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Daddy's boys show who's still the boss

[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Bobby Bowden, left, huddles with son Tommy after his Seminoles pounded the Tigers 54-7.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- With the demands of football keeping his father, Bobby, away from home frequently, whenever Tommy Bowden received a spanking as a youth, the punishing hand belonged to his mother.

Nowadays, the whippings come from dear old dad.

And they hurt worse.

The No. 4 Florida State Seminoles, fueled by another sterling performance from Heisman Trophy hopeful Chris Weinke and another stifling defensive effort, routed No. 10 Clemson 54-7 Saturday night before a raucous, record crowd of 82,514 at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"We really got on them tonight," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "If we play as well as we can, we think we're going to win. Sometimes you don't play as well as you can, but we nearly did tonight."

The Seminoles (9-1, 7-0) wrapped up not only a ninth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title in their nine years in the league but the automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series that goes with it.

That's the first goal.

Not the last.

The Seminoles, who saw Miami easily beat No. 2 Virginia Tech earlier, are aiming for their third consecutive trip to the BCS finale, the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl, and the showing against the Tigers (8-2, 6-2) didn't hurt their chances.

"We're playing against a Top 10 team and our goal was to win and win convincingly to prove to people that we belong up there," said Weinke, who threw for 521 yards to give him 3,490, breaking the FSU single-season record of 3,317 set by Thad Busby. "And we did that tonight."

That's something they didn't do in last year's meeting with the Tigers. They had to rally from a 14-3 halftime deficit and hung on for a 17-14 win when cornerback Tay Cody partially deflected a field goal.

Saturday, the Seminoles weren't affected by the buzz surrounding that game: the first father-son coaching matchup in major college football history; Papa Bowden going for his historic 300th win; the last-minute return of Peter Warrick from a two-game suspension.

"I wouldn't say we weren't focused last year; we were playing there," senior linebacker Tommy Polley said. "It's hard to beat teams at their homes. You go to places like Gainesville, Miami, Death Valley, you expect a tough game."

Just like opponents expect when they venture into Doak Campbell Stadium, where the Seminoles own the nation's longest home unbeaten streak (now 51 games) and home winning streak (34 games). Tommy Bowden called it an obvious "comfort zone" for the Seminoles. But the Seminoles also took comfort in what they recognized in the tape of Clemson's 31-28 loss Oct. 28 to Georgia Tech. George Godsey, the former Tampa Jesuit star, exploited Clemson's pass defense for 454 yards and three touchdowns.

"I think they felt like the defense they played against us last year, which obviously stumped us, would work again tonight," Weinke said. "They did a few different things in the second quarter that slowed us down a bit in terms of protection, but they went right back to the defense they played last year and the difference was we executed a lot better."

FSU racked up 771 yards, 87 shy of the school's single-game record set in 1992 against Maryland.

"They played well and they are on a roll," Tommy Bowden said. "They have done it to more people than us."

With his team up 3-0 on freshman kicker Brett Cimorelli's 28-yard field goal, Weinke began the second series in what looked to be a sure-fire running situation: at his 2 after a 75-yard punt by Jamie Somaini.

Instead, Weinke superbly faked a handoff to senior tailback Jeff Chaney, nonchalantly stood in the end zone with the ball on his left hip, turned and fired a strike to Marvin Minnis for a school-record 98-yard touchdown pass.

Clemson made the game interesting for a while. Junior quarterback Woody Dantzler, who began garnering Heisman Trophy support before sustaining a left ankle injury against North Carolina that limited his play the past two weeks, answered with an impressive 80-yard drive that junior tailback Travis Zachery capped with a 4-yard run.

The Tigers had a chance to tie the score, but instead of trying a 37-yard field goal, Bowden opted for some trickery a la his father. Kicker Tony Lazzara, a former Shorecrest High star, took the direct snap, rolled right and threw across the field to holder Jeff Scott.

"They lined up differently than they usually do on their field goals and I just felt like something was up," said Cody, who stopped Scott well short of the first down.

From there, it became a matter of how much FSU would win by, not if it would win.

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