversion pass to Dan Kendra with 10
seconds left in the third quarter.
In the final 15 minutes, the defenses took over, but Florida State managed
to put together a winning drive. Weinke, who was 24-of-49 for 258 yards, hit
Ron Dugans for gains of 7, 7 and 22 yards to set up Janikowski’s game-winner.
Earlier, Janikowski missed field goal attempts of 45 and 47 yards.
Warrick pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor petty theft in connection with
a department store scam last month. The Heisman Trophy contender missed the
Seminoles’ last two games when he was suspended in accordance with school
policy when he was charged with a felony. Pleading guilty to a reduced charge
allowed him to play against the Tigers.
While he did catch 11 passes, he dropped at least four.
“Pete had a couple of times to win the darned game,” Bobby Bowden said.
“I’ve never seen Peter do what he did tonight since he was a freshman. But
that was probably the way it should be.”
Many of the Bowden clan were at the game, including a dozen or so grandkids,
and they saw father and son go at each other with a vengeance. The Tigers were
called for three personal fouls, the Seminoles nearly knocked Clemson
quarterback Woody Dantzler out of the game, and there were penalties galore – a
combined 20 for 173 yards.
And, of course, there was a bit of trickery. Tommy ordered a fake punt that
kept alive a drive that resulted in a touchdown. In the final quarter, it was a
dipsy-doodle – Dantzler (102 yards passing, 86 yards rushing) to Travis Zachery
to Rod Gardner, who completed a 14-yard pass to Dantzler that went to the
Florida State 44. It set the stage for a potential game-tying field goal, but
Lazzara was well short in his attempt.
“I thought he out-tricked me, 3-0,” Bobby Bowden said.
Tommy Bowden wasn’t concerned with that score, but said his team is getting
closer to a big victory.
“They’re No. 1 and we came a lot closer than the last few times we’ve
played them,” Tommy said. “I think our players saw that they could play with
The 69-year-old Bowden, who began his coaching career at Samford in 1959,
never thought he’d be at this coaching stuff so long. But when he arrived at
Florida State in 1976 after six years at West Virginia, he found a home – and
built an empire.
He turned a program that had considered dropping football into one of the
most formidable in the country, especially over the past dozen years. Bowden’s
Seminoles have finished in the top four of the AP poll and won at least 10
games in every season since 1987, capturing the national championship in 1993.
Bowden, with folksy charm and honesty that has parents of high school stars
lining up to sign on with Florida State, has won 227 games at Florida State,
and his Seminoles are 105-13-1 in the 1990s – the most wins in any decade by a
major college team.
This latest one, though, may have been his toughest.