Noles Finish on a Strong Note

JACKSONVILLE - The final chapter of Florida State quarterback Chris Rix's college career read much like the rest of the novel. Rix fought through a slow start and numerous miscues to lead the Seminoles (9-3) on three touchdown drives in a 30-18 victory over West Virginia (8-4) Saturday afternoon in the Gator Bowl.


"Today it wasn't about me," said Rix, who has started more games than any other quarterback in school history. "I had planned on 300 yards and four or five touchdowns when I walked onto the field today but I said, 'Chris don't worry about the stats, all you need is a win."

Rix's final line read like this: 157 passing yards, a touchdown strike to Craphonso Thorpe, three fumbles (one lost) and a pair of interceptions. He celebrated the win by heaving the ball into the stands as time expired.

"Chris played a lot like his career has gone," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "When he comes out of the huddle, he's going to make something happen. You just don't for which team sometimes.

Helping Rix leave on high note were tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, who each contributed 100-yard rushing efforts as the Seminoles piled up a season-high 301 yards on the ground.

Carrying just 12 times, Washington churned out a career-best 195 yards. The Jacksonville native started explosively, sprinting to a 69-yard touchdown - the longest in Gator Bowl history - on the game's second play from scrimmage.

When WVU's Adam Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff, FSU capitalized with a 32-yard field goal from Xavier Beitia to cap a two-minute, ten-point span out of the gate.

"We set the tempo out there today," said Washington, who averaged a school-record 16.3 yards per carry. "We went out there and took it to them and that momentum carried through."

The Mountaineers answered with a pair of touchdowns followed by missed PAT's to take a 12- 10 lead.

Tailback Kay-Jay Harris was problematic for the Seminoles' defense all game long. He rambled 36 yards on a screen pass from Rasheed Marshall one drive before his one-yard plunged gave WVU the short-lived lead.

Harris ran for 134 yards on the afternoon and added four catches for 50 yards. Marshall (11-for-23, 131 yards) chipped in 71 yards rushing.

"Marshall is tough to contain," FSU defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "I really think our guys stepped it up on him in the second half. Added Bowden: "They presented all the problems that I was afraid they would."

Two long touchdown drives by the Seminoles after halftime beat up and wore down the Mountaineer defense and gave FSU what would prove to be an insurmountable lead. Rix capped a 16-play, 90-yard march - the longest of the season - with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe on a fade.

"I thought we did a good job of not getting complacent," Thorpe said. "We got a quick start and kept it coming."

James Coleman's one-yard touchdown run closed the book on the next drive, an 80-yarder. Combined, those two marches drained over ten minutes off of the clock.

"Those are the kind of drives that Florida State football is known for," Rix said. "They made the difference."

The Mountaineers were stonewalled on their final three possessions as a pair of failed fourth downs and an interception by Ray Piquon sealed their fate.

"Obviously I'm disappointed," WVU coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I told the team they played well and had good focus. But we made some mistakes and when you make mistakes against a good team, they'll cost you the game."

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