Its usually strong offense hurt by mistakes, 15th-ranked Florida State used a 14-yard blocked punt return by Joe Wessel with 3:58 to play and a two-point conversion to gain a 17-17 tie with Georgia in the 39th Florida Citrus Bowl today.
Georgia, which had led by 14-0, was attempting to run out the clock when Lenny Chavers blocked Chip Andrews' punt, knocking it toward the goal line. Wessel picked it up at the 14 and scored.
"I didn't see the block, but I heard that second thump and I knew we had gotten it," said Wessel, who got his fourth touchdown this season off blocked kicks. "I just started looking for the ball."
Darrin Holloman scored on a reverse for a two-point conversion to give Florida State (7-3-2) the tie. The Seminoles withstood a game-ending scare when Kevin Butler narrowly missed a 70-yard field goal attempt on the final play.
"I've kicked 'em 72 yards in practice," Butler said. "Everything was perfect . . . I knew I kicked it straight enough, but I couldn't tell about the distance."
"I thought he was going to make that thing," said Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. "It looked dead center . . . I can't say that a tie feels like a victory, but any time you can come from 14 down at the half and not lose, I guess it feels like a win."
The voting for the outstanding player awards was conducted with about six minutes left in the game and before Wessel's touchdown. Georgia cornerback Kevin Harris was named the game's outstanding defensive player and freshman Lars Tate won the outstanding offensive player award.
Tate gave Georgia a 14-0 lead when he scored on runs of four and two yards within a span of 4:18 in the second quarter.
Butler, fourth on the NCAA's all-time scoring list, gave the Bulldogs (7-4-1) a 17-9 lead with 12:10 remaining with his 36-yard field goal.
Florida State, hurt by penalties and three turnovers, cut into a 14-0 halftime deficit when freshman Derek Schmidt kicked a 32-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
The Seminoles made it 14-9 on Tony Smith's one-yard run with 14:21 left in the game, but Eric Thomas' keeper on a two-point conversion attempt was foiled.