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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 13

Weinke's Performance Leaves Florida Feeling Ill

College football: Quarterback shakes off flu-like symptoms to lead Florida State to 30-7 victory, keeping Seminoles in hunt for national title.

November 19, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Sometimes you just have to wait and see.

When Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden was told Friday that his quarterback was so ill with flu-like symptoms he was in the hospital, "I was scared to death," Bowden said. "That was shaky."

A day later, Chris Weinke got off his sickbed and passed for 353 yards and three touchdowns as Florida State dominated Florida, 30-7, to stay in the chase for the national championship.

Now comes the longer wait.

Fans among the record crowd of 83,042 at Doak Campbell Stadium on a chilly night threw oranges onto the field, hoping the Seminoles will reach the Orange Bowl to defend their national title, potentially against top-ranked Oklahoma.

One way to get there would be for Florida State--currently third in the Bowl Championship Series rankings--to vault No. 2 Miami this week, which is considered probable, then stay there after Miami plays its final game Saturday against Boston College.

"I'll just leave it up to the computer," Bowden said. "That thing better not betray me. I'll be honest, I'd rather a computer decide it than somebody, because people have their favorites."

Miami's only loss is to Washington.

The Seminoles are 11-1--with the only loss to Miami--and they made their case emphatically against No. 4 Florida.

Receiver Marvin Minnis was Weinke's sidekick, catching eight passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and he gained even more yards for the Seminoles by drawing pass-interference penalties.

Florida fell to 9-2, losing a game that often in recent years might as well have been a national championship semifinal.

Five times in the last seven years, the winner of the Florida-Florida State game has played for the national title.

"We got beat thoroughly tonight," said Florida Coach Steve Spurrier, whose team was held to seven points by the Seminoles for the first time since 1964.

The Gators ended the game on the one-yard line, unable to score after a blocked punt gave Florida the ball at the Seminole nine-yard line with 1:36 to play.

The Seminoles haven't lost at home in nine years, not since a "Wide Right" loss to Miami on a missed field-goal attempt in 1991.

Florida would have had more hope if Weinke, the nation's leading passer, hadn't recovered.

Doctors weren't able to determine whether a virus or something Weinke ate made him ill, but he was sick enough to stay at the hospital from noon until 8 p.m. Friday, receiving more than two liters of intravenous fluids.

Afterward, he was taken to the home of team physician Kris Stowers, where he continued to receive potassium and sugars through an IV and slept in the bed of the doctor's 11-year-old son, Lucas.

"When I was laying in the hospital Friday, I was hoping it was just a 24-hour flu," Weinke said. "If we had to play Friday night, it would have been tough for me to go."

He finally ate some solid food Saturday at lunch.

"I knew the whole time I'd do whatever it took to get back. I felt fine in the game after the adrenaline got going. A game of this magnitude, you're feeling no pain."

Team trainers estimated that Weinke was at 80% of his strength.

He looked as if he were at 100% early, completing eight of his first 10 passes for 146 yards, directing the Seminoles to touchdowns on their first two possessions.

The first came on a 17-yard pass to Atrews Bell, the second on a 34-yard pass to Minnis.

A sign near one end zone, in a nod to the election controversy that has enveloped this city, depicted a Heisman Trophy ballot.

"Vote for one," it read. "Weinke, Weinke, Weinke, Weinke, Weinke, Weinke."

But Weinke also had two first-half passes intercepted and nearly had several others picked off, thwarting some promising drives--a big reason the Seminole lead was only 14-7 at halftime.

Four times in the second quarter, the Seminoles had the ball at the Florida 45 or better--twice inside the 30--and failed to score.

But in the second half, Minnis proved the Gators' undoing with his speed and elusiveness.

He didn't even have to catch a pass to strike the crucial blows.

Twice on the same drive, Florida's Lito Sheppard was called for pass interference against Minnis, the second time after Minnis turned him inside out on third-and-eight play from the 17 and Sheppard grabbed his shirt to try to hold him up.

That gave Florida State a first down at the two, and William McCray carried the ball in as the Seminoles took a 21-7 lead.

Minnis made the score 27-7 later in the third quarter on a 51-yard touchdown reception.

Spurrier used two quarterbacks, starting freshman Rex Grossman, only to send Jesse Palmer in after one play to handle the job until Grossman came on again in the fourth quarter.

Florida State's Tay Cody picked off a pass by each.

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