MIAMI -- Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden has won 10 of 14 bowl games, but none may have been as sweet as Friday night's 24-17 win over Penn State in the first Blockbuster Bowl, before 74,021 at Joe Robbie Stadium.
The win was Bowden's first over Penn State coach Joe Paterno, whose Nittany Lions had beaten Bowden six straight times in the early 1970s when Bowden was coach at West Virginia. The two coaches, best of friends, never had faced each other since Bowden came to Florida State.
"I don't think we've played anybody better than Penn State," said Bowden, who has a 10-3-1 bowl record.
"I've never enjoyed a bowl as much as this one, because of his [Paterno's] association. When you've beaten Joe, you've accomplished something. It feels old. Sixty-one years it took."
The loss eliminated No. 7 Penn State's already slim chances of winning a national title. The No. 6 Seminoles (10-2) still have an outside chance, but will need a couple of upsets on New Year's Day.
"If Notre Dame beats Colorado, Miami beats Texas and Nebraska beats Georgia Tech, nobody deserves to win the national championship," said Bowden. "So since we're as bad as anyone else, it might as well be us."
Paterno was more direct and complimentary of the Seminoles.
"I don't see how they can not give it to Florida State," said Paterno, who has a 14-7 bowl record. "They're the best team I've seen all year."
Penn State (9-3), which had the nation's longer major college winning streak nine games until Friday's loss, simply took too long to figure out how to stop Florida State's offense. Once the Nittany Lions did, Florida State had a 17-7 halftime lead and held on for the victory.
Florida State helped make it close with a conservative, short-passing attack in the second half, and Penn State also got a spark from reserve quarterback Tom Bill, who replaced starter Tony Sacca with with 7 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game and rallied the team with a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terry Smith 1:05 later to pull Penn State within 24-17.
But Bill, who helped pull out victories over Alabama and West Virginia earlier this season in relief, was intercepted by free safety Jason Davis at the 2 from the Florida State 29 with 2:54 left in the game. Bill was hit by two Florida State defenders while releasing the ball.
"It was a great, clean, hard football game," said Paterno, whose ++ team allowed Florida State 243 of its 400 total offensive yards in the first half. "I was proud of our kids. There were no shenanigans out there. We just didn't do enough offensively to ++ win."
Florida State scored on three of its first four possessions, with passes over the middle as the key weapon. Richie Andrews kicked a 41-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a 3-0 lead 4:13 into the game.
With 9:33 left, Florida State's Terrell Buckley turned in the play of the game. Buckley took a punt at his 43 along the left sideline, retreated to his 29, then outran Penn State players down the right sideline for a 39-yard return to the Penn State 15.
Four plays later, Florida State fullback Amp Lee, the game's Most Valuable Player with 86 yards rushing on 21 carries, ran 1 yard off left tackle for a touchdown and a 10-0 Florida State lead.
"It took us awhile to get adjusted to their speed," said Paterno.
Penn State pulled within 10-7 with 1:13 left in the first period on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Sacca to split end David Daniels. The pass was intended for tight end Al Golden, but went through Golden and a Florida State defender's arms before Daniels caught it and ran 30 additional yards for the score.
But Lee finished a 70-yard, seven-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run on the ensuing series that put Florida State ahead, 17-7, with 13:28 left in the second quarter. Penn State had a chance for a field goal after Lee's second touchdown, but Fayak's 22-yard attempt was blocked by cornerback Tommy Henry on a pass rush up the middle.
Fayak converted a 32-yarder midway in the third period to pull the Nittany Lions with 17-10, but Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon scored on a 5-yard bootleg to the right with 3:51 left in the third period to give Florida State a 24-10 lead.
Paterno replaced Sacca with Bill midway in the fourth period. It took Bill only two plays, one a 22-yard reception, before connecting with Smith for the touchdown.
Asked if he had waited too late to replace Sacca, Paterno said, "No."
"I didn't think Tony played badly," said Paterno of Sacca, who completed 12 of 25 passes for 194 yards but two interceptions. "I just thought he got tired in the game and needed a rest."