The Gator Bowl showdown between Florida State and West Virginia is today, but it might have provided one of the lasting and defining images of the season.
The game's Hall of Fame ceremony on Friday afternoon brought Steve Spurrier, one of four inductees, and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden together on the same dais. The two legends of the game whose relationship had become strained to say the least in recent years, exchanged hearty handshakes, congratulatory pats and a few pleasantries.
"We just said, "Hello,' " said Spurrier, the former Florida coach who recently was named coach at South Carolina. "Nothing about any prior games or anything, just, "How you doing?' I said he looks great. His health looks wonderful and hopefully mine's good, too."
For his part, Bowden seemed genuinely excited to see his former nemesis _ and sometime needler _ for the first time since Spurrier left Florida for the NFL in 2002.
"Someone asked me, "What do you think about Steve?' " Bowden said. "(I said), "That's Tommy's problem; that ain't mine anymore.' "
Tommy Bowden, of course, coaches Clemson and Spurrier passed on any jabs at having to face Bobby's son every year for state bragging rights.
"They've got a pretty good program going there," Spurrier said, adding Clemson is a little ahead of him in recruiting within the Palmetto state. But he's confident he and his new staff will recruit well and if they do, the team will have a chance to make some noise in the SEC for the first time in school history.
Even against Florida, the school he built into a national power from 1990-2001 but didn't rush to offer him the job after it fired Ron Zook in midseason?
"I don't know if I could have gotten the Florida job or I couldn't; it never got to that point," he said. "The challenge of trying to do it for the first time instead of maybe trying to do it again was best for me and, really, best for everybody. I think we're all on pretty good terms with Florida. South Carolina's not really a rival."
Yeah, but now?
"Well, if we can beat them once or twice, we will be," he said. "Until then, we're just another team on the schedule."
Joining Spurrier in the Hall of Fame were former FSU standouts Greg Allen and Chip Ferguson, MVPs of Gator Bowl wins in 1982 and 1985, respectively, as well as Bill Nimnicht Jr., a past bowl chairman and longtime civic enthusiast who died in 2001.
SECOND TIME THE CHARM: West Virginia has been here before and the players hope it helps. Last year at this time the Mountaineers were set to meet Maryland, and coach Rich Rodriguez thought they were ready for a strong showing.
They lost 41-7.
"Sometimes over the course of bowl practice, you practice, practice, practice and by the time the game gets here, you're a little worn out, you're kind of burned out mentally and physically," senior quarterback Rasheed Marshall said. "I can see a difference in attitude. There's a lot more eagerness."
AWARD WINNERS: The Gator Bowl also honored FSU senior cornerback Bryant McFadden and West Virginia senior guard Jeff Berk as scholar athletes. McFadden hasn't allowed a passing touchdown this season, is projected as a possible first-round NFL draft pick and had a 3.11 GPA. Berk, a first-team All-Big East pick, has a 3.6 GPA and received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation.
_ BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer
Florida State depth chart
SE _ Chauncey Stovall (15)/Willie Reid (26)
ST _ Alex Barron (70)/Mario Henderson (75)
SG _ Cory Niblock (62)/Jacky Claude (68)
C _ David Castillo (63)/Brian Ross (71)
TG _ Bobby Meeks (73)/Ron Lunford (72)
TT _ Ray Willis (77)/David Overmyer (79)
TE _ Paul Irons (38)/Matt Henshaw (14)
FLK _ Craphonso Thorpe (1)/Dominic Robinson (21)
QB _ Chris Rix (16)/Wyatt Sexton (19)
FB _ James Coleman (36)/B.J. Dean (35)
TB _ Leon Washington (3)/Lorenzo Booker (28)
LE _ Chauncey Davis (94)/Kamerion Wimbley (95)
DT _ Travis Johnson (99)/Charles Howard (59)
NG _ Brodrick Bunkley (52)/Clifton Dickson (97)
RE _ Eric Moore (55)/Willie Jones (6)
SLB _ Ernie Sims (34)/Ray Piquion (56)
MLB _ Buster Davis (7)/Sam McGrew (44)
WLB _ A.J. Nicholson (54)/Marcello Church (39)
LC _ Bryant McFadden (8)/J.R. Bryant (18)
FS _ Pat Watkins (22)/Roger Williams (31)
RV _ Jerome Carter (23)/Claudius Osei (27)
RC _ Antonio Cromartie (13)/Gerard Ross (11)
P _ Chris Hall (48)
West Virginia depth chart
WR _ Chris Henry (5)/Dwayne Thompson (16)
LT _ Michael Watson (75)/Travis Garrett (70)
LG _ Dan Mozes (76)/Zac Napier (79)
C _ Tim Brown (60)/Jeremy Hines (57)
RG _ Jeremy Sheffey (65)/Jeff Berk (68)
RT _ Garin Justice (69)/Tim Brown (60)
TE _ Ryan Thomas (81)/Brad Palmer (45)
WR _ Miquelle Henderson (83)/Joe Hunter (29)
QB _ Rasheed Marshall (2)/Charles Hales (14)
FB _ Hikee Johnson (25)/Justin Dziak (33)
TB _ Kay-Jay Harris (1)/Pernell Williams (30)
DE _ Keilen Dykes (96)/Ernest Hunter (99)
DT _ Ben Lynch (92)/Craig Wilson (66)
DE _ Jason Hardee (95)/Pat Liebig (98)
SLB _ Jeff Noechel (59)/Kevin McLee (43)
MLB _ Adam Lehnortt (10)/Marc Magro (53)
WLB _ Scott Gyorko (33)/Jay Henry (42)
CB _ Adam Jones (9)/Thandi Smith (8)
SS _ Mike Lorello (23)/Eric Wicks (41)
FS _ Jahmile Addae (4)/Jerry White (34)
S _ Lawrence Audena (47)/Ridwan Malik (22)
CB _ Anthony Mims (26)/Dee McCann (15)
P _ Phil Brady (38)