January 1, 1999 - by
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Marcus Outzen and
FSU get set to battle.


Fiesta Bowl Quarterbacks


Martin vs. Marcus for all the marbles.

January 1, 1999

By RICHARD ROSENBLATT

AP Football Writer

Full Fiesta Bowl Coverage


TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Tee Martin knew the game plan from the start. Wait
for
Peyton Manning to break nearly every single record in the history of passing
and then he’d get a chance to be Tennessee’s quarterback.

Worked out well, too.

Marcus Outzen knew the game plan when he signed on at Florida State. Wait
until the next century for Chris Weinke to leave and then he’d get a shot to
run the Seminoles’ offense.

Weinke, though, injured his neck against Virginia last month and
Outzen was
calling signals a few minutes later.

Worked out well for Outzen, too.

On Monday night in the Fiesta Bowl, it’s No. 1 Tennessee (12-0) vs. No. 2
Florida State (11-1) in the national championship deciding game.

If the matchup seemed improbable at the start of the season, what were
the
odds of a quarterback matchup featuring Martin vs. Marcus? Astronomical, for
sure.

“It’s just amazing I’m in this position,” said Outzen, who considered
transferring after last season but was talked into staying by coach Bobby
Bowden. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

The same could be said for Tennessee, which couldn’t win a national
championship – or beat Florida – with Manning, but is one victory away from
its
first national title since 1951 with Martin.

“I never came into the season thinking about replacing Peyton,” Martin
said. “We planned to come into the season and win games. We knew we could do
it if we focused as a team. This is not surprising to us.”

It is to just about everyone else.

Martin, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior from Mobile, Ala., threw 16
passes his
first two years at Tennessee. Manning threw for 11,201 yards before moving on
to the NFL.

But Martin stepped right up and led the Vols to an unlikely perfect
regular-season, which included nail-biting wins over Syracuse, Florida and
Arkansas, an NCAA record-setting effort against South Carolina and a comeback
24-14 win over Mississippi State in the SEC title game.

“All I know is this kid hasn’t lost,” Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer
said.

“He has had a great year and has been a phenomenal leader for our team in a
very quiet way. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Tee Martin.”

If Martin handled the pressure of replacing Manning calmly, perhaps it
was
because he learned at an early age how to deal with stressful situations. He
witnessed three murders, and 12 of his friends have died in the past three
years, either by accident or illness or as crime victims.

He also wanted to make the most of his chance. Ten starters from last
year’s
11-2 season had to be replaced.

“Everybody who was behind those guys wanted to show what we could do,”
Martin said, “because it was like we didn’t exist at the university for a
couple of years.”

And when players began working out last summer, Martin knew this team
would
be different; it would be a team, not just Manning’s team.

“Everybody felt they mattered, that they made a difference, that they
played a big part in the team’s success,” Martin said. “I didn’t want to come
in and have the weight on my shoulders.”

But it was there, mostly because his teammates trusted him to carry the
load.

“He leaves everything he has out there on the field, and it’s great to
have
a quarterback like that,” wide receiver Peerless Price said.

Martin threw for 2,164 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just six
interceptions,
and ran for 287 yards and seven more TDs. Against South Carolina, he set three
NCAA records by hitting 23 of 24 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns.

Former offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who left to coach
Mississippi
after the SEC title game, retooled the offense to take advantage of Martin’s
running ability. But after tailback Jamal Lewis’ season-ending knee injury
against Auburn, it became crucial for Martin to become a more consistent
passer.

“I had confidence in my ability, but my breakout game was Georgia,” said
Martin, who threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a 22-3 win over the
Bulldogs in the Vols first game without Lewis. “I just needed to go out and
show I could do it.”

Outzen is eager to show he can do it against the Volunteers, having come
through against the Gators in just his second start. The 6-2, 220-pound
sophomore from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was 13 of 22 for 167 yards and one TD
in the 23-12 win over Florida.

Bowden believes Outzen will be just fine at gametime.

“This could not be any bigger to him than Florida,” Bowden said. “Florida
is our big game every year, Florida and Miami. Whoever wins that game goes to
play for the national championship. Florida has knocked us out of two national
championships the last two years, Miami knocked us out of about four. So when
you play in that ballgame and won in that ballgame, you ain’t afraid of nobody
else.

“They might beat you, but you ain’t afraid of ’em.”

When Outzen and his father went to Bowden, the coach told the
quarterback to
go through spring practice and see what happens. Expected starter Dan Kendra
got hurt in practice, Weinke became the starter and Outzen and freshman Jared
Jones the backups.

Before the half ended against Virginia, Weinke went out with a neck
injury
and Outzen became the starter.

“I think in the spring he saw he could compete,” Bowden said, “so he
stayed with it, thank goodness. So anyway, here he is now and who would have
ever predicted this right here?”

Certainly not Outzen.

“I knew pretty much coming to Florida State I would be a backup and the
most I could ask was just some mopup duty,” he said. “A quarter here or there
because at Florida State we get on top of people and we let a lot of people
play.”

Both quarterbacks will face tough defenses. The Seminoles are tops in the
nation, allowing 214.8 yards per game, while the Vols are 17th at 303 yards
per
game.

“They have a basic defense and they have some good guys who get the job
done,” Martin said. “We’ve watched them for a few weeks and it’s not like we
had to figure out a whole lot of complicated stuff. It’s just that it’s going
to be a physical game and execution is all we’re focusing on.”

Outzen says the Vols’ defense has a familiar look. “They remind me a
lot of
our own defense – they’re fast.”

And disruptive.

“I think it’s going to be a deal of which quarterback takes care of the
football best,” Martin said. “There are good defenses on the field and you
don’t want to make a lot of mistakes.”

So far, Martin and Outzen haven’t.

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