October 24, 1998
By Matt Rehm
ATLANTA – Moments after Florida State had pulled away for a 34-7 win against a banged-up Georgia Tech squad, as the Seminoles still danced with raised helmets at midfield, one final roar went up from the FSU cheering section as workers deflated Big Buzz, the giant Yellow Jacket mascot that sits in the corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium.
But in reality, the air had already been let out of the Jackets, who gave up 24 points in the final quarter of what had been a tight game.
After battling the sixth-ranked Seminoles to a tie at halftime, Tech trailed by only three points heading into the fourth quarter before being undone by three pivotal turnovers in a span of four possessions, transforming a battle for ACC supremacy into yet another Seminole rout.
“We get amused, because we’ve played Miami and we’ve played Florida and we’ve played Notre Dame, number-one versus number-two, and then we play North Carolina and that’s the Game of the Century, then we play Georgia Tech and that’s the Game of the Century,” said Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. “So now we must be living in 5000 A.D., because we’ve played in so many of these darn games.”
Florida State was led by junior flanker Peter Warrick, who caught two touchdowns and ran for another. Warrick was matched up much of the night against Jamara Clark, once a high school teammate but now a Tech cornerback. Warrick said his friendship with Clark did not extend to this game.
“The first play of the game, I went out there and gave it to him,” said Warrick. “It was a running play to the back side. I ran out there and knocked him on his rear end to let him know it’s about business. We’re still friends, though. Theres no animosity. We didn’t talk any trash.”
Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, despite being sacked four times, was 17-for-26 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He also extended his streak of passes without an interception to 175, breaking Charlie Wards school record.
“Chris Weinke was making big plays,” said Warrick. “He’s stepping up in the pocket, hes not focusing on one receiver. He has his outlets, and he did a great job of finding them tonight.”
The Seminole defense was also outstanding, limiting Tech to only 199 yards of total offense and forcing four turnovers in the second half. Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton entered the night with a gaudy pass efficiency rating of 163.79, averaging over 271 yards of total offense per game, but was held to only 56 yards passing and five yards rushing before being knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a hip pointer.
Tech opened the game with a quintessential George O’Leary smash-mouth drive, eating up almost nine-and-a-half minutes on an 80-yard march in which the Jackets converted five third downs. Although Tech rode thoroughbred split end Dez White to an upset of Virginia, the Jackets let plowhorse Phillip Rogers carry the load to start the game, as only five of the drive’s 18 plays were passes.
Rogers capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge, giving Tech a 7-0 lead with 5:33 remaining in the first quarter. The drive was the longest against FSU this season, in terms of both time and number of plays.
“That first drive they had was as pretty a drive as you could make,” said Bowden. “I thought, it going to be a rough night.”
Tech threw to White only once on the drive, but FSU cornerback Mario Edwards gave a glimpse of things to come by staying stride-for-stride with the speedster. After torching Virginia for 243 yards and three touchdowns, White was held without a reception until midway through the fourth quarter, when he made his lone catch of the night on a nine-yard slant.
“I was very concerned about (White),” said Bowden. “He’s been getting 200 yards and catching the ball and breaking out for long stuff. That guy is a super player that we’re just now beginning to find out about. But somebody must have got on him pretty good tonight.”
The Jackets had considerably more difficulty keeping up with Warrick. On the final play of the first quarter, Chris Weinke scrambled long enough for Warrick to break free, turning a 3rd-and-26 into a 44-yard touchdown.
“It was a post,” said Warrick. “It wasn’t even designed for me, but everything happens for a reason.”
The Seminoles would see many more 3rd-and-long situations, as they were penalized 11 times for 100 yards.
A facemask penalty cost the Seminoles any chance of scoring on their final drive of the first half, giving FSU a 1st-and-33 on their own 20 yard line. After Travis Minor ran over the left side for three yards on the final play before intermission, the Seminoles’ four first-half possessions had culminated in 3rd-and-26, 3rd-and 21, 3rd-and-17 and 2nd-and-30.
“I’ve never seen so many third-and-longs and penalties in my life after a successful play,” said Bowden. “It would take us five downs to get a first down, because we’d get penalized and come back, penalized and come back.”
After gaining 80 yards on the opening drive, Tech gained only 18 yards for the remainder of the first half but won the battle of field position because punter Rodney Williams boomed punts of 55, 59 and 54 yards.
Tech’s offensive struggles began when the flanker/tailback Charlie Rogers was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a sprained left shoulder. On Tech’s scoring drive to open the game, Rogers rushed once for 12 yards and made three catches (two of which converted third downs) for 19 yards.
Florida State took a 10-7 lead when their opening drive of the second half resulted in a 43-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal. FSU’s drive stalled after a dead ball personal foul left them with a 3rd-and-20, on which Minor ran for three yards to the Tech 26.
FSU stretched the lead to 17-7 on an eight-yard pass from Weinke to Warrick with 13:41 remaining in the game. Warrick was wide open after making a quick spin move that left Tech cornerback Jason Bostic on the ground.
“I wish it had been Jamara, but he wasnt in there on that play,” said Warrick.
The scoring drive started at Tech’s 41 yard line when Dexter Jackson recovered a fumble by Phillip Rogers, who was stripped by nose guard Corey Simon.
Jackson had also ended Techs previous drive by picking off a Hamilton pass intended for White.
However, the play before Rogers fumble was even more costly for the Jackets, as quarterback Hamilton was knocked out of the game with a hip pointer. After Hamilton walked off the field with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter, the Jackets committed three turnovers and gained only 85 yards, 57 of which came on a meaningless final drive that ended in a fumble.
“They had momentum, they had the crowd, they had everything, then we quieted them down a little bit and our defense just took over,” said Bowden. “When Hamilton went out, naturally we felt pretty secure.”
After backup quarterback George Godsey failed to move the chains and Williams managed only 38 yards on the ensuing punt, FSU again took possession in Tech territory and again capitalized. Janikowski extended the Seminoles lead to 20-7 on a 32-yard field goal with 8:49 remaining.
With Hamilton relegated to the bench, FSU’s defense swarmed all over the redshirt freshman Godsey. The Seminoles again took posession in Tech territory when Simon forced Godsey to fumble on the Jackets 15-yard line.
Less than a minute later, defensive end Jesse Tarplin was left sprawling on the turf by a stutter-step from Warrick, who darted in on a reverse from 16-yards out to give the Noles a 27-7 lead with 5:31 remaining.
“I gave him what we call an Amp Lee move,” said Warrick. “You know what Amp Lee did against Michigan? I like stuff like that. (Tarplin) played it real well, but I executed, made him miss me and did what I had to do to get in the end zone.”
A 60-yard touchdown run by Laveranues Coles with 2:38 remaining gave the Seminoles the final 34-7 margin.
“We know sooner or later, with the guys we have on this team, were going to make some plays, and we did that in the second half,” said Weinke. “It isn’t a sense of, ‘Is it going to happen?’ It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen.”