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Noles hand Bowden final victory 33-21

January 2, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

JACKSONVILLE (AP) - Bobby Bowden watched the clock run down to :00, then took his last walk to midfield as his Florida State players jumped up and down, thrusting their helmets into the air.

The coach went out a winner, carried off by the Seminoles.

Jermaine Thomas ran for two touchdowns, Florida State scored 20 straight points to take control and the Seminoles knocked off No. 18 West Virginia 33-21 Friday at the Gator Bowl in the final game of Bowden's storied 44-year career as a head coach.

"I will not forget it. I won't forget the other ones we have here, too," Bowden said, his hands wrapped around the silver Gator Bowl trophy. "Nothing like a win."

Bowden finished with a 389-129-4 record, and most importantly to him, a 33rd consecutive winning season. Next week, Jimbo Fisher takes over at Florida State, which finished 7-6 for the third time in the last four years.

That run of mediocrity was the downfall for Bowden, 80, who wanted to stay at least one more season, but on this day, none of that mattered to the Florida State faithful, which serenaded him with "Bob-by! Bob-by!" chants throughout the day, saving their loudest cries for the very end.

With 1:39 left, Bowden trotted down to the Florida State band section, removing his autographed white cap and tossing it into the seats - and the celebration began. When it was over, Bowden was surrounded by a wall of photographers, trying to make his way over to shake the hand of West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who was a 177-pound walk-on for Bowden's first Mountaineers team in 1970.

"It's got to be memorable," Bowden said. "It's my last dadgum ballgame after 57 years of coaching."

Bowden leaves as major college football's second-winningest coach. Joe Paterno earned his 394th victory Friday in the Capital One Bowl as Penn State beat LSU 19-17.

Bowden spent much of the afternoon hugging his former players who lined the sidelines. Some of them now were middle-aged men, their hair tinged with gray.

North Fort Myers High School graduate Noel Devine rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown for West Virginia (9-4), which ran out to a 14-3 lead, then sputtered the rest of the way.

"Well, like so many games, when you're behind like we were in that first quarter, there's always an opportunity to quit and to give up," Bowden said. "The kids did not. They kept fighting, kept coming back and won the ball game. That's what you want."

There was even a "wide right" - in Bowden's favor, for a change.

West Virginia's Tyler Bitancurt pushed a 33-yard field goal try past the right upright midway through the third quarter, a big break for the Seminoles. Bowden's teams lost four epic matchups with archrival Miami over the years, and probably at least two national championships, because of FSU field goals going wide right.

Let it be noted that on the last field goal his team tried, FSU made it.

This was Bowden's day, and the Seminoles made sure he wouldn't be denied.

Everything about the matchup was arranged with celebrating Bowden in mind, and that didn't change on game day.

More than 350 of Bowden's former players were there as guests, and thousands of fans - many of whom arrived two hours before Bowden - braved 52-degree air and steady rain to line the route the coach and his wife, Ann, would take into the stadium, followed by the rest of the Seminole roster.

There was a pregame video of Bowden highlights. He got a new car, a gift from Toyota and the Gator Bowl. Then came a rare treat even for Bowden, the right to take the flaming FSU spear from Chief Osceola and slam the point into the turf at midfield, one of Florida State's most revered pregame traditions.

"I'm very excited. Ann and I are very excited to be here in front of the Seminoles and also the Mountaineers," Bowden said from the field to a sold-out crowd moments before kickoff. "I couldn't help but get nostalgic when I heard the West Virginia band play their fight song. And then also, to hear the Seminoles play ours."

Bowden was head coach at Samford from 1959-62, led West Virginia from 1970-75 and took over at Florida State the next season.



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