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No big plays, one big nightmare

"We needed one play. We didn't get one,'' Bobby Bowden says of FSU's Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2001


MIAMI -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden called it "shocking" and like living a "nightmare."

With the national championship at stake against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday, his high-powered Seminoles suddenly became college football's answer to the Tampa Bay Bucs:

Great defense.

Mediocre offense.

Less than 12 hours after his Seminoles' 13-2 loss, Bowden still had trouble explaining how his offense could be shut down.

"We needed one play," he said Thursday morning as his team prepared to return to Tallahassee. "We didn't get one. Every game this year, we've gotten a play."

Usually, the big playmaker was receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, a first team All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist. But he was academically ineligible for the bowl and was sorely missed.

Other than junior Atrews Bell, who despite a hamstring injury had a career-high seven catches for 137 yards, FSU's talented but young receivers didn't fill the void.

Sophomore Anquan Boldin and junior Javon Walker each had a key drop, and junior Robert Morgan, back after missing the final three games with a broken toe, just missed coming up with a Minnis-like diving catch for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

"If you watched the way we executed this year, (Minnis) was always the guy who came up with the big play," quarterback Chris Weinke said. "He might have been that spark we were missing, the big play that we needed."

Minnis' absence also handcuffed offensive coordinator Mark Richt. Without receivers to run in and out of the game, Richt was reticent to use a no-huddle offense, which often exhausts defenders and leads to big plays.

But Bowden insisted his team didn't go to the no-huddle much against Florida and had no trouble moving the ball in a 30-7 win. "We were huddling, and if we were executing, we would have been fine," Weinke said.

But the Seminoles didn't execute against a defense that confounded Weinke and the FSU brain-trust all night.

"I almost felt like they were one step ahead of us, almost like they knew what we were thinking," Weinke said. "They did a great job of scheming and knowing what we do best."

FSU's 301 yards were 248 below the Seminoles' average and FSU's lowest total since 253 against Tennessee in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, the inaugural Bowl Championship Series title game.

The parallels between those games are striking. In both, the once-beaten Seminoles were favored against an undefeated and top-ranked opponent.

"I got a feeling there was an air of overconfidence on our part last night," Bowden said. "There has to be just on what we hear. (You think), "Gosh, they're No. 1, and we're favored by 12. Ooh. We must be good. You think we even need to go out there?' Then you hear we have all these (future) pros and the Heisman winner. Gosh, there's a lot of animosity on their part naturally built up, and we're trying to get our players mad at each other (saying), "Son, you're going to be a great pro. Will you get mad today?' "

The coaches share blame for that overconfidence.

"They are a lot better than I thought," Bowden said. "Bob (Stoops, Oklahoma's coach) kept saying all week, "We beat so-and-so,' but for some reason we all assumed -- I say we, especially me -- that the Big 12 wasn't that good this year. That might have been the toughest conference in the country this year.

"I said (Wednesday) that the game was either going to be a Tennessee for us or a Virginia Tech. Either they're supposed to be good but they're not as good as they say, or (as it was with) Tennessee, they're as good or better, and they whipped us."

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