FSU, Va. Tech vie for first title of 2000

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 30, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 30, 1999

LAPLACE – New Orleans will be the home of the first championship game of the new century as Florida State and Virginia Tech compete in the Nokia Sugar Bowl for college football’s national title Tuesday night.

The game will be televised on ABC at 7 p.m. Central time.This year’s Sugar Bowl will be between a Florida State team used to being in the national spotlight and a Virginia Tech team that has worked hard to gain national respect in the late 1990s.

Florida State has been one of college football’s team of the 1990s, recording a 108-13-1 record in the decade. This is the fourth time since1990 that the Seminoles have played for the National Championship, winning their first and only title in 1993 with an 18-16 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Florida State lost the National Championshipgame to Tennessee, 23-16, in the Fiesta Bowl last January.

Florida State achieved a rarity as of late this season, holding down the No.

1 spot in the polls throughout the season. The Seminoles finished theseason 11-0, winning the ACC title.

Virginia Tech, on the other hand, steadily moved up the polls, finishing at No. 2 after recording the first 11-0 season in school history. The Hokies’trip to the Sugar Bowl was finally assured Nov. 26 when they beat BostonCollege and No. 3 Nebraska struggled past Colorado in overtime. This is thefirst time that Virginia Tech has played for the national title.

Florida State definitely knows the way to New Orleans, having made the trip to the Big Easy three of the past four years and five times overall.

The Seminoles defeated Ohio State, 31-14, in 1997 after losing to Florida, 52-20, in the National Championship game in 1996.

That loss to the Gators snapped an unprecedented string of 14 straight bowl victories for the Seminoles. That streak included victories in theSugar Bowl over Auburn in 1988 and Florida in 1994. Florida State is 17-9-2 overall in bowl games.

Virginia Tech has also played in the Superdome in the 1990s, upsetting Texas, 28-10, in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. The Hokies are 4-8 in bowl games,including a 38-17 victory over Alabama in the Music City Bowl in 1998.

Florida State showed balance during the season in rolling up 4,683 yards in offense. The Seminoles averaged 37.5 points and 425.73 yards per game,ranking 14th nationally.

Junior quarterback Chris Weinke led the ACC with 3,103 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing 232 of his 377 passes (61.5 percent). Weinke’smain target was senior flanker Peter Warrick, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, who caught 71 passes for 934 yards and eight touchdowns despite being suspended for two games. Senior split end Ron Dugans caught43 passes for 644 yards and three touchdowns.

The running game is led by junior tailback Travis Minor out of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge. Minor ran 180 times for 815 yards (4.5average) and seven touchdowns. He also caught 16 passes for 102 yardscoming out of the backfield.

That offense will be going against a Virginia Tech defense that led the nation in scoring defense. The Hokies gave up an average of 10.2 points pergame and did not allow more than 20 points in any of its 11 contests.

Virgina Tech allowed 240.1 yards per game, including an average of 65.4on the ground.

The defense is led by senior All-American defensive end Corey Moore.

Moore was the Big East Conference’s defensive player of the year after recording 17 sacks. He also won the Naguski Award as the nation’s topdefender and the Lombardi as the best lineman/linebacker.

Virginia Tech achieved the rare feat of leading the country in both scoring defense and scoring offense, averaging 41.4 points a game. The Hokiesscored 50 or more points in a game three times, including 62 points in wins over Syracuse and Temple.

Quarterback Michael Vick put on one of the best performances ever by a freshman, finishing third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. Vick ledthe country with a 180.4 passing efficiency rating, completing 90 of his153 passes (58.8 percent) for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns. He lasocarried 110 times for 580 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vick will look to throw to sophomore flanker Andre Davis who set a team record with 962 receiving yards on 35 receptions, including nine touchdowns. Senior split end Ricky Hall added 25 catches for 398 yardsand three touchdowns.

Virginia Tech, however, depends heavily on a ground attack that averaged over 254 yards per game in 1999. Leading the way was junior tailbackShyrone Stith who carried 226 times for 1,119 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Junior tailback Andre Kendrick contributed 645 yards and seven touchdowns on 103 attempts.

Going up against that offense is a Seminole defense that ranked 17th nationally, allowing 15.8 points and 304.6 yards per game. Florida Stategave up 20 or more points four times during the season with a high of 35 in a 41-35 victory over Georgia Tech.

Senior defensive tackle Corey Simon led the Seminoles both on and off the field. Moore received All-American honors and was a finalist for theLombardi, Outland and Nagurski awards after recording 20 tackles for losses. Also helping out on defense is junior defensive end RolandSeymour, a New Orleans native.

The teams possess two of the best kickers in the country. Florida State’sSebastian Janikowski won the Lou Groza award for the second straight season after hitting on 23 field goals and 47 extra points for 116 total points. Virginia Tech’s Shayne Graham set a Big East record with 107points on 17 field goals and 56 extra points.

Both coaches have been with their programs awhile. Bobby Bowden is thethird winningest coach in college history, going 303-85-4 overall and 230-53-4 in 23 years with the Seminoles. Frank Beamer is 130-82-4 inhis 19-year career, 88-59-2 in 13 years at Virginia Tech. He has led theHokies to seven straight bowl appearances.

Both teams are used to playing in big games. Virginia Tech defeated fourTop 20 teams this season, including a 43-10 win over Miami (Fla.). Florida State also defeated the Hurricanes (31-21) and played the sixth- hardest schedule in the country. Both teams also defeated Clemson andVirginia.

The game should be closer than many expect. Virginia Tech has defeatedsome good teams this season and has the defense and running game to remain close. However, Florida State has experience, a balanced offenseand a stringent defense on its side. The pick here is Florida State, 28-24.

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