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Game's allure falters with clubs' fortunes

By ANTONYA ENGLISH and BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 2002


TALLAHASSEE -- If you want some idea of just how far from the norm Saturday night's Florida-Florida State game was, you needed to look no further than the Seminoles press box.

With seven losses between the teams and neither ranked in the Top 10, media interest was far below the game's usual standard.

Approximately 500 press credentials were issued, compared to 650 when the Gators and Seminoles met in Tallahassee two years ago.

According to FSU sports information director Rob Wilson, it was "probably the fewest credentials issued for this (UF-FSU) game in 10 years, by a large number."

Then there were the scouts.

Scouts from just five NFL teams were scheduled to attend the game, and two representatives from those teams were absent.

Fan interest also was lukewarm. Three hours before the game, tickets were being offered for as much as $75 outside the stadium. An hour later, the asking price had dropped to as low as $35, which was face value.

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INJURY UPDATE: Former Tampa Chamberlain standout Broderick Bunkley injured his left knee about four minutes into the second quarter after being hit while coming across the middle on a Florida passing play. The freshman defensive lineman was helped off and did not return. Florida tight end Ben Troupe, who was questionable with a high ankle sprain, did not play.

BOWL STATUS: Florida's loss could have a huge impact on its bowl status.

A Georgia win in next week's SEC Championship Game likely will send the Gators to the Outback Bowl rather than the Capital One Bowl, formerly the Citrus Bowl. Capital One Bowl officials said Saturday that Auburn, Arkansas and LSU remain in the mix.

If Georgia loses in the SEC Championship Game, Capital One, which has the second pick in the SEC, will take the Bulldogs, said Michael Thomas, a member of the bowl selection committee.

"Right now, a lot of teams are still in the mix," Thomas said.

SENIOR LESSONS: Like the players who preceded them at Florida State, this year's seniors expected to compete for and win a national championship or two.

"They got it early," coach Bobby Bowden said. "At least they got it. I know they're disappointed the last two years."

The 22 departing seniors, including star offensive linemen Brett Williams, Todd Williams, Montrae Holland and Antoine Mirambeau, receiver Talman Gardner, tailback Nick Maddox and defensive end Alonzo Jackson, have rings from the undefeated 1999 season but also have endured the worst back-to-back seasons in the Bowden era.

"You see how fortunate you are to play in a national championship game after a season like this and a season like last year," Brett Williams said. "But I see it as an opportunity to try and help the young guys out, try to show them how to act, how to deal with adversity."

TURKEY LEFTOVERS: Next year's game also might be the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Like FSU's contract with ABC, the Gators' deal with CBS includes the option to move the game to that date once during the four-year cycle.

SPECIAL GUEST: Among the 83,938 in attendance was Gov. Jeb Bush.

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