January 2, 1999
By TOM SHARP
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Nebraska gave Tennessee a year-long homework
last January in the Orange Bowl. Get stronger, get in better condition, or
forget about playing at this level.
The No. 1 Volunteers (12-0) take the final exam against Florida State
Fiesta Bowl on Monday with the national title at stake. They expect the bottom
line answer won’t come until the fourth quarter.
No. 2 Florida State (11-1) prides itself on playing a lot of people on
defense to keep them fresh. Thirty-one Seminoles defenders played in nine or
more games this year, and 19 played in all 12.
It has paid off. Florida State ranks second in the country in scoring
defense (11.5 points a game), and is particularly tough the last two quarters.
The Seminoles gave up just 45 second-half points (33 percent of their
total), and they blanked six oppponents after halftime, including bowl teams
Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Florida.
In the last three games, the Seminoles have given up a mere seven
“In the first half last year we played Nebraska pretty well, but the
half they just overpowered us,” cornerback Steve Johnson said. “It seemed
like they had an extra kick we didn’t have. We worked on that in the offseason
and I think it’s paid dividends.”
Offensive guard Cosey Coleman said correcting the deficiency started
“The morning we got back from the bowl game, our strength and
coach let us know we were going to focus on conditioning this year,” he said.
“We ran all summer long so we wouldn’t be out of breath and winded again in
the fourth quarter.”
Coleman said handling the Seminoles’ defensive depth is Tennessee’s
“We’ve played good defensive lines before, but I don’t think we’ve
defense that rotates people in and out the way Florida State does,” he said.
“We’ve been conditioning every day for this. It’s going to be a big challenge
for us to play 60 minutes of Vol football.”
Tennessee’s ace in the fourth-quarter may be tailback Travis Henry, a
runner who seems to get better as a game goes on. He gained 602 of his 970
yards in the second half.
“I think the game will be decided in the fourth quarter,” he said. “It’ll
be who wants the national championship the baddest.”
Henry said he goes into every game expected to grind out the tough yards
early, and Monday will be no different.
“I’m not going to worry about the big run,” he said. “Hopefully by the
third and fourth quarter more yards will open up for me.”