For more than six decades of the Associated Press Poll’s existence, no preseason No. 1 had retained that ranking throughout the season. That changed on this date 20 years ago.
As it had been all season, Florida State was No. 1 as it arrived in New Orleans to take on No. 2 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl for what would be just the second BCS national championship. At 11-0 under head coach Bobby Bowden, the ACC chamion Seminoles had rode a prolific offense and deep defense to the Superdome with four wins over ranked teams. The second-ranked and Big East champion Hokies, with Frank Beamer at the helm, had long been known for outstanding defense and special teams, but this year, they had a truly special player under center in redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick.
The contest on Jan. 4, 2000 saw drastic momentum swings as Virginia Tech overcame a big early deficit to take the lead into the final quarter. When all was said and done however, it was wide receiver Peter Warrick and Florida State that emerged victorious with 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of a 46-29 victory.
As dynamic as Vick was and as revered as Beamer’s special teams were, Warrick was the biggest star of the field that evening and it was the FSU special teams that overwhelmed Virginia Tech. The Seminoles were able to race to a 28-7 lead, thanks to a 64-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Weinke to Peter Warrick, a blocked punt return for a touchdown by Jeff Chaney, a 63-yard scoring strike from Weinke to Ron Dugans and a 59-yard punt return for a score by Warrick.
After finding Andre Hall for a 49-yard score and Virginia Tech’s first touchdown, Vick gave the Hokies some much-needed momentum heading into the locker room with a 3-yard touchdown run. That began a run of 22 straight points for Virginia Tech.
A short Shayne Graham field goal midway through the third quarter cut the lead to 28-17 before Andre Kendrick scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in less than a 4-minute span to stun defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and the Seminoles. Kendrick scored from 29 yards out to cut the lead to five before his 6-yard scamper with 2:13 to play in the third quarter gave the Hokies their first lead, 29-28.
FSU had trailed in the second half against Miami, Clemson, Virginia and Florida during the regular season and were unfazed by the drastic swing in momentum. The fourth quarter was just over two minutes old when Weinke found an open Dugans for the 15-yard touchdown that put the Seminoles ahead for good. After Warrick’s catch for the 2-point conversion made it a 36-29 game, the FSU defense helped seize control of the contest.
A Vick fumble on the ensuing Virginia Tech drive would set up a 32-yard field goal by 2-time Lou Groza Award winner Sebastian Janikowski to push the lead to 10. After a turnover on downs gave the ball to the Seminoles inside Virginia Tech’s 45-yard-line midway through the final period, Warrick would put the Hokies away on a spectacular catch that will live forever in FSU lore.
With Virginia Tech cornerback Roynell Whitaker draped all over Warrick, Weinke fired for the All-American in the end zone. Despite a plethora of contact that did ultimately draw a flag, Warrick was able to keep his concentration and make a juggling catch for his second touchdown reception and third touchdown of the night.
Warrick would finish the night with six catches for 163 yards and the three total touchdowns. Dugans caught five passes for 99 yards and the two scores while Weinke passed for 329 yards in the victory. Interestingly enough, Virginia Tech hung 503 total yards on the vaunted FSU defense while the Seminoles managed just 359 yards of offense. Turnovers and special teams play — staples of Beamer’s teams — weighed heavily in favor of Bowden and Florida State.
Vick finished the night with 322 yards of total offense, including 97 rushing for a team that went for nearly 280 yards on the ground. Davis led the Hokies in receiving with 108 yards and the touchdown on seven receptions.
But when all was said and done, it was Warrick and the Seminoles who had delivered the legendary Bowden his second national championship and only perfect season in 34 years at FSU as it became college football’s first wire-to-wire No. 1. Five years later, USC would duplicate the feat, but it has not been done since. The first time was capped on this day two decades ago.
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