By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000
TALLAHASSEE -- The timing couldn't have been much better.
With FSU beginning its toughest stretch of the season, coach Bobby Bowden said his team played its best game Saturday against then No. 21-ranked North Carolina State.
"I was very pleased with the way we played last night because I was leery of that ballgame because of what had happened up there before," Bowden said, referring to FSU's loss to the Wolfpack in 1998. "I thought we came the closest that game to doing the things we were capable of doing than we have done all year."
Next up: son Tommy Bowden and No. 10 Clemson in Tallahassee, a game that not only would wrap up a ninth consecutive ACC title for the Seminoles, but ensure them a spot in one of the four Bowl Championship Series games.
Yet Bowden doesn't much like the timing of Clemson's first loss.
The Tigers, who were a spot ahead of FSU in last week's Top 25 poll and in the national title race, fell five spots after Saturday's last-minute loss to Georgia Tech.
"It took a little of the glamor off of it, but it might have given them just enough impetus to go out there and whip us," Bowden said. "I think it (the loss) takes some of the pressure off. If they came in here undefeated, boy, there'd be pressure on them from their own folks.
"I've told Tommy before and I warned (son) Terry (at Auburn) too late, "Hey. You better not start off undefeated. When you go undefeated, you can't go anywhere but down. Of course, you still want to go undefeated, but you ought to do like me and wait 'til you're 70. Then you can ride it out.' But the wounded animal, the play-it-loose-as-a-goose, the nothing-to-lose type of thing, I think that could be beneficial to them."
KICKING MERRY-GO-ROUND: Freshman placekicker Brett Cimorelli, the former two-sport star at Zephyrhills, apparently has reclaimed the job that was his to lose before the start of the season.
He hit all seven extra-point attempts and added a 38-yard field goal against N.C. State, after Bowden nearly didn't bring him on the trip to Raleigh. Not when he had two other kickers, Chance Gwaltney and Matt Munyon, already on a crowded plane.
Bowden said Cimorelli kicked the ball too low, probably a side effect of life without the 1- or 2-inch block high schools permit, but has been improving daily.
"My mechanics were a little off, too," Cimorelli said. "It was a simple thing of just keeping my head down. I've been working on it, keeping my head down. I was getting the ball really high in practice. So, thank God, it carried over to the game ... This was my opportunity. I've been waiting for it for a long time and I capitalized on it."
Now, he and Bowden hope it continues.
"I'm at the comfortable level," Bowden said, "but I've been fooled so many times here I hope it remains true."
DID YOU KNOW?: FSU's 324 rushing yards Saturday were its most since 401 against Wake Forest in 1995.
STREAK SNAPPED: Senior quarterback Chris Weinke didn't need to throw much and amassed only 185 yards passing, ending his streak of 20 consecutive games with at least 200 yards.
INJURY REPORT: Junior fullback William McCray sprained his left ankle, reserve senior offensive tackle Donald Heaven has a mild concussion and junior backup safety Abdual Howard strained his right groin. All are expected back for Clemson.
THE LAST WORD: "I just told him I was sorry it got so bad. He said, "You don't have to say anything; you've got a great team.' He took it like a man, let's put it like that."
-- Bowden on what he said to his former assistant, first-year N.C. State coach Chuck Amato, after FSU's 58-14 win.