Instant Analysis - Gator Bowl
Florida State 33 ... West Virginia 21
I hate schmaltz.
I hate sports when the story becomes too mushy, too Hollywood, too let's-make-more-out-of-this-than-it-is, complete with features with plinky piano music and gushing voice-overs. But yeah, the end of the Gator Bowl was just about right.
I wasn't rooting for Florida State because of the Bobby Bowden factor, and I certainly wasn't rooting against West Virginia for any reason, but as far as these things go, a legend like Bowden deserves the honoring and the respect paid to him when it was all over. And he deserved his team playing above its head to send him out with a fantastic win.
However, it was also terrific that the mike cut out on the post-game, on-field interview.
It was a perfect little quirk to end one of the greatest coaching careers in sports history. Here was a coach that did so many things right and was so terrific, but there was always a little bit of a hitch. From the wide right games and all the problems with Miami, to Chris Rix, to Jeff Bowden, to the academic scandal late in his career and the Free Shoes University tag during Steve Spurrier's heyday, there were always a few issues to deal with. But his greatness as a coach, all the ways he touched so many lives, and all he did for Florida State University overshadowed any little blips.
It wasn't quite right the way he was pushed out of his job, but it was a special way to end his career. And like his career, all the adversity passed and everything turned out right. CBS got the microphone fixed (sort of, it kept shorting out), he got to close out in a classy way, and he'll forever be known as one of the greats.
Yeah, the Gator Bowl turned out the right way.
Bring Bobby Bowden back to the sidelines for one more season!
Yes, I'm just kidding. I'm happy for Bowden that he won his final game as the head coach of Florida State, a fitting end for a brilliant coaching career. However, it obviously doesn't detract from the fact that the run was over and it was time for the Seminoles to hand the reigns of the program to Jimbo Fisher, the patient coach-in-waiting. Everyone in Tallahassee, except Bowden unfortunately, seemed to know that the finish line had been reached. Still, a happy ending for such a classy and prolific sports figure is never a bad thing.
Fisher gets a healthy Christian Ponder back next season to run his offense and a more experienced E.J. Manuel to serve as the caddy. Manuel appeared to make strides since the end of the regular season, finishing the afternoon 17-of-24 for 190 yards and rushing for 70 yards and a key score. The full month as a regular that he got this year will greatly benefit Fisher and the Seminoles down the road, especially when the starting job opens up again in 2011. A more experienced Manuel can now continue to mature as the backup next season before taking over a year later. In other words, Fisher should have a dangerous, multi-dimensional quarterback at his disposal through the 2012 season.
1) Bobby Bowden made 28 straight bowl games. He won most of them. He also finished in the top five of the season-ending rankings for 14 consecutive years, with defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews at his side. Bowden and Andrews made Florida State football the juggernaut it became, and the Seminoles maintained a level of consistency that even Joe Paterno couldn't quite match in Happy Valley. Andrews stepped aside of his own free will and accord, but Bowden – who has poured so much into the Tallahassee school that used to be a women's college – should have been repaid by president T.K. Wetherell and the rest of the FSU administration. Yes, it's fitting that this icon won his final game, but it's sad that the child of Birmingham, Ala. – born just weeks after the great stock market crash of 1929 – wasn't allowed to orchestrate his own exit at Florida State.
2) The other thing that needs to be said about this event is that if the Gator Bowl can reach over Miami and other more deserving ACC teams to pluck 6-6 FSU from the pile (and it's entirely within the rights of bowls to fill seats; making money is the name of the game), then why do we have all the bowl tie-ins that currently exist? It was reported earlier in the day that next season's Gator Bowl tie-in will involve the SEC and the Big Ten. Gee – a third bowl game in the state of Florida between those two conferences? How come we don't have any SEC – Pac-10 bowl matchups? How come the Big Ten doesn't get to play the Mountain West? Why can't we just have at-large bowl matchups and allow bowl committees to lobby for the best possible games? This system of bowl horsetrading is quite political as it is; might as well accompany the hardball politics with better matchups and fewer conflicts of interest.