Florida State gave legendary coach Bobby Bowden -- guiding his Seminoles team for the 417th, and final, time today -- some send off.
The Seminoles (7-6) capped a week that served as a celebration of Bowden's career with a 33-21 victory against West Virginia (9-4) in the Gator Bowl today at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
The game, played in front of a Gator Bowl record crowd of 84,129, saw West Virginia fritter away a 14-3 lead in the early going.
West Virginia played the second half without starting quarterback Jarrett Brown, who injured his ankle late in the first half, forcing true freshman Geno Smith to step in and play the remainder of the contest.
The biggest score -- at the time -- came when Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas scored on a 19-yard touchdown with 3:50 left in the third quarter, giving Florida State a 23-14 advantage.
But West Virginia fought right back, getting a 5-yard touchdown from fullback Ryan Clarke on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 23-21 in Florida State's favor.
The lead that was narrowed expanded again, as the Seminoles stretched it to 30-21 on a 2-yard touchdown from quarterback EJ Manuel with about 9 minutes left.
Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal with 2:02 left to elevate the lead to 33-21.
At the outset, at the very beginning, it looked as if West Virginia was going to sour this big going-away party.
West Virginia went ahead, 7-0, making it look very easy on its opening drive.
The Mountaineers stormed right through the teeth of Florida State's defense, going ahead when quarterback Jarrett Brown went untouched around the right side from 32 yards to cap an eight play, 72-yard drive.
On the drive, four of those plays went for first downs.
The Seminoles made it 7-3 on a 26-yard Hopkins field goal with 7:02 left in the first quarter.
Devine then took over on the next West Virginia drive, racing 70 yards to put his team in scoring position, then punching the ball in from the 1 to go up 14-3.
From there, though, West Virginia slowed mightily in the first half.
A 12-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter Thomas -- after Florida State missed a field goal and Brown then threw an interception -- made it 14-10, West Virginia.
Another Hopkins field goal, late in the second quarter, pushed the game into halftime at 14-13 and then yet another field goal -- this one just after halftime -- put the Seminoles up, 16-14.
Colin Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459. First Published January 1, 2010 8:00 PM