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Bad memory raised for Bowden


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000

[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Robert Morgan takes Chris Weinke's sideline pass 71 yards for a touchdown.
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State coach Bobby Bowden can empathize with the controversial position George O'Leary finds himself in at Georgia Tech.

During a practice Sept. 25, O'Leary wanted to impress upon a struggling backup offensive lineman, Dustin Vaitekunas, what happens to the quarterback if he misses a block. O'Leary had Vaitekunas hold the ball as four defensive linemen charged at him.

O'Leary says he told the defenders not to steamroll a helpless Vaitekunas, but two of them missed that crucial instruction and left Vaitekunas sprawled on the ground. Vaitekunas left the field, left the team and left the school. O'Leary could face litigation.

"When I read that in the paper, I remembered back to when I first started coaching and did the same thing," Bowden said recently. "And I regretted it ever since."

In 1961, his third season at Samford, Bowden said an offensive lineman botched his pass protection and, to give him a feel for what a quarterback endures, he gave him the ball and let a defensive player tackle him.

"After that was over, I said, "I ain't going to do that again,' " Bowden said. "I was 31. I've changed a lot in those years. I wouldn't do it today no matter what. Now, if I lived back in those times again, I probably would. That's what I went through when I played. That's the way coaches were back in those days. Back in those days, coaches were physical. They thought nothing of grabbing hold of you and shaking you or kicking you in the rear end. That's the way it was. But that has changed."

He added that he's sure O'Leary did it with "no vicious intention."

"It's just we can't do that anymore," he said, "which is for the best, by the way."

D. FOR DIFFERENCE: Duke sophomore quarterback D. Bryant is a changed young man these days. For one thing, he's playing football and not basketball. He started for the first time against Clemson, completing 16 of 35 passes for 168 yards. He started for a second straight time against FSU and showed some flashes.

"The big thing is his dedication," said coach Carl Franks, in his second year at his alma mater following nine seasons with Steve Spurrier at Florida. "Football wasn't something he focused on (before)."

Bryant was the Blue Devils' scout team quarterback in 1998, then walked on the basketball team that reached the 1999 championship game at Tropicana Field. He came late to spring football, then left school for a semester and missed the 1999 football season.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Bowden has 66 wins in Atlantic Coast Conference play, tying him for second with former Clemson coach Frank Howard. Howard needed 16 years to reach that number. Virginia's George Welsh has 83. FSU STREAKS: The Seminoles extended their home winning streak to 32 games and their home unbeaten streak to 49. Both are the longest in the nation.

UNLUCKY NO. 7: The Blue Devils have played a pair of teams that were No. 7 in the Associated Press poll. They lost to visiting Clemson 52-22 on Sept. 30. They hadn't played back-to-back games against the Top 10 since 1959.

PLAY IT AGAIN: You can catch Sunshine Network's production on tape delay at 7 tonight and noon Monday.

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