Dec. 4, 2005
Bobby Bowden |
First Quarter |
Second Quarter |
Third Quarter |
Fourth Quarter |
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Willie Reid was dancing with teammates, posing for pictures and pausing for interviews.
The Florida State senior receiver had an Atlantic Coast Conference championship hat on his head, a smile on his face and renewed swagger with every step.
This is how it’s supposed to be.
The Seminoles are conference champs – again.
Reid returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, the defense continually harassed Marcus Vick and Florida State upset No. 5 Virginia Tech 27-22 Saturday night in the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
The Seminoles (8-4) snapped a three-game losing streak – the program’s first since 1983 – and won the league title for the 12th time in 14 years.
“We’re back to normal now,” said Reid, who finished with 210 all-purpose yards and was the game’s most valuable player. “We’re back to Florida State football.”
Florida State turned around a disappointing season and earned a Bowl Championship Series berth in the Orange Bowl, where it likely will face No. 4 Penn State.
Bobby Bowden vs. Joe Paterno – the two winningest coaches in major college football history.
“That old man?” Bowden said. “Is that likely to happen? Well, dadgummit. That’s my luck. … If we play them, it will be a great matchup: two old men out there trying to see who has life left in them.”
Few could have envisioned that matchup. Not after Florida State was outscored 89-36 in losses to North Carolina State, Clemson and Florida.
Boosters and fans were calling for Bowden to fire his son and offensive coordinator, Jeff Bowden. Some were even talking about the elder Bowden stepping down after 19 losses in the last five seasons. Others were already looking ahead and guessing how many in a row the team would lose; Florida State hasn’t lost four in a row since 1975, the year before Bowden arrived.
The Seminoles may have silenced those groans – starting with Reid’s return, which sparked a 24-point third quarter that broke a 3-3 tie.
“We had to shut up all our critics,” Reid said.
Of course, they might have returned in the fourth quarter as the Seminoles conservatively worked the clock while Virginia Tech made a comeback.
Vick led the Hokies (10-2) to consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter – a 29-yard pass to Josh Morgan and then a 4-yard run – that cut the lead to 27-15. He capped a 93-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run with 1:45 to play that made it 27-22.
But Tech, without any timeouts, failed to recover the onside kick. The Seminoles ran out the clock from there – and celebrated another ACC title.
“We stayed confident throughout all the troubling things,” Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley said. “Every team goes through things like that. That’s the way champions do it; they overcome their problems.”
Vick was much better than he was against Miami last month, when he threw two interceptions and fumbled four times. He finished 26-of-52 passing for 335 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran 17 times for 11 yards and two scores.
But he also was sacked six times, and the Hokies were penalized 17 times for 143 yards.
“It’s not like us and I really don’t know what happened,” tailback Cedric Humes said. “I have no words for it.”
Vick certainly gave Florida State a scare, but it was too little, too late.
The Seminoles did too much damage in the decisive third quarter. Virginia Tech went three-and-out to open the second half, and Reid fielded the punt near the sideline, sprinted ahead, cut inside and then juked two players and went nearly untouched into the end zone. Punter Nic Schmitt had a shot at Reid, but his diving, one-armed attempt at a leg tackle was futile.
Vick, who was sacked four times in the first half and six times in the game, threw an interception on the ensuing possession. Florida State’s Drew Weatherford completed consecutive passes to Fred Rouse and De’Cody Fagg, then Leon Washington sprinted up the middle for a 14-yard score.
The Seminoles had a 17-3 lead and all the momentum. Players were jumping up and down on the sideline. Florida State’s famed War Chant resonated through Alltel Stadium. This looked much more like the confident, borderline cocky, Seminoles who used to run roughshod through the conference.
That changed last year when Virginia Tech and Miami joined the league. The Hokies beat Miami for the ACC title in 2004 and were a double-digit favorite to repeat – mostly because of the Seminoles’ recent struggles.
But Florida State’s defense returned to form, making Virginia Tech look a step slow and as helpless as Miami did in a 27-7 victory in Blacksburg last month.
The Hokies backed into the championship game when Georgia Tech upset Miami three weeks ago.
Now, Virginia Tech will either return to Jacksonville and face Louisville in the Gator Bowl or play in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
The Hokies might want to avoid return to Alltel Stadium – especially with all the bad memories.
“We battled back, but got ourselves in a little bit too much of a hole,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “We just couldn’t get a call at the right time. It was just a tough night.”
Florida State piled on two more scores in the third quarter – setting up the victory and essentially ending the slide.
“Our team was in a tailspin,” Bowden said. “We pulled out of it. I knew we would. I just didn’t think it would be this game.”