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College Football | GATOR BOWL

Rix Supplies Lift for Seminoles

January 02, 2002|From Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Chris Rix raced onto the field as the players filed off at the end of the Gator Bowl, looking for the man whose faith had helped him weather a difficult season at quarterback.

When he got to Coach Bobby Bowden, the two embraced.

"I gave him a hug and said, 'That was for you,"' the freshman said Tuesday after leading the No. 24 Seminoles to a 30-17 victory against No. 15 Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl. "We told each other we loved each other. It was very important to get that win for him."

The victory moved Bowden into a tie with Bear Bryant for second on the Division I-A wins list with 323, four behind Penn State's Joe Paterno.

Bowden, though, didn't want the focus on himself, not after Rix and his team put a solid finish on what had become a year for learning.

"It's a funny thing. It's something you nearly need to get out of the way. It can become a distraction," the 72-year-old Bowden said. "And it sure doesn't mean Bobby Bowden is in the same class with Bear Bryant."

The victory extended to 16 Bowden's unbeaten string in non-championship bowl games, and gave him 18 bowl wins, two behind Paterno.

And Rix, nearly benched by Bowden during the season, helped make it happen with a wrist-flicked pass under intense pressure that Javon Walker turned into a 77-yard touchdown to give the Seminoles the lead for good.

The pass sparked a 17-point fourth quarter that allowed the Seminoles (8-4) to put the Hokies (8-4) away.

When Rix came back out for the next series, he did it again, finding Walker behind corner Ronyell Whitaker again--this time for 50 yards--to set up a field goal.

Whitaker accepted the blame for the Hokies' loss.

"I was kind of the reason we lost that game," the all-Big East first-team cornerback said. "In fact, I know I was the reason we lost the game."

But in truth, it was Rix, Walker and a defense that limited the Hokies to 95 yards in the fourth quarter that deserved the credit.

Rix also hit Walker with a 23-yard scoring pass with 2:14 left, giving the wideout four catches for 195 yards, a bowl record for Florida State.

Rix, from Santa Margarita High, was 12 of 25 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

"The receivers did their job and made me look good," Rix said.

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