Like it or not, Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles find themselves fighting a "bad boy" image. It is nowhere near the reputation the University of Miami has earned, but it is growing. The fight at the end of Saturday's 42-3 victory over LSU at Doak Campbell Stadium did not help. A week before, Auburn players and coaches charged that FSU plays dirty _ claims that greatly angered Bowden.
Some of the trouble began two or three years ago when Deion Sanders played and talked tough. Several of his teammates picked up on his ways, which included taunting opponents as a means of intimidation.
No doubt there were several verbal exchanges on the field Saturday, which by the end of the afternoon added to LSU's frustration. Those things are part of football.
"(LSU assistant coach) Joe Wessel has played for me, (Auburn assistant coach) Reggie Herring has played for me, and if one of them can say I taught to play dirty, I'd like for him to come forward," Bowden said.
"Here is what I think is happening. Coaches, especially underdogs _ to try and get their team fired up _ will say, "Don't let them push you around. Don't let them be tougher than you.' They'll poor-mouth you, trash-mouth you, even if it's not true."
Ironically, just three weeks ago, when FSU was manhandled by Miami, people were referring to the Seminoles as wimps.
Rubbing it in: One way Bowden could avoid late-game problems is to pull his top players from games that are clearly out of reach. Bowden apologized for a pass that backup quarterback Kenny Felder threw late in the game. But on LSU's final series, several first-string defensive players were in the game, including linebackers Kirk Carruthers, Marvin Jones and Howard Dinkins, and cornerback Terrell Buckley.
"We have a little pride," Bowden said. "We hadn't held anybody without a touchdown all year. On the other hand, I had my ninth-string offense in there trying to keep from scoring."
Still, it doesn't look good for Bowden's first-string defense to be playing against LSU's third-string offense. So what if the Tigers scored? 42-10 is still a rout.
Young Seminoles: FSU fans got a look at the future in the second half Saturday. Freshman tailback Sean Jackson had nine carries for 35 yards, sophomore tailback Felix Harris had two for 30, including a 31-yard touchdown (the other was a 1-yard loss). Sophomore fullback Maurice Pinckney led FSU in rushing with four carries for 52 yards. He also had one reception for 15 yards. And freshman tight end Warren Hart made the first receptions of his career, grabbing two passes for 23 yards.
New QB: Casey Weldon's long-awaited first start at quarterback was a success. The junior from Tallahassee completed 15 of 25 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown.
"Being my first start wasn't that big of a deal," Weldon said. "My teammates helped this week. I had to relax and this was probably the most relaxed I've ever seen a Florida State team practice."
Double punters: John Wimberly was used for only one punt, but that's because the situation called for shorter ones. It was suggested to Bowden that he had a good "pooch punter" (short-kick specialist) in walk-on Scottie McLaren.
"My pooch kicker would get mad if he heard you say he was a pooch kicker," Bowden said. "What you see is what you get. He can hit away. He can't kick it any farther. With John, he'd have to back off. Now when John backs off, that's when we could get one of those 20-yarders."
200 Club: The Tallahassee area now boasts three head coaches who have won 200 games in their college football careers. Bowden, of course, won his 200th on Saturday. Darrell Mudra, who lives in Wakulla County, won 200 games in a 26-year career at seven schools, including two years at FSU. It was Mudra's firing that paved the way for Bowden to get the job. Tallahassee's Jake Gaither, 87, won 203 in a legendary career at Florida A&M.