Nov. 20, 1999
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When the final pass fell incomplete in the end
zone, and No. 1 Florida State had locked up yet another chance at a national
title, the Seminoles raced to midfield for their rendition of the Swamp Stomp.
“If you can win here in The Swamp,” Florida State’s Peter Warrick said,
“that’s the best way to prove you can win a national championship. We are a
Warrick ran for one touchdown and set up the clinching score with a 38-yard
catch, and Sebastian Janikowski kicked three field goals – one from 54 yards –
as the Seminoles beat No. 3 Florida 30-23 Saturday before a record crowd of
85,747 at Florida Field.
The win all but clinched a spot for coach Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles
(11-0) in the Sugar Bowl, the site of the Bowl Championship Series’ national
title game on Jan. 4.
“Everytime Florida and Florida State play, it puts someone in the national
championship game,” Bowden said after his Seminoles completed their third
perfect regular season. “We’re just happy we’re there.”
The Gators (9-2) were their own worst enemy in losing for just the fourth
time – second this season – in 61 home games under coach Steve Spurrier.
Florida was called for 15 penalties totaling 93 yards, and in the fourth
quarter had a punt blocked and threw an interception at the Seminoles 2-yard
There is some consolation for Florida. The Gators play in the SEC title game
on Dec. 4, and a win will send them to either the Orange or Fiesta bowls as the
“Well, we beat ourselves. That’s all you can say,” Spurrier said. “We can
take losing, but we hate to beat ourselves. When you can’t line up on sides,
you can’t line up behind the line of scrimmage, its tough to take. We had our
chances – if we just played within the rules.
“We’re not smart enough to be great.”
For the past seven years, this passionate rivalry has become a
playoff-elimination game, and the Gators weren’t knocked out until the very
With the Gators on the FSU 40, Jesse Palmer threw a desperation pass into
the end zone, where a half-dozen players were waiting for the ball. It was
tipped by several Florida State defenders and fell to the ground before Brian
Haugabrook had a chance to grab it.
Two years ago, the Gators beat the ‘Noles 32-29 with a winning drive in the
final two minutes.
“We huddled up and said this is deja vu from two years ago,” linebacker
Brian Allen said. “We said, `fellas, we can’t make the same mistakes and give
up the long ball.”
They didn’t. And the Seminoles met at midfield and began the celebration,
throwing their helmets to the air and stomping on the turf where they last won
in 1993 – the year they won the national title.
Since then, the Seminoles missed two other chances to win it all, losing to
Florida in the ’97 Sugar Bowl, and dropping a 23-16 decision to Tennessee in
the ’99 Fiesta Bowl.
Chris Weinke, who missed last year’s games against Florida and Tennessee
with a neck injury, was 24-of-36 for 263 yards and a touchdown – a 27-yarder to
Marvin Minnis with 6:03 left that put the Seminoles ahead 30-16. Two plays
earlier, Weinke hit Warrick for 38 yards.
The Gators came back, though, with Doug Johnson throwing a 3-yard TD pass to
Haugabrook to trim the lead to seven points with 3:33 left. But the Seminoles
recovered an on-side kick and then held off the Gators’ last gasp.
To no one’s surprise, Florida alternated quarterbacks, with Johnson and
Jesse Palmer taking snaps every other play in an effort to get the offense
going. It didn’t work the way Spurrier had hoped as Florida had a good chunk of
its 346 yards in the final few minutes.
Florida’s defense kept the game from getting out of hand early on, forcing
the Seminoles to settle for first-half field goals of 22 and 27 yards by
Johnson was 20-of-36 for 214 yards with two interceptions, Palmer 8-of-19
for 166 yards.
Warrick, who heard chants of “Dillard’s, Dillard’s,” in reference to his
shopping mall scam that cost him a two-game suspension and the role of Heisman
Trophy favorite, had a strong game. The wide receiver caught nine passes for 90
yards and ran for 19 yards, including a 4-yard TD to give FSU a 7-0
Florida State led 13-6 at the half, but the margin could have been greater.
After scoring on their opening drive, the Seminoles moved to the Gators 4 the
next two times they had the ball but settled for Janikowski field goals.
Jeff Chandler kicked field goals of 50 and 45 yards to keep the Gators in
striking distance entering the second half.
Florida needed 71 seconds to take its only lead of the game. First Chandler
kicked his third field goal, a 22-yarder, to cut the margin to 13-9. The
Seminoles took over and on third down, and with Florida’s defense still setting
up, Weinke took the snap and tried to hit Minnis for a big gainer.
But cornerback Bennie Alexander intercepted the pass and returned it 43
yards for a touchdown, putting the Gators ahead 16-13 with 7:39 left in the
Unperturbed by the blunder, Weinke brought Florida State into Janikowski’s
field goal range, After his successful 49-yarder was wiped out by a
delay-of-game penalty, Janikowski kicked a 54-yarder to tie the score at
Then came Florida State’s big break – linebacker Tommy Polley blocked a
Florida punt. He blew through the middle of the line, leaped in front of Alan
Rhine’s punt and safety Jean Jeune recovered at the Florida 21. Six plays
later, Jeff Chaney scored from 2 yards out with 34 seconds left in the third
quarter and the Seminoles had the lead for good, 23-16.
Florida nearly tied the score, moving to the Seminoles 8, but after a
holding penalty moved the ball back 10 yards, Johnson’s third down pass was
intercepted at the 2 by free safety Chris Hope. A few plays later, Weinke found
Minnis in the right corner of the end zone, and the Seminoles had the win that
surely puts them in their second straight national title game.
This year, Bowden is hoping for different results as one more win would give
the 70-year old coach the first perfect season of his career.