Virginia shocks Fla. St., 33-28 No. 2 Seminoles lose first ACC game, national title chances

November 03, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Bobby Bowden worried about the cold on Florida State's farthest foray north this season.

The coach should have worried about the heat Virginia would put on his second-ranked Seminoles.

The 24th-ranked Cavaliers took a 12-point lead into the final seven minutes, then stopped the last play of the game inches from their goal line for a wild 33-28 victory over Florida State before 44,300 at Scott Stadium and a national television audience last night.

In the process, coach George Welsh's team more than made up for two earlier last-play losses and stopped nearly four seasons of embarrassment for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Florida State (7-1, 5-1) was 29-0 against the ACC since joining the conference in 1992. Besides ending the third-longest conference winning streak in the history of major-college football, the outcome also destroyed any chance the Seminoles had at their second national title in three years.

"The national championship thing sorts itself out. Tonight, it sorted us out," Bowden said.

"They've done a great job against every team in the league," Virginia quarterback Mike Groh said. "Maybe this will give the other teams more confidence against them."

Virginia (7-3, 6-1) will come to Maryland's Byrd Stadium next Saturday as the ACC leader and, Auburn's claim to the contrary, the nation's best three-loss team.

Virginia lost its opener at Michigan on a last-second touchdown pass, and a game against Texas had been equally frustrating, as the Longhorns won on a game-ending 50-yard field goal into the wind. The Cavaliers also felt snake-bitten in a four-point loss at North Carolina.

The Cavaliers, who had never before beaten a Top 5 team, also had to sweat this one out, as the Seminoles got to the Virginia 1-yard line on the last play.

Warrick Dunn took a direct snap from the 5 and was stopped just shy of the goal by safety Adrian Burnim and linebacker Anthony Poindexter.

The celebration that had begun prematurely on the previous play erupted in earnest, as several thousand Virginia fans mobbed the field and trashed both goal posts.

Florida State moved 79 yards before Dunn was stopped just shy of victory. On their previous possession, quarterback Danny Kanell, who threw for 454 yards, moved the Seminoles 80 yards in four plays. On their five second-half tries before that, however, Florida State mustered just one first down, as the nation's most prolific attack was stopped cold for 23 minutes.

"We've got the kind of team that, when we explode, we can really rack 'em up," Bowden said. "When we don't, we're just a good football team."

Other big components for Virginia were the play-action passing of senior quarterback Groh, who threw for 302 yards; superior special-teams play, as punter Will Brice controlled field position and kicker Rafael Garcia booted four field goals; and a statement game by junior tailback Tiki Barber.

Florida State came in with Heisman Trophy candidate Dunn at running back, but Barber said, "I'm going to make sure that Warrick Dunn isn't the only back getting recognition on national TV."

Barber backed up the boast with 193 yards rushing (111 in the first half), four receptions for 45 yards and six punt returns for 73 yards.

"I can't absorb it all now," Welsh said. "I'm stunned. It's a great feeling. I'm so happy for the kids; they've faced so much adversity this season."

Both teams scored three touchdowns in the first half, and the difference in Virginia's 27-21 lead was a pair of Garcia field goals that followed mistakes by Florida State.

It was 14-14 three minutes into the second quarter when the Seminoles' punt team came on for the third time, itself a rarity. James Farrior cleanly blocked Sean Liss' kick, and Bryan Owen recovered at the Florida State 21-yard line, setting up a 35-yarder by Garcia that put Virginia ahead for good, 17-14.

Down 24-21 after a 38-yard touchdown pass from Kanell to E.G. Green with 3:05 left in the half, Florida State used all its timeouts during Virginia's ensuing possession, and rued the ploy. On third-and-six from his 24, Groh's swing pass to Barber went 39 yards, and Garcia kicked a 48-yard field goal four plays later, with 1:14 to go in the half.

The Florida State loss scrambled the major bowl picture. Had the Seminoles beaten Virginia and gone undefeated, they probably would have played No.1 Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title.

Now, the only way the Fiesta will get two undefeated teams is if Nebraska and third-ranked Florida win out. Florida plays Florida State at Gainesville on Nov. 25.

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