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No mercy for an old friend

FSU piles on former assistant Chuck Amato's Wolfpack 58-14.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


photo
[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
FSU's Tay Cody outleaps Willie Wright for a second-quarter interception, which he returned 52 yards for his first career touchdown.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Florida State Seminoles knew that former longtime assistant Chuck Amato would have his new players, the North Carolina State Wolfpack, ready to push them to the limit.

But Amato also knew a simple truth:

His old team would push back.

Hard.

Boy, did it. After a sluggish opening quarter, the No. 6-ranked Seminoles parlayed a season-high rushing attack, timely pinpoint passing from Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Weinke and a smothering defense into a convincing 58-14 win Saturday night against the No. 21 Wolfpack.

"If there is a better football team in the country than Florida State, then I would like to see it," Amato said. "But I would not like to play against it."

The Seminoles (8-1 overall, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) should move up at least two spots in the AP poll with No. 1 Nebraska losing at No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Clemson losing to visiting and unranked Georgia Tech.

Not that the Seminoles should have been concerned about that.

The last time the Seminoles were at Carter-Finley Stadium on Sept. 12, 1998, they suffered a 24-7 loss, and a hostile crowd of 52,384 was hoping for a replay.

Not against Amato in a game Bobby Bowden referred to as a "father vs. stepson" matchup.

"Coming into the game, everybody felt like they would have to step it up because Coach Amato knew everything we do and knew our personnel," FSU defensive end David Warren said. "Everybody wanted to step it up another level."

"All the hoopla about Coach Bowden and Coach Amato, we fed off of that," added cornerback Tay Cody, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter. "We wanted go out and play Florida State football."

But the offense didn't exactly look like a normal FSU team.

"The last time we played here, we learned that we better be able to run the ball," Bowden said.

So instead of relying on the arm of Weinke, the nation's passing leader, the Seminoles turned to the legs of their backs. They rushed for a season-high 324 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns, led by senior tailback Travis Minor's season-best 129 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.

Weinke completed 13 of 21 passes for a season-low 185 yards and one touchdown.

"We were running the ball so successfully, we picked our places to throw the football," said Weinke, who felt far better than he did in 1998 when he threw six interceptions here.

On the first play of the second quarter, he gave FSU the lead with a picture-perfect throw. Sophomore receiver Anquan Boldin made the catch and, spinning, faked out junior safety Adrian Wilson and walked into the end zone untouched to complete the 24-yard play.

Matt Munyon, who hadn't kicked since the Miami loss, replaced Chance Gwaltney only to miss the extra point.

Wolfpack freshman sensation Philip Rivers, who entered fifth in the nation in total offense (304.0 yards), couldn't answer. In the face of a ferocious rush, he threw three straight incompletions on the next series that set a tone.

The Seminoles realized they had to pressure Rivers, something they failed to do against Miami's Ken Dorsey in a loss Oct. 7. N.C. State wasn't Miami.

After the N.C. State punt, FSU drove 44 yards on nine plays, eight of them runs by Minor for 26 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown. Freshman Brett Cimorelli, the third kicker used on the day, made the extra point for a 13-0 lead early with 9:55 left in the half.

Following another three-and-out by the Wolfpack (5-2, 2-2), Minor capped another methodical drive with a 2-yard run for a 20-0 lead. Cody then returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown to give FSU a 27-0 halftime lead.

Time to relax?

Not with Amato. Bowden realized Amato liked to run trick plays and worried that with a bye week, he and his staff could prepare a bunch more to try against the Seminoles.

Sure enough, on the opening series of the second half, Amato called for a fake punt from his 19, and freshman Austin Herbert hit Wilson, who outraced the Seminoles for a touchdown. Amato then had Herbert try an onside kick, which the Wolfpack recovered, underscoring another miscue by the FSU special teams.

The FSU defense held and the offense countered nicely. Cimorelli hit his first field goal, a 38-yarder, for a 30-7 lead, then senior tailback Jeff Chaney capped another long drive with a 16-yard run for a 37-7 lead late in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.

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