Overtime Comes to College Ranks : Sugar Bowl: Florida and Florida State pick up where they left off Nov. 26, when they played to a tie.
The Cajuns call it lagniappe .
More than a word, it’s the philosophy of a little extra: four feet of cloth for the price of a yard, 13 beignets when you pay for a dozen.
The same could be said of tonight’s Sugar Bowl game between Florida and Florida State.
The scoreboard should read: “Florida 31, Florida State 31, fifth quarter” as fans file into the Superdome for what Seminole linebacker Todd Rebol calls “an old-fashion street-ball game.”
“You know,” he said, “when you’re playing in the street and a punt hits a light pole and you have a re-do. Well, that’s what this is, a re-do, and you don’t get that often at this level.”
Or maybe, given New Orleans, it’s a redeaux.
In the first game, played Nov. 26 in Tallahassee, fifth-ranked Florida (10-1-1) took a 31-3 lead into the fourth quarter and was enjoying what would have been only its second victory over the Seminoles since 1986. But Florida State pulled off an NCAA Division I-A record-tying 28-point comeback.
Buttons around town read “6-1-1 and We Ain’t Done” in gold letters on Seminole garnet, reminding fans of the Seminoles’ dominance of the Gators in recent years.
Others read “Unfinished Business” in blue letters on Florida orange.
“My freshman class came in with the intention of turning this thing around,” said Gator center David Swain. “Florida State is the one thing we haven’t really accomplished.”
Florida still hasn’t.
The Gators consider the first meeting a loss because of the comeback.
Seventh-ranked Florida State (9-1-1) doesn’t call it a victory.
“Really,” said Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell, “this game is really worth two: a decision in the first game and the Sugar Bowl.”
Seminole fans made their decision in the first. Kanell isn’t Charlie Ward, Florida State’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback of a season ago, but he completed 18 of 22 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Florida, and the boos he heard all season were converted into cheers.
“On my way back to the dorm from the stadium, 15 or 20 people stopped me, shook my hand and said they had been booing me this season, but now they apologized and wouldn’t boo me again,” he said.
It sure beat the obscene gestures directed at him as he drove around Tallahassee in the six weeks after his three-interception performance in a 34-20 loss to Miami.
It’s a loose group of players--as opposed to fans who have spent the past three days getting tight on Bourbon Street--who understand the novelty of this game.
Florida State’s Kez McCorvey spent some time at the Hilton with Florida’s Jack Jackson in a meeting of Mississippians. Kanell and Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel, stars of the recruiting class of 1992, have chatted.
There is no national championship afoot, but there is history. There have been other bowls in which the teams played each other during the season, but never one in which the first game ended in a tie.
Florida has had a game since, a 24-23 victory over Alabama for the Southeastern Conference championship, and it helped. “It’s what we needed to put that game behind us,” Wuerffel said.
It has helped Wuerffel, who passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Florida State, but who threw an interception that set up the Seminoles’ drive to the game’s final points.
Florida State has had only exams, practice and rest since playing the Gators.
What remains are questions that will be answered both early and late.
Perhaps the most important: Will Florida State open with its shotgun attack that was so successful in the fourth quarter of the first game, or will the Seminoles revert to their I-formation, run-oriented offense?
“We’ll just let it rip,” said Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. “Nobody can beat Florida in a ball-control game.”
So, it’s shotgun time?
“Unless we go back back to the I-formation,” Bowden said, laughing.
Nobody’s telling and practices have been closed all week.
“They don’t even tell us,” McCorvey said. “Can you imagine that? They don’t even trust the players. They let us know right before the game.”
But the players have an idea that they are dealing with something unusual: a resumption of a Florida rivalry, transplanted to New Orleans to make it a little more special.
“This is just fun,” Rebol said. “Last year, when we were playing (Nebraska in the Orange Bowl) for the national championship, it was work, more like a job. But there’s no championship here. It’s just a fun game between players who know each other pretty well.”
It’s the last of the games in a weekend of college bowls.
“All I know is that it’s a big game, a fun game,” McCorvey said. “It’s a game people should watch on TV instead of any national championship game.”
Instead, a national championship will have been decided before the kickoff and fans across the country will get this as a sort of a dessert.
A little lagniappe if you please.
* Teams: Florida vs. Florida State
* Site: Superdome, New Orleans
* Time: 5:30 p.m. PST
* Records: Florida 10-1-1, FSU 9-1-1
* TV: Ch. 7
* Radio: KNX (1070), XTRA (690)