Dedicated to a 'great coach'

Published November 19, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee didn't tell a soul what he planned except for the student trainer with neater penmanship than his own.

He needed her help to pull it off and make a powerful statement.

There on his eye black patches, in silver ink, were the initials J.B. - for oft-maligned offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, who unexpectedly announced his resignation Tuesday effective at the end of the regular season.

"I did that as a tribute to him," Lee said. "He's a great coach. I was behind him 100 percent. The decision he made, I respect a lot.

"It takes a man to make that kind of decision."

Once Lee relieved Drew Weatherford on Saturday afternoon against Western Michigan, he helped put the Seminoles in the black.

While he threw a pair of touchdowns to Greg Carr and avoided the miscues that plagued him last weekend, the defense came up with a pair of interceptions that led to two touchdowns as the Seminoles held on for a 28-20 win at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The Seminoles 6-5, who play host to archrival Florida on Saturday, are bowl eligible for the 25th consecutive season, punching their ticket to the Dec. 27 Emerald Bowl in San Francisco against a Pac-10 team or the Dec. 31 MPC Bowl in Boise, Idaho, against a WAC team.

"It's not what it has been lately. By the seventh game, we've usually had (a bowl berth) wrapped up," coach Bobby Bowden said. "But that isn't the way we've been playing lately."

Heck, the Broncos (7-4), down by as many as 15 early in the fourth quarter, exploited FSU's special teams and kept it and its fans uneasy until the final seconds.

They converted two fourth-and-10 plays and reached the FSU 11 before the Seminoles pushed them back to the 30. On fourth down, Ryan Cubit threw long for Herb Martin, who was bracketed by cornerback Tony Carter and linebackers Geno Hayes and Lawrence Timmons.

"Nothing does come easy. That's for sure," said Timmons, who returned an interception 22 yards for a score late in the third quarter.

Not this season for the Seminoles.

Not this past week.

The Seminoles lost 30-0 at home to Wake Forest last weekend, the first home shutout since 1973. Two days later, Bobby Bowden announced another change at quarterback, with Weatherford regaining the job after Lee had started three straight games. And then came Jeff Bowden's news a day later.

"It was kind of like a roller coaster," senior tailback Lorenzo Booker said. "Tuesday you came in and you lose a teammate. Coach (Jeff) Bowden is a teammate. That's a fact.

"But in the end, we all got our minds right and knew the best thing we possibly could do for him and everybody was to go out there and play as hard as we can."

After another slow start, senior receiver Chris Davis (St. Petersburg Catholic) atoned for a fumble by taking a handoff from Booker on a reverse and, thanks to a big block from Weatherford, scored his first career rushing touchdown for a 7-3 lead.

"I just wanted to do whatever I can to help our team. If that's throwing the ball or running the ball or making a block, I'm more than willing," Weatherford said.

Three plays later, junior safety Roger Williams gave the ball back to the offense with an interception. Lee, in for the first time after watching Weatherford lead the first four series, threw a fade to the 6-foot-6 Carr for a 26-yard touchdown and 14-3 lead.

The Broncos cut it to 14-13 midway through the third quarter, helped in part by FSU kicker Gary Cismesia missing two field goals (44 and 41 yards). But then Timmons scored on his interception return, and Lee and Carr hooked up again.

"I'd give us an 'okay,' " Bobby Bowden said, adding the staff might decide to start next weekend against the Gators as it finished this one, with Lee at quarterback.

Okay? Excuse Lee if he saw it through different eyes.

"It was kind of hard to focus with all that going on," he said. "But we did well."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or at (813) 226-3347.