As ceremonies go, the Sunday afternoon to-do that sent Florida State to the Cotton Bowl had all the pomp and circumstance of a quickie noontime marriage at the county clerk’s office.
So understated was the event, that the official bowl bid was extended through the magic of telephone, rather than in person. That’s because the Cotton Bowl representative, through the magic of air travel, had returned to Dallas shortly after the Seminoles lost to Miami, 17-16, last Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. He had to--NCAA rules.
It was just as well. Florida State officials weren’t exactly popping champagne corks in anticipation of a New Year’s Day spent in Texas. They had wanted a trip to the Orange Bowl, but that ended the moment Gerry Thomas’ 34-yard, last-minute field-goal attempt slid to the outside of the right goal post.
Coach Bobby Bowden, as glum as he’s ever been after a Seminole loss, tried to sound excited Sunday about accepting the Cotton Bowl invitation, but his heart wasn’t into it. He mumbled something about never having played there and then quickly lost interest in the subject.
Instead, Bowden wanted to talk about the loss to Miami, a loss that cost Florida State its undefeated season, its No. 1 ranking (it fell to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll), its Orange Bowl invitation and its best chance at a national championship. Simply put, he still can’t believe it.
“It was our time to win that game,” he said. “We had everything going for us this year that they had last year: home crowd, beautiful day, healthy, our best ballclub. I don’t know how we lost, I really don’t.”
Bowden, gracious as always, was quick to pay homage to the Hurricanes (9-0), who moved atop the polls Sunday and accepted the Orange Bowl spot previously reserved for Florida State (10-1).
“Because of one lousy point, I’ve got to say they’re better than us,” he said, half smiling. “One lousy point.”
Actually, he didn’t have any choice. Miami has beaten the Seminoles 10 of the last 12 times in Tallahassee and six of the last seven times overall. In the process, the Hurricanes have denied Florida State at least three potential national championships.
Florida State has a week off and then plays another arch-rival, No. 5-ranked Florida, at Gainesville. Miami has an easier path. The Hurricanes face Boston College on the road and then finish the regular season against San Diego State. Barring a complete collapse, Bowden predicted another national title for the Hurricanes. If he’s right, it would be Miami’s third since 1987 and fourth since 1983.