January 4, 2000 - by
‘Noles Rally To Become National Champs

Jan. 4, 2000





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By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

Perfection Is Never Easy



NEW ORLEANS — No. 1 at the start, No. 1 at the finish.

Florida State is the perfect national champion.

Led by the sizzling Peter Warrick and the steady Chris Weinke, the Seminoles
held off Virginia Tech for a 46-29 victory in the national championship game
Tuesday night.

The Hokies’ thrilling freshman quarterback, Michael Vick, did all he could
to run his team to victory in the Sugar Bowl, but it wasn’t enough.

Warrick electrified a Superdome crowd with a record 20-point game – he
caught touchdown passes of 64 and 43 yards, returned a punt 59 yards for a
score and snagged a 2-point conversion pass from Weinke.

The 27-year-old Weinke, playing perhaps the final game of his college
career, completed 20 of 34 passes for 329 yards and four TDs – two to Warrick
and two to Ron Dugans. Warrick finished with six catches for 163 yards in the
highest-scoring Sugar Bowl in history.

Vick threw for 225 yards and one TD and ran for 97 yards and a score.

Florida State (12-0) was certain to become the first team to go wire to wire
in The Associated Press’ poll since the preseason ratings began in 1950. The
final AP poll will be released early Wednesday to confirm the obvious.

The Seminoles were automatically crowned national champs in the USA
Today-ESPN coaches’ poll under the Bowl Championship Series format.


All week, Warrick and his senior pals promised each other they would do
everything possible to avoid losing three title games. They did – in a big way
– and Bobby Bowden completed a remarkable year. He won his 300th game in the
first father vs. son coaching matchup, celebrated his 70th birthday and 50th
wedding anniversary and finally attained his first perfect season in 40 years
as a coach.

Warrick, the All-American wide receiver who lost his chance at the Heisman
Trophy after a two-game suspension for his role in a shopping mall scam, came
up with his best performance in the final game of his college career.

In the first half, he caught three passes for 100 yards and his punt return
helped the Seminoles build a 28-14 lead after 30 minutes of big plays. Last
season, he was held to one catch for seven yards in a Fiesta Bowl loss to
Tennessee in the national title game. In fact, in three previous bowl games,
Warrick totaled five catches and no TDs.

He opened the scoring with his 64-yard grab, then took a punt and blazed
past Tech defenders for a 59-yard score and a 28-7 lead.

Late in the game, with half the crowd of 79,280 chanting “Peter Warrick,
Peter Warrick,” Weinke reared back and threw a 43-yard TD pass to the wide
receiver, who caught the ball while diving into the end zone with a Virginia
Tech defender draped over him. The chants rang out again and Warrick ran to the
sideline to celebrate with his teammates.


The win over the upstart Hokies (11-1) stamped the Seminoles as the Team of
the Decade and ended a run of national title misses under Bowden. Since winning
its first national crown in 1993, Florida State had lost two of the past three
title games – 23-16 to Tennessee last season, and 52-20 to Florida in ’97 in
what until Tuesday night was the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl.

The loss ended Virginia Tech’s dream season and a bid for its first national
title in 107 years of playing football. Vick was valiant in defeat. The
19-year-old left-hander overcame a lost fumble near the Seminoles goal line on
the game’s opening drive and led the Hokies back from a 21-point deficit to a
29-28 lead with 2:13 left in the third quarter.

Florida State somehow regrouped and regained the lead as Weinke hit Dugans
on a 15-yard score with 12:59 left in the game. Warrick caught a 2-point
conversion pass from Weinke and the ‘Noles were back in the lead, 36-29.

Florida State got the ball back when linebacker Bobby Rhodes‘ helmet knocked
the ball from Vick’s grasp and safety Sean Key recovered at the Hokies 34. The
turnover set up Sebastian Janikowski’s 32-yard field goal with 10:26 that put
the Seminoles ahead 39-29.

And then came Warrick’s best catch of all to seal the title. After stopping
Tech on fourth down, Florida State took over at the Tech 43 and Weinke found
Warrick, who held onto the ball with cornerback Roynell Whitaker hanging over
him.

Down 28-14 at the half, Virginia Tech seized the momentum. Vick threw a
26-yard completion to set up Shayne Graham’s 23-yard field goal to make it
28-17.

The Hokies defense came alive and forced a punt, which was returned 46 yards
to the Seminoles 36 by Ike Carlton, the cornerback subbing for injured Ricky
Hall. Three plays later, Andre Kendrick raced 29 yards for a touchdown to pull
the Hokies within 28-23. Kendrick stepped in for Shyrone Stith, Tech’s
1,000-yard rusher who missed the second half with a sprained left ankle. Vick’s
2-point conversion pass attempt was incomplete.

Cornerback Anthony Midget then intercepted a long pass intended for Warrick,
and Vick went to work again. He threw a 23-yard pass to Cullen Hawkins, was
sacked for a 7-yard loss and then went on a catch-me-if-you-can 22-yard dash to
the 6. Kendrick scored from 6 yards out and the Hokies were ahead for the first
and only time.

While Virginia Tech may be the undisputed champion on special teams – 63 in
the 1990s – it was Florida State that excelled in that department, too.
Sixty-eight seconds after Warrick’s first score. it was 14-0 after linebacker
Tommy Polley blocked a punt by Tech’s John Kibble, and Jeff Chaney scooped it
up and went 6 yards for a touchdown with 2:14 left in the first quarter. It was
the first time in Kibble’s career he had a punt blocked.


In the second season under the BCS format, everything went Florida State’s
way. The Seminoles, ranked No. 1 in both major preseason polls, also had a
schedule that was sixth-toughest among 114 I-A teams. As long as Florida State
kept winning, there was little chance the computer-heavy BCS standings would
leave the ‘Noles out of the title game.

Florida State had a healthy Weinke, Warrick for nine games and
a solid but unspectacular defense led by noseguard Corey Simon. When the
defense was burned for 387 yards and four TD passes by Georgia Tech’s Joe
Hamilton, the Seminoles’ offense took charge for a 41-35 victory on Sept. 11.

Bowden got career victory No. 300 against Clemson, coached by Bobby’s son,
Tommy, in college football’s first father vs. son coaching matchup.

Finally, there was the annual showdown with Florida, this time at The Swamp.
After the Gators went ahead 16-13 midway through the third quarter, Weinke led
the Seminoles to a tying field goal and two more TDs to seal a 30-23 victory.

Forty-five days later, the relieved Bowden has himself a second national
championship.
What a decade!


Perfection Is Never Easy


By BEN WALKER

AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – With the clock showing zeros and his second championship
secure at last, Bobby Bowden pulled off his cap and wiped his brow.

He had a right to feel relieved. Perfection is never easy.

Florida State, led by Peter Warrick and Chris Weinke, gave its 70-year-old
coach his first undefeated season with a 46-29 victory over scrambling Michael
Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

At a news conference today, Bowden was presented with The Associated Press
trophy for the national champion, along with the USA Today-ESPN coaches trophy.

“This team was supposed to do it, and they did it,” Bowden said today.
“You can bet your life we will be striving to get it back.”

Bowden also talked about the championship after the game.

“I’m as glad for my guys and Florida State that we were able to share it
together,” Bowden said Tuesday night. “It’s a milestone. I could’ve gone the
rest of my life and not had it happen.”

With sons Terry and Tommy watching – they coached Auburn and Tulane to
unblemished seasons in the ’90s – the No. 1 Seminoles became the first team to
go wire-to-wire in The Associated Press poll since the preseason ratings began
in 1950.

Fittingly, their imperfect star provided the biggest plays on a night when
Vick almost single-handedly won the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl ever.

Warrick scored a Sugar Bowl-record 20 points, catching touchdown passes of
64 and 43 yards from Weinke, running 59 yards on a punt return for a TD and
adding a 2-point conversion grab.

“I had to go out and have the best game of my life,” the All-American
Warrick said.

Warrick did little in Florida State’s championship losses in the 1998 and
1996 seasons. That changed this time as he wound up with six catches for 163
yards to win the most outstanding player award and earn a sideline handshake
from NFL star Randy Moss.

While the Seminoles were 12-0 on the field, losses mounted off the field
earlier in the season.

At least five players were suspended or kicked off the team for various
reasons, including Warrick, who missed two games for his role in a
shopping-mall scam.

“I wasn’t really focused on last year. That’s all behind me,” Warrick
said.

The game was filled with big scoring plays and momentum swings. The
Seminoles raced to a 28-7 lead, then the Hokies (11-1) came back to lead 29-28
late in the third quarter behind the electrifying Vick.

He spent the entire game on the run, leaving Florida State defenders and
even a game official sprawled on the Superdome turf.

The unstoppable freshman quarterback scrambled for 97 yards and a score, and
also threw for 225 yards and another touchdown. He was sacked seven times and
pressured throughout in the Hokies’ first championship game in the 107-year
history of the program.

“We did everything in our power we could, but that wasn’t good enough,”
Vick said.

The 27-year-old Weinke, playing perhaps the final game of his college career
– he’ll announce Friday whether he’ll return for his senior season – completed
20 of 34 passes for 329 yards. He threw for four TDs, two to Ron Dugans.

All week, Warrick and his senior pals promised each other they would do
everything possible to avoid losing three title games. They did, helping Bowden
complete a remarkable year.

Bowden won his 300th game in the first father vs. son coaching matchup
against Clemson and Tommy, celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary and finally
posted his first perfect season in 40 years as a coach.

The Seminoles were automatically crowned national champs in the USA
Today-ESPN coaches’ poll under the Bowl Championship Series format.

Warrick, who lost his chance at the Heisman Trophy after his arrest, showed
the big-play potential that might make him the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in
April.

Last season, he was held to one catch for 7 yards against Tennessee in the
title game. In three previous bowl games, Warrick totaled five catches and no
TDs.

He opened the scoring with his 64-yard grab, then took a punt and blazed to
the end zone.

Late in the game, with half the crowd of 79,280 chanting “Peter Warrick,
Peter Warrick,” Weinke reared back and threw a 43-yard TD pass to the wide
receiver, who caught the ball while diving into the end zone with a Virginia
Tech defender draped over him.

“We made a great comeback in the second half, but they came back, too, and
you have to give them credit,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said a few
minutes after taking a telephone call from President Clinton. “They keep
popping at you and that Warrick, he had a great night. What a performance.”

Clinton also called the Seminoles, who lost last year’s title game to
Tennessee 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl.

“This is something I was waiting for,” said Weinke, who missed that game
because of a neck injury. “I rehabbed for eight months for this one. We said
last year we could go wire-to-wire and when we went down in the third quarter,
we responded.”

Bowden was glad for the players, and himself.

“It’s a load off your shoulder to win this one,” he said. “This one I can
enjoy. I already had a national championship ring, but these guys didn’t have a
ring. Now they do. I have two.”

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