Furious Finish

Many fans wondered if Florida State coach <b>Bobby Bowden</b> wasn't being a tad stubborn in his defense of quarterback <b>Chris Rix</b> during past struggles. Well, Bowden admitted he wanted to make a quarterback change at the half of Saturday's game against North Carolina State. Rix was off to another slow start as the Seminoles trailed the emotionally-charged Wolfpack

Saying he was talked out of the switch by his offensive staff, Bowden opted to stay with Rix over backup Fabian Walker in the game's final 30-plus minutes.

It proved to be the right choice as Rix and the Seminoles rallied to upended North Carolina State 50-44 in double-overtime at Doak Campbell Stadium. Rix finished with three touchdown passes and the Seminoles rushed for more than 200 yards in the second half to clinch their 11th Atlantic Coast Conference title in 12 seasons.

Rix, who was once again booed by the hometown fans, says he has relied on faith and teammates during his personal struggles.

His 12th interception of the season in the first half resulted in a 43-yard touchdown return by 285-pound Wolfpack tackle Alan Halloway. Under pressure, Rix threw the ball across the field right to Halloway, who then brushed off the quarterback on his way to the end zone

Rix was benched in favor of Walker in the fourth quarter at Clemson last Saturday.

"Quite honestly, all week and especially today, I was just reading Psalm 35," said Rix, who rebounded from a 5 for 15 start to finish 15 of 32 for 183 yards.

"My motivation, no matter what anyone says, criticism, personal attacks, I know I have a job to do and I've been put here for a reason. Redemption would come in a matter of time. Fortunately it came tonight. I am just proud of this team. The effort everyone game. I try not to get all wrapped up in that off-the-field stuff and know that coach Bowden has faith every one of his players for a reason. I have a job to do and fortunately I was able to do it effectively enough tonight to help my team win the game."

And quite the game it was, featuring four ties and three lead changes.

The Seminoles trailed by 10 points in the second quarter but got back in the game by turning a pair of fumble recoveries into scores. Leon Washington's 12-yard touchdown run in the second overtime provided the difference.

"Words can't express how I feel and I think how this team feels," Rix said.

"Obviously with the emotional win and Travis Johnson, at the end of the game when we were about to do prayer at the 50-yard line, bringing up Devaughn Darling (FSU player who died following conditioning drills). And how this would have been his last home game as a senior -- his family was here. It just brought me to tears. This win was for him."

While heroes were everywhere, the Seminoles' running game excelled after being stuffed at Clemson a week ago. Washington, who finished with 121 yards on 17 carries, Greg Jones (17-81) and Lorenzo Booker (3-72) were extremely effective.

"It was part of our game plan. We wanted to establish the run to open up the pass," Rix said.

"We wanted to keep them honest. Coach Bowden and Coach Dickey had a great game plan offensively and the offensive line responded great. They put their heads on their guys and opened up the holes for our backs and opened up the passing game. It was a real balanced attack. We ran and passed the ball pretty effectively."

FSU (9-2, 7-1) also locked up its fourth BCS game in five years after surviving a brilliant performance by Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers. The ACC's career passing leader, Rivers completed 28 of 38 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score.

"That's all credit to our coaches and our players," Rix said.

"Like I said, we try not to pay attention to outside opinions and it just matters what our players and our coaches believe in. And they believe in the people and the personnel we have. Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia, they were all considered to win the ACC this year. We knew we had won it every year we've been in the conference except one. So it's all about confidence and going out and taking care of business and we showed tonight we earned it out on our field."

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