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A feel-good flurry

A 31-point second half gives FSU a positive end to the season.

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 28, 2006


SAN FRANCISCO - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden had hoped that the Emerald Bowl against UCLA would be more than an ending to one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons of his career.

It was one last chance for some validation that his team wasn't as far away from a contender as their record indicated and avoid the first losing season since 1976.

It was one last chance for some redemption for his son, Jeff, the oft-criticized offensive coordinator who announced his resignation last month over his father's objection.

It was one last chance for some inspiration going into the offseason that will begin with a staff overhaul.

It was all of the above.

The Seminoles rallied in the final quarter behind quarterback Drew Weatherford, tailback Lorenzo Booker, receiver Greg Carr and sophomore cornerback Tony Carter for a 44-27 win Wednesday night.

The Seminoles scored 31 second-half points after trailing 20-13 at halftime.

"We couldn't win the darn close game all year," Bowden said of five losses by combined 26 points, "and, so tonight, we got every bit of it. That's what Florida State used to do all the time. I hope this is a good sign for us. We've been looking for that sign."

After all, this may not have been a traditional New Year's Day game, a date FSU (7-6) had been accustomed every year since 1990, but the UCLA Bruins (7-6) had ended the regular season with wins against Oregon State, Arizona State and USC.

And thanks to the running of tailback Chris Markey and the effective passing of Pat Cowan, they led 27-23 a minute into the fourth quarter.

But the Seminoles drove 90 yards on 11 plays, ending with Weatherford finding Carr on the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown on fourth and 9.

"It just shows how much faith we have in Greg Carr," said Weatherford, who after a shaky start was nearly flawless in the fourth quarter, completing 7 of 10 passes for 126 yards. He finished 21 of 43 for 325 yards with one score and an interception.

In the box high above the field, Jeff Bowden raised his arms triumphantly.

"We were going to throw a deep ball no matter what," he said.

After UCLA return man Derrick Williams touched the ball at his 3 before it went out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff, FSU forced a punt that gave a revitalized offense prime position.

Booker, the offensive player of the game, had a 25-yard reception on third and 12 and followed with a 3-yard touchdown run. The southern California native, playing in front of 124 family and friends, finished with 91 yards rushing on 22 attempts and a career-high 117 receiving yards on five catches.

Moments later, Carter returned an interception 86 yards for the game-sealing score. Though there were only a few thousand FSU fans among the announced 40,331 at AT&T Park, they were chanting "FSU, FSU."

"Finally," Weatherford said, "we clicked. It's really, really big."

"There's no question this is a young team and there's no question that they're not far away," added a jubilant Jeff Bowden. "I just hope they just continue to improve and get better and fight. What you saw was an offense, a defense and special teams and that's what it takes if you're going to win it all."

Rewarding for him?

"Absolutely. Absolutely it is," he said trotting off the field one last time. "What's done is done. I don't regret anything. It was still the right thing to do and I just want these guys to have a great next season."

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

FSU 44, UCLA 27