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Warrick gets sweet redemption
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2000
NEW ORLEANS -- This is why he came back. This is why he postponed millionaire status to remain a college student. This is why Peter Warrick was in a Florida State uniform Tuesday night.
To win a national championship.
Warrick played a huge role in Florida State's 46-29 victory over Virginia Tech at the Superdome. He had six receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns, returned a punt for a touchdown, caught a pass for a two-point conversion and set a Sugar Bowl record with 20 points. He was named the game's most valuable player.
"He's the best player in the country," FSU quarterback Chris Weinke said. "Anybody who watched the game tonight now has to believe that he's the best player in the country. You saw what happens when he touches the football."
The Seminoles captured their second national title and gave Bobby Bowden the first undefeated season of his illustrious coaching career. And Bowden always will have a special affection for Warrick, who came back to earn his degree and win the title.
"I want to give this victory to coach Bowden," Warrick said. "He's been like a father figure to me away from home."
Warrick put an exclamation point on his career with a 64-yard touchdown reception from Weinke, a dazzling 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, a crucial two-point conversion reception in the fourth quarter, and a game-clinching 43-yard touchdown catch from Weinke.
"I was focused on what I had to do," he said. "I was trying to not do too much. I was just trying to make the plays I've made all year."
The Seminoles needed every bit of his heroics. On the other side of the field was a player just as dazzling, Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, who continually burned the FSU defense with his deft running.
"I told the players before the game that Vick is going to make big plays," Bowden said. "So I said, "Pete, you have to counter his big plays,' and he did it. It would have been hard to win without Pete."
The Hokies were concerned about limiting Warrick's yards after a catch. But three times Warrick burned them with long pass plays, the first time coming when he outran cornerback Anthony Midget to haul in his first touchdown pass. The 64-yarder was Warrick's longest touchdown reception of the season.
The punt return was vintage Warrick. Tech's Jimmy Kibble hit a low, short punt that bounced in front of Warrick, who appeared poised to let the ball go. Suddenly he picked it up and was off. It was his second punt return for a touchdown of the season.
Then there was his second touchdown reception, with 7:42 left, to put FSU up 46-29. A defender was all over Warrick and was called for pass interference. Warrick caught the pass anyway.
The fifth-year senior from Bradenton caught 71 passes in nine games this season, averaging 13.2 yards per reception. But he was far better known for his role in a department store theft that originally got him charged with a felony. The charge later was reduced to a misdemeanor. Warrick missed two games, but his Heisman Trophy candidacy was derailed and he was ridiculed across the country.
Last year in the Fiesta Bowl against Tennessee, Warrick was limited to one reception. Before the Sugar Bowl, he said: "I'm just going to let the game come to me." Warrick took over the game and secured his national title.
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