DeCock

Reflective Bowden just wants win

Staff WriterOctober 22, 2009 

Only Bobby Bowden could take a question about his 0-3 record in the ACC and address the controversy swirling around his team with an anecdote about a bowl game in 1986.

In these dark days for the Florida State program, that's how far back the Florida State coach has to go to conjure up some optimism.

"People give up so easy. People quit so easy. And I'm talking about fans," Bowden said Wednesday. "In 1986, we went 6-4-1 -- 6-4-1! -- and went to the Hall of Fame Bowl up in Birmingham, played Indiana and won.

"The next year, we had one of the best teams we've ever had at Florida State. Second in the nation, but material-wise it was probably the best team we've ever had. That's why I'm still positive with this group of guys. Sooner or later, they're going to break out of it."

It was actually the 1986 All-American Bowl -- the name changed two years earlier, the site did not -- but North Carolina shouldn't mistake Bowden's nostalgia for surrender. The Tar Heels should take heed and watch out.

As North Carolina coach Butch Davis pointed out Wednesday, Florida State's roster doesn't look a whole lot different than it did 20 years ago. Only the record appears odd: 2-4 overall and tied with N.C. State for last in the Atlantic Division. It's the Seminoles' worst start in conference play since they joined the ACC 18 years ago.

But it's also a Thursday night game on ESPN, Chapel Hill's first, and the Seminoles excel at spoiling other people's parties. That could spell trouble for the Tar Heels: Serious trouble, like Brigham Young-style trouble.

After a narrow loss to Miami in the opener and squeaker against Jacksonville State, Florida State limped into Provo a nine-point underdog in September.

But it was a night game on ESPN, and the Seminoles partied like it was 1999. They ran the ball. They threw the ball. They took nine penalties. And they won by 26, hanging 54 points on a team that hasn't lost since, including a win over Oklahoma.

The Seminoles proceeded to lose the next three and stagger into Chapel Hill tonight, but the BYU scenario should give the Tar Heels pause -- and it does.

"They showed up and annihilated BYU, which is a very good football team, so they've got evidence on film of how talented they are," Davis said.

After an 11-day break from the continuing controversy surrounding Bowden's future, who would be surprised to see the Seminoles bring their best possible game on the biggest stage?

Which isn't to say that even then the Seminoles would be guaranteed to win. North Carolina's defense remains stout, the Tar Heels have had an extra week to find some answers in the running game and there's pride on the line for them as well.

But given a chance for redemption on a national stage during a season gone wrong, the Seminoles will surely bring everything to bear tonight, just as they did in Utah. At this point, Bowden admits, it's all they have left.

"If you lose a ballgame, you say you still can do it [win a national title] with one loss," Bowden said. "Then if you lose two games, then you forget that and go another line -- we can win our conference, we can win our division.

"Then you lose three games in your division, man, ain't no sense talking about that anymore. Talk about the next ballgame and wanting to win it and get back on the winning track. That's what we need to do, is get back to the winning track."

The Tar Heels stand in their way. They better be ready, lest they end up in another Bowden anecdote somewhere down the line, however long that line may be.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8947

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