Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 3 Florida State 30, No. 4 Florida 7
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida State made a strong case for a chance to defend
its national championship, beating Florida in the game that usually gives the winner a
Chris Weinke fought off the flu and threw for 353
yards and three touchdowns -- two to Marvin Minnis --
as No. 3 Florida State had a surprisingly easy time
beating its bitter state rival 30-7 on Saturday night.
"This is the best football team in the country right now
and I think we proved it," Weinke said. "Beating the
No. 4 team by 23 points should be convincing enough
for people to realize the kind of football team this is."
The Seminoles (10-1) completed their regular season
by beating the No. 4 Gators (9-2) for the third year in
a row, but now have to wait two weeks to find out if
they'll play for the Bowl Championship Series' title in
the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.
Florida, the SEC East champion, still has a chance
to play in the Sugar Bowl if it beats Auburn in the
league title game Dec. 2.
The Seminoles can feel good about their chances because the winner of the
Florida-Florida State game has gone on to play for the title five of the last seven years.
"We got beat thoroughly," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said after his record fell to 0-5-1
at Doak Campbell Stadium. "Give credit to Florida State because they played well. We
had to play our very best to beat them in this game."
Now comes the wait for the Seminoles.
Florida State, third in the current BCS standings behind Oklahoma and Miami, is
expected to move ahead of Miami when the new point totals are released Monday.
Miami (9-1) beat Syracuse 26-0 on Saturday night and closes its season next week
against Boston College.
The BCS standings are based on four components -- the AP media poll and the
ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, eight computer rankings, strength of schedule and
number of losses. Florida State is expected to gain ground in the strength of schedule
and computer rankings. The final BCS standings are released Dec. 3.
"That computer better not betray me," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "I'd
rather have the computer decide who plays for the championship than a person who may
have some biases."
In the 45th meeting between these powers, a stadium-record crowd of 83,042 witnessed
the Seminoles most impressive performance of the season.
Weinke completed 23 of 44 passes and his second TD pass of the game -- a 34-yarder
to Minnis in the first quarter -- made him the Atlantic Coast Conference's career passing
leader, moving him ahead of Duke's Ben Bennett. Weinke, who also enhanced his
Heisman Trophy chances, has thrown for 9,789 yards in his career. Bennett had 9,564
yards. "Now that this game is over, we'll see what happens with the Heisman," said
Weinke, who also threw two interceptions. "But it's fun to have a chance to play for the
national championship and to have the opportunity to win back-to-back titles."
Minnis, who caught three TD passes in last week's win over Wake Forest, had eight
catches for 187 yards. For Florida, Jesse Palmer was 17-of-30 for 180 yards and two
interceptions. Rex Grossman, who took the first snap and didn't return until the game
was decided in the fourth quarter, also threw an interception. He finished 10-of-16 for 98
"We played offense about like we played two years ago here," Spurrier said, recalling a
23-12 loss. "It's been a long time since we've played well here."
With the win, Florida State extended its unbeaten streak at home to 52 games, dating to
1991, and its home winning streak to 35 games, dating to 1994.
"Our seniors never lost a game here and it's just amazing what they have done," Bowden
Holding a 14-7 lead at the half, the Seminoles took control in the third period thanks to
Weinke's passing and Florida's penalties.
William McCray capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run, but the Gators hurt
themselves with two pass interference calls -- one against Lito Sheppard trying to stick
with Minnis, the other on Todd Johnson, who was flagged for holding Minnis on the goal
line. Florida was penalized 14 times for 116 yards.
The Seminoles extended the lead to 27-7 on Weinke's final TD pass -- a 51-yarder to
Minnis with 1:08 left in the quarter.
When Palmer tried to bring the Gators back, the Seminoles' defense came up with big
plays. First, free safety Chris Hope intercepted a pass intended for Reche Caldwell to
stop one drive. Then, Tay Cody made his second interception of the game, this one off
Grossman, and returned it 58 yards to set up Brett Cimorelli's 33-yard field goal with
10:42 left in the game.
When the game ended, fans rushed the field to congratulate the players, and oranges
were tossed onto the field. Minnis was holding a plastic Gator head in his hands as he
left the field.
"I told Chris I felt like every time they came my way, I was going to catch it," Minnis
said. "I knew the game was going to be won by us."
With the presidential race taking a backseat for the night, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his
secretary of state Katherine Harris and about 60 state legislators were part of the crowd
that saw a contest that was decided in 3 hours, 20 minutes.
Florida State didn't wait long to seize a 7-0 advantage. After forcing Florida to punt on
the first series, the Seminoles took over and Weinke went to work, completing 6 of 8
passes for 70 yards, the final one a 17-yard TD toss to Atrews Bell just 5:49 into the
The Gators came right back on their next possession to make it 7-all on Palmer's 5-yard
TD pass to Aaron Walker.
The tie was broken 56 seconds later when Weinke found Bell for 42 yards and, on the
next play, hit Minnis for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Weinke came down with flu symptoms Friday and spent eight hours in the hospital
taking intravenous liquids. He slept at team physician Kris Stowers' house, and made it
to the stadium healthy enough to lead the Seminoles to their biggest win of the season.
And perhaps a chance to defend their national championship.
|Chris Weinke threw three TD passes in the rout.|