TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Maryland freshman punter
Had Ferrara honored Coach
Meanwhile, a loss to the lowly Terps would have left FSU at 5-6 with an unwinnable game at No. 1 Florida next week. It probably would have snapped Florida State's nation-leading 27-year bowl streak. Most importantly, it probably would have emboldened someone in power -- either President
The sheer quantity of blood in the water after a loss to Maryland would have made the decision tolerable, even to men who loath to chase off a man who built a dynasty and then helped it crumble. But it isn't tolerable now. Not after Ferrara's punt wobbled into the waiting arms of freshman cornerback
Reid, who started Saturday ranked second in the nation in yards per return, snagged the ball at his own 8-yard line, made one mind-blowing cutback and raced 48 yards to the Maryland 44. Then it was up to quarterback
The stands, which featured entire empty sections in the upper end zones, shook from the roar. The FSU fans who bothered to show up cheered as if they'd actually won something significant, as if a program that ruled the nation 10 years ago wasn't so mediocre that it must eek out victories at home against two-win teams. At some point later Saturday, it probably dawned on all those cheering fans that they'd just been guaranteed another year of Bowden, which could mean another year of great wins (BYU, North Carolina) and mystifying losses (South Florida, Boston College).
After the win, Bowden said he never even considered that Saturday might be his final game on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium. "No," he said. "That didn't cross my mind." Maybe it hadn't dawned on him how close it really was. A segment of FSU fans and boosters have called for Bowden's retirement for years. Those chants grew loudest this year when an October loss to Boston College that
"You know, we don't need the university as much as they need us -- as much as they need him and his connections and reputation and everything," she told the paper. "If they want to pull that trick, we'll just shake the dirt off our feet and go to Europe or go on a long cruise or something.
"They'll have to fire him for him not to go another year ... If they've got guts enough to do it, let them do it."
Had FSU lost to Maryland, they would have had the guts.
Bowden also had a hand in his salvation. You don't win 388 games without accumulating some significant wisdom, and Bowden proved that Saturday. As Maryland's punt team trotted onto the field, Bowden and group of coaches discussed whether they should try to block the kick or set up a return and hope the Terrapins would foolishly kick to Reid. "We debated," Bowden said. "First, they had the punt block on. I said, 'No, let's return the thing.' I was afraid if we tried to block it, we might rough him and they'd run the clock out."
Maybe, just maybe, the confluence of events that headed off an ugly divorce didn't happen purely by accident. Maybe something greater was at work Saturday in Tallahassee.
After the win, a group of Seminoles hoisted Andrews onto their shoulders at the 50-yard line and began carrying him toward the tunnel in the end zone. They reached the 20 before Andrews' feet were back on terra firma. "He doesn't want all that attention," linebacker
Andrews, a true defensive innovator in his heyday, is retiring for all the right reasons. He and his wife are raising two of their grandsons following the suicide of their son in 2007, and Andrews
"Yeah, I've got some regrets," he said. "No. 1, I didn't end up a head coach. But, like I said, I've accepted that fate.
"The other thing I regret is the amount of time it's taken away from my family. There have been a lot of times when I needed to be a husband, and I wasn't. I was up here at the office. There were times that I needed to be a daddy, and I wasn't. I was busy working. There were times when I needed to do something for my grandkids, and I couldn't. That's the reason I won't be back next year."
So maybe that's why events unfolded so dramatically Saturday. Maybe a good man needed a proper sendoff.
And maybe another year will allow a legend a chance to craft a proper goodbye of his own. A few years ago, a wise old coach said this: "What is my toleration point? It's pretty strong. What I don't want to do is coach longer than I should -- [where] I feel I can't do it. You watch boxers. They fight one year too long. I hope I don't do that. Whenever I get out, I must leave it in good order."
That quote appeared in a 2002