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Tallahassee Democrat from Tallahassee, Florida • Page 34

Tallahassee, Florida
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4D 1 7- The game BillMcGrotha Notes and quotes -4 j- -y Eric Hayes expressed the sentiments of many of his team mates when asked whether he was going to sit by the television and hope for an Orange Bowl tie on Friday night. "Whats happened has hap pened," he said. "Our season is complete and we're happy. We know where we blew it. You don put your fate in somebody else's hands." FSU's charter flight is sched-.

uled to arrive at the Tallahassee, airport at 6 p.m. today. 'Luckier-than-good' Fiesta closes the best of Bowden TEMPE, Ariz. Bobby Bowden confirmed, not so quickly, what Michigan State, Auburn, Florida and most of the college-football world pretty well knew. This indeed was Florida State's best football team.

"Most powerful Florida State team ever yes, the best," said the smiling coach minutes after Friday's startling 31-28 victory over Nebraska. "More weapons, more depth more togetherness," said Bowden. "I was amazed at the togetherness of this team." 1 He said that long after first declaring his Seminoles very lucky to win. "I feel luckier than good," said Bowden. "But I had been rather be lucky than good." Florida State was surely both on this happy Near Year's Day.

Plenty lucky. Plenty good. "But they didn't give us the 114-yard drive we made to win," Bowden pointed out. FSU fans who believed in omens were probably heartened when the parachutist flying a Flori da flag was the first to land during pregame ceremonies. Then the parachutist with a Nebraska flag-landed about 15 seconds later, and, he landed squarely on the Fiesta Bowl insignia.

It obviously wasn't going to be an easy day. The officials were from the Southwest Conference. Supposedly 1 v' 7 v' Jy One hundred and 14 is close enough. FSU recovered a Nebraska fumble at its 3, whipped 95 to the Cornhuskers' 2, lost a yard, got set back 15 on a penalty, passed for 3, then won it on that 15-yard pass, Danny McManus to Ronald Lewis. The togetherness showed, suggested McManus McManus, as Florida State stood at its 3 with 6:58 left.

"That was going to be our last time with the ball," said McManus. "If we were going to win the game, we were going to win it then." McManus reeled off the names of his offensive linemen as he spoke of their leadership role 97 yards away from a winning touchdown. There was a chorus from them of: "Let's go!" McManus added: "What a great job those guys did the receivers, too." Phil CoaleDemocrat Nebraska punt returner Dana Brinson angles toward a 52-yard TD that made it 14-0 in the first quarter Taylor gave Seminoles a fit neutral, right? Don tell that to Nebraska. "I can't believe how the game was called today," said defensive end Neil Smith. The Cornhuskers complained a lot about holding that wasn't called.

"When you're playing a passing team, that's probably a legitimate gripe," said Bowden. "But then they probably clipped us a few times and it wasn't called." What happened on Rick Tuten 's 5-yard punt in the third quarter? He said he was supposed to kick to the right, but the snap came in to his left, messing up his drop. FSU is now 3-1 at Sun Devil Stadium, having won three straight since its loss in the 1971 Fiesta Bowl. It has scored 149 points in those four games, an average of 37.2 a game. "We're going to take some of this turf back with us," said Coach Bobby Bowden.

Did Nebraska do anything unexpected on Friday? "They lined up in the wish-' bone," said FSU assistant coach Wally Burnham. "But they didn't do' anything wishbonish." After the late touchdown seemed to pull out the win, FSU had one final fright when Steve Taylor hit Morgan Gregory for a 56-yard pass play that ended on the FSU 2-yard line. "Everybody had a heart attack on that," said Pat Tomberlin. Only an illegal-procedure flag, saved the day. i "When I saw that, I dropped to my knees and said, "Thank you!" said Shelton Thompson.

Remember when Dexter Carter kicked LeRoy Etienne and was nailed for a critical personal foul? It moved the ball from 3 yards to 15 yards away from the end zone on FSU's winning drive. The Seminoles scored, so they could laugh about it after the game. Bowden said no, he wouldn't have made Carter walk home from Arizona had FSU not scored. "I might have let him out halfway home, though," said Bowden. "And it might've been at 20,000 feet." Bowden was his usual cheery self all week despite his own problems.

His stepfather, Harold Pitts, By David Whitley Democrat staff writer It was 'now or never' It came to fourth and goal at the 15. The coaches considered their options. They pondered a field goal, with an onside kick following or a deep kickoff, following a field goal, then blitzing tactics to get the ball back on another fumble. "We considered everything," said Bowden. To McManus there was only one option: "Now or never." And the coaches had already so concluded.

"It was a double-end pattern to either the tight end or wide receiver," said McManus. "The tight end was covered by the strong safety, and Lewis was left one-on-one and made a good move toward the inside." And McManus made the good pass that got this dramatic job done. It was extraordinary accomplishment that left Nebraska devastated. "That finish was fantastic, and kind of unfair to Nebraska," said Bowden benevolently. Tom Osborne, gentlemanly coach, calmly considered the harsh reality of victory that Florida State jerked from the jaws of defeat.

"McManus did a great job, and their coaches did a great job of keeping us off balance," said Osborne. "Ofcviously, Florida State has a great team. "We stopped their running, but the strength of their team is they are so multi-faceted. They executed their winning pass well, and McManus threw it very well. We just didn't put enough heat on.

up an average of 274 in its first 11 games. FSU would stuff Nebraska on one series, then get pushed around on the next. "This wasn't one of our best games," said inside linebacker coach Wally Burnham. Coach Bobby Bowden said he sort of sensed something missing at the start. "I felt like we were a little too lax," he said.

"It looked like they were hungrier than we were." The scoreboard reflected that, though not all of that can be pinned on FSU's defense. Much of it goes to the punting team. First, Richard Bell returned a Rick Tuten line drive 27 yards to give the Cornhuskers the ball at FSU's 18-yard line. They scored three plays later. The next time, Tuten got off a punt with decent hang time, but Dana Brinson ripped straight through the coverage to give Nebraska a 14-0 lead.

"If we hadn't messed up on the kicking game," said Burnham, "we might've been up 21-0 at the half." Just when the game was in danger of losing viewers to the Cotton Bowl, FSU came alive to score 21 econd-quarter points. At that point, it seemed the second half might get real ugly for the Cornhuskers. "I thought, well, we've got them now," said Bowden. "I told the defense that if we kept them off the scoreboard we'd win. Then they took that first drive and drove it right down the field." The Cornhuskers went 77 yards for the tying score.

They would take a 28-24 lead well into the fourth quarter, then were on the verge of putting the game away after going on a ball-hogging 71-yard march that FSU seemed helpless to stop. It seemed only a small miracle would keep Nebraska from taking a 35-24 lead with seven minutes left. That's what FSU got when Tyreese Knox fumbled at the 2. "I don't know what happened," said Hayes. "I think Odell (Haggins) got penetration and someone hit it." Hayes said the ball ended up, of all places, on the stomach of an offensive lineman.

He tried to reach down for it, but his arms were above his head and someone was on them. "He (the lineman) couldn't get it because they were pinned behind him," said Hayes. "I didn't know if it was a fumble or not. I just grabbed it." And that more than made up for all the other difficulties FSU had on Friday. TEMPE, Ariz.

Florida State's game, plan Friday wasn't to stop Nebraska. "We just wanted to contain them," said cornerback Eric Williams. That turned out to be as difficult as most thought it would be, thanks mostly to Steve Taylor, a faulty punting game and a Jack of something almost indefinable on FSU's part. A little good luck went a long way toward erasing, all those. But before it came along there were plenty of problems to deal with.

First was Taylor, the sophomore pain-in-the-neck for defenses. He did exactly what the Seminoles expected, driving them nutty on option plays. "He is so dangerous because he does so many things," said linebacker Paul McGowan. "He's like an extra tailback back there." "He's a 10. No, a 12," said tackle Eric Hayes.

"He's a helluva athlete." Taylor ran for 75 yards and passed for 142. The Cornhuskers ground out 384 yards in all against a defense that gave died last Saturday of heart prob Prior to this game we thought Florida State was the toughest bowl match we could have drawn a team that could be a one." lems. His mother married Pitts in 1976 after the death of Bowden's father. Herb Gainer caught five passes, two for touchdowns. Another sure touchdown bounced off his hands when he lost it in the sun.

"The defensive back asked me if I saw it," said Gainer. "I said and he said, 'I didn't see it That Gainer caught anything is surprising after awakening Friday with a stiff back that tightened up on him at halftime. "(Trainer) Randy (Oravetz) was giving me pills and popping my back every five minutes," he said. What are the chances of FSU playing in next season's Kickoff Classic in New York? Apparently not good. FSU officials haven't heard anything encouraging from Kickoff offi tent with what he got Friday.

No. 3 nationally going in, the Seminoles surely hailed down their highest rating ever. It was their first victory in a New Jti Osborne in I A ft 4 p) Year's Day bowl. Would Bowden like to play the Miami-Oklahoma winner of the Orange Bowl in a playoff for the national title? "That would be the advantage of a playoff," said Bowden. "But I am.

not in favor of a playoff." Back from the 0-14 depths Bowden had won his playoff with Nebraska. He had considered his bowl such after going 2-2 in four engagements against this tough opponent on its own home field in Lincoln. "We beat them close twice, and they beat us bad twice, so this is a kind of playoff," Bowden had said before the game. In the rubber game, Bowden had once again beaten Nebraska close. Close, but hardly your textbook perfect game.

Both teams had made uncharacteristic errors in the toughest kind of struggle, one throwing down the gauntlet to the other and quickly finding its challenge accepted. Perhaps Florida State's winning recovery after trailing 14-0 early said as much about the quality of this team as anything could in this rugged action. "I got bruises all over me," said McManus. "I don't get too nervous or too riled too often, but I did in the first quarter. Nebraska's defensive line was tough.

"But it is a great feeling right now." The voters will vote as they will and as they must, but count McManus one among those inclined to ignore their judgment. "We've been the No. 1 team for 10 to 13 weeks now," said the game's most valuable offensive player. cials, and the Seminoles aren too hyped about the idea to begin with. "I'd be thrilled to play in said Bowden.

"But it wouldn't bother me if we don't." Bowden doesn't like the idea of bringing the players back one week earlier, and he noted that many of the teams that play in the game have faltered as the seasons wore on. "I really don't care for it," said Bowden. Of 16 seniors, only Pat Carter and Paul McGowan are playing in postseason all-star games. That bothers Gainer and other seniors who weren't ready to end their careers on Friday. "It's one of those things," said Gainer.

"You just have to go out and do your job and not worry, about it." FSU is now 6-2-1 in bowls in Bowden's 12 years. It's 5-0-1 in its past six. And what about next year? "If next year's ballclub can get the same leadership this one has, and we don't lose some key guys academically, and have a pretty good recruiting year, we may be as good," said Bowden. "Or better." Phil CoaleDemocrat Despite the best efforts of Paul McGowan and Kevin Grant (47), Keith Jones gained 80 of Nebraska's 242 rushing yards i)--- i J--.

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