TALLAHASSEE — The return was four years in the making, but Florida State and its fans made sure the wait was well worth it for Bobby Bowden.
Bowden, FSU's coach from 1976-2009, returned to Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since his retirement in 2009 and was honored with great fanfare in a pregame ceremony.
Bowden, 83, descended from the north end zone walking among nearly 400 of his former players who lined both sides of Bobby Bowden Field.
"They are the ones that made all of this possible," Bowden told the crowd. "And I thank God for them."
During the ceremony, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had a brief, emotional reunion with his former boss.
"I love the guy," Fisher said. "I just wanted to pay my respects. He's the greatest football coach in college football history, in my opinion, and the greatest gentleman for sure."
The all-time wins leader in Division I football, Bowden led FSU to its two national championships in 1993 and '99. Under his guidance, the Seminoles won 12 ACC championships and had 14 consecutive seasons with 10 or more victories. FSU also finished in the top five of the Associated Press poll 14 consecutive years — 1987-2000 — and made 31 bowl appearances in Bowden's 34 seasons.
Before the ceremony, Bowden told reporters so much has changed since he left, joking that he needed assistance to make it to the news conference in the stadium. He also praised Fisher.
"I tell you, Jimbo to me is one of the smartest guys coaching," Bowden said. "Being around him coaching for years, he has got as good a mind for football as you can find."
QB Jameis Winston said he didn't talk with Bowden before the game but felt the team honored him with its performance.
"Instead of being part of all the ceremonial things, we stayed focused, and I think the butt-whipping we put on them made him smile," Winston said.
PLAYING WITH 'INTEGRITY': Florida State is slightly ahead of Oregon in the BCS standings, and some analysts speculate Oregon would move ahead of FSU if both remained undefeated, mostly because of strength of schedule. And with Winston considered a potential Heisman candidate, Fisher was asked after the game about removing his first-team offense and defense in the second half against the Wolfpack instead of running up the score.
"I don't care, I'm not going to go out there and embarrass this game, the integrity of how you've got to play," Fisher said. "If that's the way they are going to do it (judge teams), then they need to re-evaluate. If they can't tell that we dominated that game early and put it away, if that's the way it's going to be, and I don't know how they'll do it, I just think that's bad for college football in my opinion. It's bad for the game in general."
RECORD KICK: FSU K Roberto Aguayo put himself into the record books. With his fourth extra point — at the 6:09 mark of the first quarter — Aguayo became the school record holder for consecutive field goals and extra points (55). He broke the record held by Dustin Hopkins (54 in 2010-11).