Nov. 15, 1997
Seminoles Thump Wake Forest, 58-7
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Thad Busby completed 27-of-35 passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns as top-ranked Florida State had a school-record 11 sacks and five interceptions to roll over Wake Forest, 58-7, in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Seminoles (10-0, 8-0 ACC) concluded yet another perfect conference season in their final tuneup for next weekend's game at archrival Florida, pushing their all-time ACC record to 47-1.
"There was a lot of elements that led us to play this way today," said Florida State linebacker Daryl Bush. "It's our fifth straight ACC championship for us seniors. I'm not going to take it for granted. I find it very special. It's been special to play here and be part of this tradition."
A win in that game would assure Florida State, which has won the conference championship in each of its six ACC season, of playing in the Orange Bowl for at least a portion of the national championship.
"Our seniors never lost a home game," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "This senior class has a maturity, they know what is important. I let them handle the psyching this week. I'm not surprised at how focused we were, but we might not have been, given the situation.
"I never expected to be 10-0 this year. We lost so many great players and all those suspensions; I just did not think we had the depth to go undefeated. Now, anything they do does not surprise me."
Busby, who sat down with just over five minutes left in the third quarter in his last home game, was not intercepted and helped Florida State gain 532 yards of total offense, all but 26 through the air. The Seminoles also had their best scoring output of the season.
"We played a good game on both offense and defense today," Busby said. "It was a good win for us, we were sharp in the passing game. We wanted to make sure that we didn't come in playing lackadasical after the North Carolina win. We just need to continue doing the things that we're doing and limit the mental mistakes. We still need to clean up some things this week in practice and be ready to play next Saturday against Florida.
The defense was led by defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who had 3 1/2 sacks and cornerback Samari Rolle, who had a pair of interceptions. Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) posted 250 yards of total offense, including minus-one on the ground, marking the fourth time this season Florida State has held the opposition to negative rushing yardage.
"Our goal was not to get complacent and let this team embarrass us," Wadsworth said. "That was definitely our main goal. We did very well keeping the intensity up and the emotions high. The game wasn't on ABC or ESPN, so it was important for us seniors to keep the spirits high on defense."
Florida State is 6-0 against the Demon Deacons since joing the ACC, holding a 319-48 advantage on the scoreboard. All-time, Wake Forest is just 2-13-1 against FSU, with wins in 1973 and 1959 -- its only victory in Tallahassee.
"There is something about this team (Florida State) that we all can learn from," said Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell. "We certainly did not want to end the season like this, especially since we've been playing well. Today, though, this team took a licking and I'm sure it's hard on our seniors. Our goal was to have a winning season. We are not taking a day off. We'll lick our wounds and get back to work."
The Seminoles got on top 1:54 into the game when fullback Khalid Abdullah scored on a one-yard plunge. After a sack and a fumble recovery, Busby hit E.G. Green for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:32 left in the first quarter to double the lead and threw a 45-yard scoring pass to tight end Melvin Pearsall just over four minutes later to make it 21-0.
Busby, who is second in school history with eight 300-yard games, is 27 yards shy of setting the single-season FSU record for passing yardage. Peter Tom Willis set the record of 3,125 in 1989.
"It's hard to win respect here at Florida State, but I think I've won some," Busby said. "I think I've won a lot of fans here. It mneant a lot to hear those people cheering for me. I wouldn't say it's important (going over 3,000 yards), but it feels good to produce in that way. Everybody has come together and have done their part. I feel that I have done my part."
One play after Pearsall's touchdown, defensive end Tony Bryant picked off a pass by Ben Sankey and returned it 19 yards for a score to make it 28-0.
On Florida State's next drive, Busby completed passes of 19 and 20 yards to Peter Warrick, setting up a 12-yard scoring throw to Green 2:46 into the second quarter. Green caught seven passes for 120 yards, Pearsall had four catches for 114 and Warrick caught seven for 93.
Pearsall became just the fourth tight end in school history to break 100 receiving yards in a single game and the first since Lonnie Johnson had 154 against Tulane in 1991. He is tied for the FSU career record with 10 TD catches.
Sebastian Janikowski's 21-yard field goal helped Florida State take a 38-0 lead into the half, and Busby connected with Warrick on a three-yard scoring pass 6:46 into the third quarter to make it a 45-point game. Florida State once again ran from the shotgun formation for the balance of the game.
Janikowski slammed a school-record 56-yarder to make it 48-0 with 4:51 left in the third quarter, but Sankey spoiled the shutout bid with two minutes remaining in the period when he threw a 25-yard scoring pass to Desmond Clark. Derek Schmidt held the previous FSU record with a 54-yarder against Miami in 1984.
Janikowski added a 20-yarder and Chris Wienke, the third-string quarterback, threw a nine-yard scoring pass to Germaine Stringer in the fourth quarter to make the final margin for Florida State. The final touchdown was set up on an interception by free safety Dexter Jackson.