The only way to tell that Florida State star wide receiver Peter Warrick had been suspended from the team indefinitely was to search the sideline of Doak Campbell Stadium today for a figure in blue jeans and a red golf shirt. You certainly couldn't tell by looking on the field.
Expected to falter against 19th-ranked Miami without their Heisman Trophy hopeful, the top-ranked Seminoles instead simply plugged other wide receivers into their sharp offensive attack and had more trouble on defense than anywhere else before finally pulling together for a 31-21 victory.
The win not only kept Florida State (6-0) in the national championship picture, but boosted the confidence of a team that had been rocked earlier this week by the arrests of Warrick and senior wide receiver Laveranues Coles on felony theft charges. Coles, who already was on probation, was thrown off the team. Warrick, who apologized to his teammates before the game, was relegated to the sideline in his street clothes, able to do little but watch as an improved Miami team tried--and eventually failed--to match the Seminoles touchdown-for-touchdown.
"We made a statement today," Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke said. "Coach [Bobby] Bowden challenged us with Pete out, saying this was an opportunity for someone else to make a name for themselves, and I think a few of our guys did just that."
Weinke racked up 332 passing yards by throwing to 10 receivers, but an equally strong passing game from Miami kept the score tight until the beginning of the fourth quarter. That's when senior wide receiver Ron Dugans showcased the Seminoles' depth by turning a short pass into a 54-yard gain, setting up Travis Minor's decisive two-yard touchdown run. The Hurricanes appeared ready to respond by driving downfield a few minutes later, but rover Derrick Gibson intercepted a pass from quarterback Kenny Kelly at the Florida State 29-yard line.
Miami (2-3) couldn't recover, and the Seminoles extended their home unbeaten streak to a nation-leading 44 games. It was the third consecutive loss for the Hurricanes, who had started this season with high hopes of getting back to the national stage it practically owned a decade ago. Now, after a narrow loss to No. 2 Penn State and squandering a 20-point lead against East Carolina, they will refocus on fighting for the Big East Conference championship. Still, Coach Butch Davis was pleased with the play of Kelley, who was 27 of 41 passing for 370 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Santana Moss, who made nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis also was pleased with the team's overall showing, especially considering the last time the Hurricanes played here, in 1997 under severe NCAA scholarship restrictions, they lost, 47-0.
"Two years ago, the light at the end of the tunnel was a long way away," Davis said. "Today it looks a hell of a lot of closer."
While the Hurricanes focus on their rebuilding process, the Seminoles will focus on life without Warrick, who got into trouble earlier this week when he and Coles allegedly were undercharged for designer clothes at a local department store. Bowden initially did not appear inclined to suspend Warrick, but the severity of the charge, which finally was levied Thursday, changed that.
"When something happens like this week, you just sit there pleading for a misdemeanor--and I don't usually find myself pleading for misdemeanors," Bowden said. "When it came down as a felony, it really shook me, and it shook the team."
Warrick's first court appearance is set for Monday, but it is uncertain how long it will take for his case to be resolved. Before today's game, he addressed the team, apologizing for his actions and urging them to focus on the game instead of on his situation.
"I basically told them to keep their heads up, go out there and do what they have to do," Warrick said in a pregame interview with ABC Sports, which televised today's game. "It's not all about a Peter Warrick show; it's a team thing."
Apparently, his teammates were listening. After matching end zone appearances with Miami in the first half, leaving the field with the score tied at 21, the Seminoles returned for the second half to clamp down on defense and pull away.
"We showed a lot of character," Dugans said. "It was a tough week for everybody, but we came out and took care of business."