Nov. 21, 1999
By EDDIE PELLS
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Soon, the excitement of a big victory will ebb for
Bobby Bowden. It will be replaced by six of the most stomach-churning weeks of
anticipation he has ever experienced.
The Florida State coach is one win away from one of the few goals that has
eluded him – a perfect season.
“I think I’m due after 46 years,” Bowden said. “I sure would love to have
The top-ranked Seminoles (11-0) stayed undefeated Saturday with a 30-23
victory over No. 5 Florida on Saturday. They earned their second straight trip
to the national title game.
Running the slate without a loss is about the only missing piece to a
sparkling career for a coach with 303 career victories, one national title and
an accompanying list of achievements as impressive as anyone in the game.
In many ways, Bowden may have overcome his most difficult hurdle by
defeating the Gators (9-2) at The Swamp.
As the Seminoles danced at midfield after the game – not before, as they
have in the past – they had a sense that the big win against their toughest
opponent answered any remaining questions people had about them.
“This one feels really good,” Bowden said. “To beat the Gators in this
place for a chance to play for a national championship is awfully, awfully
Florida State did that back in 1993, as well, but they had one loss that
season and a Heisman Trophy winner in Charlie Ward playing quarterback.
This year’s quarterback is Chris Weinke. It was his ability to deal with
big-game pressure that helped the Seminoles to the victory.
Weinke finished 24-for-36 for 263 yards and overcame his biggest mistake –
an interception returned for a touchdown by Gators cornerback Bennie Alexander
– by leading the Seminoles to 17 straight points to win the game.
Peter Warrick had a good showing, catching nine passes for 90 yards and
running for one score. Jeff Chaney filled in for a nicked up Travis Minor and
scored the go-ahead touchdown. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit a 54-yard field
goal to tie the game and shift momentum soon after Alexander’s interception
“Going into this year, our goal was to come down here and win this football
game and play for the national championship,” Weinke said. `There were lots of
doubters throughout the whole year. But nobody’s beaten us yet. I don’t know
how many doubters are out there anymore.”
If the doubters do exist, they probably live near Virginia Tech or Nebraska,
the two schools in best position to play Florida State in the Sugar Bowl on
But the Seminoles completed the regular season feeling good about their
chances. Their theory is that if they can beat Florida in The Swamp, those
other guys on a neutral field should be beatable, as well.
Not willing to jump on the bandwagon was Gators coach Steve Spurrier. After
watching his team fritter away opportunities and commit costly mistakes, he was
more convinced of his team’s own imperfections than he was of Florida State’s
“They still may win them all and they still may be No. 1,” Spurrier said.
“They are a pretty good team, but they are not the teams they have had in the
After a victory in the biggest game of the season, Bowden wasn’t going to
let Spurrier get under his skin.
“Maybe that’s the way Steve feels,” Bowden said. “But you know what?
We’re undefeated and he isn’t.”
His next task is to make sure he can still say that six weeks from now.