I saw three bowl games in three days this year. The Gator, Sugar, and Orange Bowls were on concecutive days with local interest, so we put together a plan to cover all three.
A couple things were obvious: Michael Vick and Santana Moss were the best players on their respective fields, and none of the 6 teams were playing anywhere near their peak performances during the regular season. Yes Virginia Tech was the better team, but Clemson didn’t play anywhere near what they’re capable of. Would Tommy Bowden have replaced Woodrow Dantzler at quarterback during a regular season game? I don’t think so. The bowl mentality, the finality of the last game of the year sneaks into every coach’s head and lets him make moves like that. The whole Clemson team seemed overwhelmed at first but they certainly a better team than what they showed.
Vick was totally in control while he was in the game. No wonder he’s now hedged on coming back to the Hokies. What is he going to accomplish? He’ll win the Heisman Trophy, but look at the lack of respect Virginia Tech got from the pollsters and the BCS. Can they win the national championship without some kind of publicity push? They finished 11-1, lost to Miami on the road without Vick in the lineup and
didn’t get much of a whiff from the BCS. Vick’s only concern a bout coming out early is what team would draft him. If he’s projected as the top pick, he said he’d more than likely make himself eligible for the NFL, but he’s told friends his main concern is not wanting to play for San Diego. If the Chargers would be willing to trade the pick to somebody Vick wants to play for, there’s a better possibility he’ll being playing for pay next year.
I was amazed at the lack of attention the Sugar Bowl got in its home town of New Orleans. Even the sports writers admitted they were glad the game was in town, hoped people spent a lot of money in the Crescent City, had a great time and left. They were interested in the Saints, the playoff run, Ricky Williams, and that’s it. The Sugar Bowl was a complete afterthought, and the attendance was proof. Nobody was there! The complete upper deck seemed empty. I know the Hurricanes are notorious for not traveling with their team, but this was silly. Miami was trying to lay claim to half of the national title, and none of their fans seemed to care. Or at least travel.
The Gators had every opportunity to win the Sugar Bowl, but when you can’t execute the offense, especially when the plays are there for the taking. Rex Grossman missed wide open receivers, didn’t see guys running free and just didn’t play well. It’s not that Miami did a lot of things that forced Florida into mistakes, it’s just the Gators didn’t play anywhere near their regular season/SEC Championship level.
Steve Spurrier was not happy. In fact, it was as mad as I’ve seen him in a while. Spurrier isn’t one to run around a yell after the game, he’s already thinking about changes. Don’t be surprised by anything he does.
In South Florida, the Orange Bowl was also taking a back seat to the NFL, and the Sugar Bowl. The regular haunts were crowded with people in for the “season” and the Oklahoma and Florida State visitors got swallowed up with the crowd.
In fact, the Orange Bowl was the third game in seven days to be played at Pro Player Stadium. The turf showed it too, coming up in clumps around midfield.
Oklahoma had the perfect game plan, offensively, defensively and special teams wise. They had just the right amount of “wrinkles” they hadn’t shown during the regular season, but they stuck with a ball control type of offense that chewed up the clock, keep FSU off the field, and produced a few points.
Good planning by Bob Stoops. It was obvious he out-coached Bobby Bowden. When I began to ask Bowden about that after the game, he stopped me, and agreed, “I was thinking about that on the sidelines,” the Head Seminole said. “They had a few wrinkles, and I didn’t have one to go to. If I had a chance to prepare for this game again, I’d do it differently.”
Bowden also admitted he would have treated the Mark Richt situation differently. “We thought we could just line up, play our own offense, run better routes that they couldn’t cover and we’d win. We were wrong, they were a lot better than we thought.”
Bowden’s comment about “maybe the wrong team was here,” was part of a more complete sentence that ended with, “but maybe it’s Oklahoma, maybe they’d have made Miami look like we did.” Most media outlets only reported the first half of the comment. Bowden was disappointed, but more with himself and how he failed to prepare the team for a game against Oklahoma with the National Title on the line.
Throughout the entire game, you thought the FSU offense was going to explode, but they never did, partially because the Sooners had a good scheme, and partially because FSU never did anything different. Same stuff, same “I” formation, nothing fancy, no “wrinkles.”
After the three games were over, I was disappointed as an “observer” of college football, because I thought the teams and the fans were cheated. Cheated out of seeing teams playing at their best. Outcomes notwithstanding, it’s a shame FSU and Oklahoma couldn’t have played sometime in early December. Same for Florida and Miami, and Clemson and Va. Tech. The games would have meant the same, they just would have been better played.