December 31, 2001 - by
Virginia Tech and Florida State Meet In Rematch Of 2000 Title Game

Dec. 31, 2001


Story courtsey of the Associated Press


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The last time Florida State and Virginia Tech met in a bowl game, it was to decide the national championship.


That was two seasons ago at the Sugar Bowl, a game the Seminoles won 46-29. Not as much will be riding on the outcome this year when the two teams clash
in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday.


Usually in the national championship mix for much of the season, the
24th-ranked Seminoles (7-4) have stumbled a bit this season. Their four
losses were the most since 1986, and for the first time since joining the
ACC in 1991, Florida State did not claim at least a share of the conference
title.


While the Seminoles are still looking to end the season on a high note,
injuries have taken a toll on coach Bobby Bowden’s squad.


Middle linebacker Bradley Jennings, who led the team with 121 tackles in the
regular season, is not expected to play because of a knee injury, and
outside linebacker Kendyll Pope – Florida State’s second-leading tackler
with 113 – has been bothered by a neck burner. Cornerback Bryant McFadden is
out with a broken foot, and cornerback Stanford Samuels has been slowed by a
sprained ankle.


“You hate to see injuries at the end of the season like this,” Bowden said.
“It seems that the teams that get to the top are really the fortunate ones
that keep people healthy all year. It’s such a big key.”


In addition, offensive tackle Brett Williams is trying to recover from a
late-season knee injury.


“I want to get in some action,” Williams said. “If not, I’m not concerned
because we’ve got guys behind me that can get the job done.”


The main job for Williams and his linemates will be to protect freshman
quarterback Chris Rix, who threw for 2,734 and 22 touchdowns this season.
Keeping the Virginia Tech defenders away from Rix could be a formidable
task, as the Hokies feature one of the nation’s best defenses.


“They’re a much more mature football team than we are,” Bowden said. “I’ve
seen too many kids that played in that national championship game two years
ago, especially defensively. They’ve got a complex about them. They don’t
like nobody to push them around.”


The 15th-ranked Hokies (8-3) rank second in the nation in total defense
(227.9 ypg), rushing defense (71.6 ypg) and scoring defense (13.4 ppg).
Their pass defense (166.3 ypg) is eighth-best in the country, and they were
the only team to post four shutouts this year.


While Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer will look for his defense to contain
Rix and the Seminoles offense, he’ll likely look to freshman running back
Kevin Jones on the other side of the ball.


Jones closed the regular season with three straight 100-yard rushing games,
including 160 in Tech’s last game, a 26-24 loss to top-ranked Miami.


Florida State holds a 19-10-1 lead in the all-time series against Virginia
Tech and has won the last 10 meetings.


The Seminoles are undefeated (3-0-1) in four previous Gator Bowl
appearances. The Hokies are 1-2 in their Gator Bowl history, beating Clemson
41-20 in Jacksonville last season.

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