5 Thoughts - 2008 Champs Sports Bowl
Florida State RB Antone Smith
Florida State RB Antone Smith
Posted Dec 27, 2008

Florida State beats Wisconsin 42-13 ... 5 Thoughts on the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl

5 Thoughts ... 2008 Champs Sports Bowl

Florida State 42 ... Wisconsin 13

1. One could live for many decades and not see the punting display put on by Florida State stud Graham Gano in the first quarter of this game. Three punts, two coffin corners, and one Tiger Woods wedge shot knocked stiff at the Wisconsin 1. All told, Gano deposited three straight punts inside the 3, and back-to-back punts at the 1. Most amazing was the fact that none of the three punts needed to be downed (though one of them technically was). It's rare that a punter causes a surge of excitement in a football game; Gano did the deed. While teams spend a good chunk of their recruiting time on the next great quarterback or a top linebacker, Gano showed just how important a top-shelf punter is. Wisconsin was pinned deep early and never got in the game.- Matthew Zemek

2. Don't fall for the lazy trap. Don't fall for the idea that Wisconsin lost because it's slower than Florida State, because it isn't. The Badgers appear to be slower because of their big, plodding offensive linemen, big backs, and immobile quarterback, but the defense was more than fast enough to deal with the Seminole offense that only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and succeeded in the passing game only because its receivers are really, really tall. Wisconsin lost this game because of two very simple reasons. 1. Punter Graham Gano.
Wisconsin's average starting field position in the first quarter was it's own 1. The Badgers were never able to get into an early groove, and  2. Wisconsin needs a wide receiver and a quarterback. Yeah, it's all cute to talk about playing "Wisconsin football" by powering the rock even when the defense has eight and nine men in the box, but when the Badgers were good, they had receivers like Chris Chambers, Lee Evans, and Tony Simmons, and they had a quarterback who could get them the ball. If the opposing defense is going to bring up everyone to stop the run, yeah, once in a while you might be able to get some big gains with the ground game, but an offense needs to be able to make teams pay through the air. Once UW got down, it was over because there wasn't any passing game to get back in it. Now it's time to see if head coach Bret Bielema has the ability to fix the glitches with this year's recruiting class. - Pete Fiutak

3. Outside Doak Campbell Stadium, there’s a well-deserved, nine-foot bronze statue of Bobby Bowden. It might be time to fire up the kiln in commemoration of Bowden’s long-time defensive coordinator, Mickey Andrews. Maybe it’s not nine feet and maybe it’s not made of bronze, but it needs to be erected. Where would Florida State be without the work of Andrews’ kids, who’ve propped up an inconsistent offense over the last couple of years? The ‘Noles were at it again in the Champs Sports Bowl, abusing one-dimensional Wisconsin with its superior speed, and scoring more touchdowns than the entire Badger offense. If not for the excellence of Andrews and his assistants, Florida State might be North Carolina State in the ACC pecking order.
- Richard Cirminiello        
4. A 42-13 Wisconsin loss to Florida State was the last thing the Big Ten needed to kick off its portion of the 2008 bowl schedule. All of the stereotypes looked spot on in Orlando. The Badgers were slow, predictable on offense, and unable to keep pace with a team from the south. Was it a Wisky thing or a league-wide issue? That’ll be answered and closely scrutinized over the next seven days. The Big Ten, its national reputation already on life-support, can ill-afford another poor performance in the postseason. Wisconsin’s lackluster effort puts added pressure on the six remaining participants, namely Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, to do something positive in order to prevent another Big Ten feeding frenzy.
- Richard Cirminiello

5. A few hours after the Meineke Car Care Bowl turned on a fumble by North Carolina running back Shaun Draughn, this contest in Orlando pivoted when a fumble by Florida State receiver Bert Reed was overturned by replay. Before the play, FSU's offense was stuck in second gear. After the play, the Noles--seemingly refreshed and relieved--roared to life and demolished the bewildered Badgers.
The significance of the overturned fumble--not to mention its connection to North Carolina's costly fumble earlier in the day--lies in the fact that it revealed the death of a concept that is still supposed to matter in the world of football officiating: forward progress (or the cessation thereof).
On both plays, the ballcarriers--Draughn and Reed--had clearly stopped moving forward. Defenders had thrown them backwards, meaning that neither man would have been able to advance the ball past the initial point of contact. This is precisely when an official is supposed to blow the whistle based on the cessation of forward progress. Yes, it was true that Draughn did fumble the ball before his knee (or any other relevant body part--elbow, butt, shoulder, etc.) hit the ground, meaning that it was legally allowable for West Virginia to gain possession of a fairly-determined fumble. Nevertheless, the fairest ruling of all would have been for Carolina to keep the ball due to the stoppage of forward progress, in clear evidence on that play.
In Wisconsin-Florida State, Reed's fumble was overturned, but not because officials ruled that forward progress had been stopped. The only reason this crucial fumble got wiped away was that Reed's knee hit the turf before the Badger defender swiped the pigskin. Had Reed's knee remained in the air, Wisconsin would have gained the ball at the FSU 25, trailing just 14-6 at the time. The second-half runaway that emerged would likely have been averted, and a fierce fight to the finish might have ensued instead. FSU received justice, but not because officials enforced the stoppage of forward progress. Bobby Bowden won his twenty-first bowl game only because Bert Reed's knee fortuitously hit the green grass before a fumble switched hands.
Let's be clear: In each of Saturday's first two games, the replay booth made a legally acceptable ruling, given that both officiating crews failed to blow the whistle. But if the cessation of forward progress is to remain a part of football--at any level, not just the college game--the concept needs to receive a substantial new degree of emphasis from officiating supervisors and the on-field crews charged with enforcing it. - Matthew Zemek