Florida State's old guys were the last Seminoles to leave. They
milled about the ramshackle visitors locker room at North
Carolina's Kenan Stadium late last Saturday night after their
20-3 victory over the previously unbeaten Tar Heels. In front of
a battered plywood dressing cubicle, fifth-year senior middle
linebacker Daryl Bush dismantled and packed the cumbersome brace
that protects his right knee. Then he shrugged, as if the game
that gave Florida State a piece of No. 1--the Seminoles are on
top in the coaches' poll--had been routine. "I'm not all beat
up, I'm not even tired, the way you'd be after a real physical
game," Bush said. "It really wasn't even as tough as...."
"Our practices," said Sam Cowart, another fifth-year senior
linebacker, sitting to Bush's left. This is the way it goes for
Florida State's elders. The Seminoles' 12 senior starters have
been together so long that they finish one another's sentences.
They've been in the spotlight so often that an opponent's Game
of the Year seems to them like the Game of the Week. As midnight
approached in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels' Armageddon dissolved
into the Seminoles' Night at the Improv.
"How many times did [Florida State quarterback Thad] Busby get
sacked?" yelled Seminoles senior defensive end Andre Wadsworth.
"None? You're telling me 'none'? That's ridiculous." In the
shower behind Wadsworth, Busby cut loose with an indecipherable
celebratory whoop. Shevin Smith, a fifth-year senior safety,
walked through the plumes of steam wearing a North Carolina game
There's no question that Florida State is a dynasty. The
Seminoles have lost only 14 of their last 132 games. They've
finished the last 10 seasons ranked no lower than No. 4. They
won a national championship in 1993 and played for another in
last season's Sugar Bowl. They have bridged the rises and falls
of Notre Dame and Miami. But a dynasty is more than that. It's
age handing off to youth, an assembly-line operation that never
succumbs to the cycles of recruiting classes. Last Saturday
night the 9-0 Seminoles made a training video of this process,
building a safe lead with seniors and entrusting it to a freshman.
Florida State's defense set the tone for the destruction of
North Carolina, holding the Tar Heels to nine yards of offense
in the first half while taking a 17-0 lead that might as well
have been 117-0. (Carolina would gain only 73 yards net for the
game--and be held to minus 28 on the ground.) At the core of
this domination were Wadsworth and fellow defensive end Greg
Spires, yet another fifth-year senior, who combined for seven of
the nine sacks of quarterbacks Oscar Davenport and Chris
Keldorf. That was reminiscent of last year, when ends Reinard
Wilson and Peter Boulware laid waste to opposing quarterbacks
while Wadsworth started inside and Spires came off the bench.
Wadsworth's contribution against North Carolina was no surprise.
His speed off the corner has made him a certain first-round NFL
draft pick. But for Spires, last Saturday's four sacks,
including the third-quarter tackle that resulted in Davenport's
suffering a season-ending ankle injury, were a coming-out party.
For three years Spires had energized his teammates with his
infectious enthusiasm off the bench, but this year his career
seemed on the verge of disintegrating when he broke his left
fibula in preseason camp and missed Florida State's first five
Spires, 6'2" and 270 pounds, was finally at full strength for
the Seminoles' 48-35 win over North Carolina State on Nov. 1,
and he was uncontrollable against North Carolina. "He had the
Shake going," said Wadsworth. That would be Spires's pet move,
in which he rises from his stance and throws a series of fakes
on his blocker that call to mind either Allen Iverson or a plate
of Jell-O. "I'm like a wide receiver coming off the ball," said
Busby, meanwhile, has started 20 of the Seminoles' last 21
games, but only this year did the team rely on his passing to
win, and only against North Carolina did he face a defense that
could stay with his wideouts. Given this opportunity to hang
himself, Busby threw first-half touchdown passes to seniors
Melvin Pearsall and E.G. Green and gave up only one
interception, a harmless one. A year ago Busby was the soft spot
in an offense that lived off tailback Warrick Dunn and a veteran
line. Now he is a couple of weeks shy of his 23rd birthday. He
has moved out of the packed house he shared with five other
students and into an apartment with his younger brother, Cody.
He's engaged to marry Katie Corey, a Florida State junior. "I
think you could say I'm a lot more mature now," he says.
To preserve the Seminoles' lead against the Heels, however,
Busby spent the last two quarters handing off to one of Florida
State's youngest players, 18-year-old freshman Travis Minor, who
finished with 128 yards on 30 carries. Early in the season,
while Minor recovered from an ankle injury, the Seminoles
couldn't use the running game to sit on a lead. "We wanted to
play as vanilla as we could in that second half," said coach
Bobby Bowden. "North Carolina's defense is just too good to fool
around. I didn't want to try to protect a lead throwing the
The emergence of Minor has made that type of risk unnecessary.
He came to Florida State from Catholic High in Baton Rouge,
where Dunn had been a star four years earlier. When Travis was
six, he moved from New Orleans to Pittsburg, Calif., where his
father, Les Minor, a chemical company employee, had been
transferred. After his parents divorced when he was 12, Travis
moved to rural Morganza, La. (pop. 579), with his brother and
father. Finally father and sons moved to Baton Rouge, because
Les sought a strong high school athletic program for his boys.
Travis became not only a star football player--Les has so many
tapes as evidence that fellow parents nicknamed him Channel
9--but also an accomplished sprinter. As a junior in high school
he ran 100 meters in 10.45 seconds.
Travis's best friend at Catholic High was Derrick Green, Dunn's
half brother. While Dunn didn't push Travis to sign with Florida
State, he did befriend him, and he dropped by for a visit after
Minor turned in a desultory performance in the Seminoles' rout
of Miami on Oct. 4. "Play free, just like high school," Dunn
told him. Dunn would know; his brilliant freshman year was vital
to Florida State's 1993 national title run.
On Oct. 25 Minor got his first start. He rushed for 159 yards
against Virginia, including an 87-yard touchdown on the game's
first play from scrimmage. Last Saturday he carried on 21 of
Florida State's last 30 plays from scrimmage, killing North
Carolina with every gain.
"You could say," Bowden clucked after the game, "that our team
is coming of age." As usual.