- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2000

NEW ORLEANS 'Nole doubt about it Peter Warrick and Florida State are college football's best. On the wings of Warrick's record-breaking Sugar Bowl performance, No. 1 Florida State overwhelmed No. 2 Virginia Tech 46-29 before 79,280 fans at the Superdome last night.

The victory earned Florida State a second national title (1993) and completes coach Bobby Bowden's first perfect season after 24 years in Tallahassee.

The battle on the Bayou transcended even the mountain of hype that preceded it. For three quarters, college football's prodigy, Virginia Tech freshman quarterback Michael Vick, swapped scintillating punches with its prodigal son, Warrick.

Vick single-handedly kept the Hokies (11-1) in the game, rallying his team from a 28-14 halftime deficit to a 29-28 lead at the close of the third quarter. But despite Vick's sublime improvisational talents behind center, Warrick simply had the better supporting cast.

The 6-foot, 195-pound senior, best-known for his discount shopping spree in mid-October, scored a Sugar Bowl record 20 points. Warrick totaled six catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns, returned a punt 59 yards for another and caught a two-point conversion to garner MVP honors. The senior flanker's efforts helped the Seminoles (12-0) to 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points a run that dispatched the Hokies.

Though the conventional wisdom heading into the game figured Florida State would have a much tougher time protecting immobile junior quarterback Chris Weinke, it was actually Virginia Tech that couldn't keep the Seminoles from assaulting Vick.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pound slinger from Newport News, Va., did his best Doug Flutie imitation throughout the first half, spinning away from wave after wave of flying Seminoles defenders and single-handedly keeping the Hokies from humiliation.

But Vick paid dearly for his 164 yards of total offense and two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) before intermission, absorbing numerous hits (more than 20 on the game) and fumbling twice. His first miscue cost the Hokies a score in the red zone on their first possession after an otherwise flawless drive.

Bowden, meanwhile, borrowed a page from the playbook of his in-state nemesis Steve Spurrier. Weinke employed the same three-step, drop-and-fire style that Florida's Danny Wuerffel used to pick apart the vaunted Seminoles defense in the 1996 Sugar Bowl.

With the Hokies expecting those quick underneath routes near the end of the first quarter, Weinke, who was hit hard on only a handful of plays, found Warrick on a pump-and-go pattern to start the night's scoring. Virginia Tech corner Anthony Midget bit on the fake, and Warrick pulled in Weinke's pass in stride and beat late-breaking safety Nick Sorensen to the end zone.

Less than five minutes later, the Seminoles were back in the end zone.

FSU linebacker Tommy Polley, a Baltimore native, blocked a Virginia Tech punt from its own goal line, and reserve tailback Jeff Chaney scooped it up and dived in for the score from 6 yards out.

Ironically, the special teams miscue was one of several on the night for the Hokies the team noted throughout the last decade as the nation's best in that area.

After Vick hit Andre Davis on a 49-yard deep corner route to cut the score to 14-7, Weinke and company responded minutes later with a short slant that receiver Ron Dugans turned into a 63-yard streak to the end zone. That set up the first-half's defining play and the Hokies' second major breakdown on special teams.

Two minutes after Dugans' score and following an ineffective Virginia Tech series, Warrick stalked into the game to return a Jimmy Kibble punt, and pure electricity ensued.

Kibble drilled a low liner at Warrick, who patiently waited for the ball to bounce before collecting the leather and showcasing his game-breaking skills. As Warrick pulled in the ball at his own 41-yard line, Virginia Tech backup corner Larry Austin pulled up directly in front of him in perfect position to make the tackle. But Warrick threw a hip shake at Austin that seemed to mock reality, bolted past Austin and then cruised through the remainder of the Hokies punt coverage unit like a gazelle.

Warrick, the All-American flanker who was spurned by both Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff voters after his midseason arrest for shoplifting at Dillard's, earned a measure of redemption in his final game last night. His 59-yard punt return put the Seminoles ahead 28-7 with 11:40 left in the second half.

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