Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden was not afraid to gamble all game long tonight against his father Bobby Bowden's No. 1-ranked Florida State Seminoles. But with the game on the line, he elected against rolling the dice one last time and lost anyway, 17-14, before a Memorial Stadium-record crowd of 86,200.
In the culminating moment of the first meeting of father and son head coaches in NCAA Division I history, the younger Bowden sent freshman place kicker Tony Lazzara onto the field for a 41-yard, potentially game-tying field goal attempt on a fourth-and-one play from the Seminoles 25-yard line with the score 17-14 and 2 minutes 1 second left in regulation.
However, Lazzara's attempt from the right hashmark may have been tipped by cornerback Tay Cody and, whatever the case, it fell short and wide left--which was just fine with Bobby Bowden, who gained the 300th victory of his coaching career.
"I'm not going to give him the game," said Bobby Bowden, who has a 300-85-4 record in 33 seasons. "I wanted the dadgum win."
It was an emotional night that included Florida State all-American wide receiver Peter Warrick's return after being suspended for two games because of theft charges that were resolved Friday when he reached an agreement under which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
But the focus was on the numerous Bowden family members in attendance, including another of Bobby's sons, Jeff, who is Florida State's wide receivers coach, and one of his sons-in-law, Jack Hines, who is Clemson's defensive backs coach. And the game ended with Bobby Bowden being carried to the center of the field on his players' shoulders and then with the father and the son being engulfed in a crush of players, camera people and security personnel.
Tommy Bowden nearly gave his father only his third Atlantic Coast Conference loss since Florida State joined the conference in 1992. Even with Warrick on the field and making 11 receptions for 121 yards, with several drops mixed in, the outmanned Tigers (3-4, 3-2 ACC) held the Seminoles' potent offense out of the end zone for nearly three quarters. However, it finally succumbed to a touchdown by tailback Travis Minor and a two-point conversion pass tied the game at 14 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
A 39-yard field goal by Seminoles place kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who missed a pair of 45-yard tries earlier in the game, finally gave Florida State (8-0, 6-0) a 17-14 lead with 5:25 left in the game.
A close Florida State win "was what I prayed for," said Bobby's wife, Ann Bowden, who wore a sweatshirt that looked like half of a Florida State sweatshirt and half of a Clemson sweatshirt, sewn together. "I'm proud of Tommy and his team. It was pretty tough."
Tonight, said Tommy Bowden, "she was my father's wife, not my mother."
But the father's milestone victory and maintenance of the No. 1 ranking hung on the son's decisions during the game's final moments. The Tigers had marched to the Florida State 30-yard line, but on a third-and-six play, tailback Travis Zachery caught a short pass and then was cut down just short of the first-down marker at the 24.
Tommy Bowden maximized his personnel with daring play-calling all night, including a fake punt, a halfback pass, a wide receiver pass back to the quarterback after a reverse, unusual formations and savvy use of elusive sophomore quarterback Woody Dantzler. But in the end, he went for the tie.
"I didn't have any trick plays left," Tommy Bowden said. "I'd used them all up. . . . As hard as they played, I wanted to have a chance to win the game. I wanted to have a chance to kick, whether it was then or a minute later. If I went for it on fourth down and missed it, I would have never had a chance to kick."
Dantzler, who wrought havoc on the Seminoles' defense in the second quarter, fell flat in the third, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 13 yards during the period. After rushing 12 times for 48 yards in the first half, he was held to 30 yards rushing on 12 carries in the second.
"We were reeling" in the second quarter, Bobby Bowden said. "I was scared."
But in the end, Bobby was the Bowden who was celebrating.