January 3, 2000 - by
It’s National Title Time In New Orleans

Jan. 3, 2000




By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Wait no longer, it’s time for the national championship.

Florida State hasn’t played in 45 days, Virginia Tech 39 days. Players from
both teams are sick of strolling down Bourbon Street, watching fans whoop it up
while trying to keep themselves out of trouble.

“I’m tired of eating at Popeye’s and gumbo,” Seminoles wide receiver Ron
Dugans said.

“I’m ready to take care of business,” Hokies kicker Shayne Graham said.

And that business is the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night at the Louisiana
Superdome, where the team that was able to stay sharpest after all the time off
will most likely win the title.

“The layoff could affect us and it could affect them,” Florida State coach
Bobby Bowden said. “We’ll see.”

All-Americans Sebastian Janikowski and Corey Moore didn’t wait for the game
to be affected.

Janikowski, Florida State’s kicker/party animal, missed curfew New Year’s
Eve and had to run extra laps and stay in his room the next night. Moore,
Virginia Tech’s defensive end, had a media meltdown Friday, cursing reporters
then returning for a few interviews before clamming up for the rest of the
weekend.

Both, of course, will be ready to play.

“I don’t have a Warsaw rule,” Bowden said of his Polish-born kicker. “If
he’s breathing and alive, he’ll kick off that game.”

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said Moore was “apologetic.”

“Corey’s a good person. He’s just intense,” the coach said.

Last year’s title game, the first under the Bowl Championship Series format
that tacked on a two-day wait, will be remembered for more than just
Tennessee’s 23-16 win over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Both teams looked out of sync and there were 21 penalties for 165 yards,
many of them in the first half. The Seminoles were flagged 12 times for 110
yards.

At Monday’s final pre-game news conference, Bowden responded by saying, “We
have prepared them correctly as good as we know how.”

Beamer added: “The layoff is not an excuse for penalties. We’ve had enough
practice time to focus.”

Style points, though, don’t count in national title games. Just score one
more point than the other guy, a fact not lost on the top-ranked Seminoles.
Since giving Bowden his first national championship in 1993, Florida State has
failed to win a second one two times in the past three seasons.

Lose again, and this label awaits: Florida State, college football’s version
of the Atlanta Braves and Buffalo Bills. Win, and the Seminoles are the Team of
the Decade.

“We’ve been so close,” said Peter Warrick, the All-American wide receiver
who’s been around for the title losses to Tennessee and Florida in the ’97
Sugar Bowl. “This is the last one, and I don’t want to let this one go by like
the other two.”

Florida State has been the dominant team of the 1990s with a record 108 wins
and a 12-year string of top-four finishes in The AP poll. The most memorable
victory this season – so far – was Bowden’s career win No. 300 – 17-14 over
Clemson in college football’s first father vs. son coaching matchup.

A victory over the Hokies would also give Bowden the first perfect season in
his 40 years as a head coach, and it would make Florida State the first team to
go wire-to-wire in The AP poll since the preseason ratings began in 1950.

“Yes, if we won this one, it would be better than the last,” Bowden said.
“The last time it was more of a relief. ‘God, we finally got a national
championship.’ They can’t say Bobby Bowden never won a national championship.”

If Virginia Tech wins?

“I ain’t cutting my throat, I’m not slicing my wrists,” Bowden said.
“I’ll come back and we’ll try to do it the next year.”

The second-ranked Hokies, meanwhile, are in the title game for the first
time in the school’s 106-year history. Thirteen seasons after Beamer returned
to his alma mater and said he’d win a national title, Virginia Tech is on the
verge of making his wild prediction a reality.

“I don’t think our world is going to start or end with us winning this
football game,” Beamer said. “It would be great if we won, it would be a new
day at Virginia Tech. But if we lose, it’s not the end of it. I would expect to
come back next year and be in it again.”

Led by the pinpoint passing and flashy footwork of quarterback Michael Vick,
the 11-0 Hokies have turned into one of the nation’s most exciting teams.

Virginia Tech was already known for a relentless defense, led by 17-sack man
Moore and fellow defensive end John Engelberger, and the nation’s best special
teams – 63 blocked kicks in the ’90s. But the 19-year-old Vick has taken the
Hokies to new heights.

He threw for 1,840 yards and 12 TDs, ran for 585 yards and eight TDs and
finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, equaling the best showing by a
freshman. Tech led the nation in scoring defense at 10.5 points a game and in
scoring, 41.4 points a game.

So far, Vick hasn’t flinched under pressure, and he doesn’t expect to in the
biggest game of his life.

“Being calm is just the type of person I am,” he said. “I go out there
and try to execute the game plan. It’s kind of tough to get to me.”

Chris Weinke, the Seminoles’ 27-year-old quarterback, is especially thankful
for a chance to play in the title game. He missed the ’99 Fiesta Bowl with a
neck injury that almost ended his career. His replacement, Marcus Outzen, was
overmatched against Tennessee.

“Having Weinke is a big factor,” offensive coordinator Mark Richt said.
“He is a great leader. We feed off Weinke. Every day at practice, he tells
people what to do.”

Related Articles