Jan. 4, 2000
By BEN WALKER
NEW ORLEANS - There was no catching Peter Warrick this time.
Determined to leave a lasting impression at Florida State, Warrick turned college football's national title game into his own personal highlight film Tuesday night.
Warrick set a Sugar Bowl record with 20 points, catching touchdown passes of 64 and 43 yards, scoring on a 59-yard punt return and adding a 2-point conversion grab in leading the Seminoles over Virginia Tech 46-29.
"This is the national championship. No one can ever take this away from me," Warrick said.
Showing why he might be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Warrick wound up with six receptions for 163 yards. He earned the most outstanding player award, along with a sideline handshake from Minnesota Vikings star Randy Moss and a serenade from Florida State fans in the fourth quarter.
Warrick had waited his whole career for a game like this, having returned for his senior season in hopes of this opportunity.
"I came back for two reasons: to graduate and to win the national championship. I accomplished both of those goals," he said.
Warrick did more than win his one-man duel with scrambling Hokies quarterback Michael Vick. He helped deliver college football's ultimate prize to the top-ranked Seminoles, three months after his misstep cost him a chance to win the Heisman Trophy.
"The big-time players show up in the big-time games," teammate Corey Simon said, "and he showed once again he's a big-time player."
The victory brought coach Bobby Bowden his first perfect season and second title.
"Coach Bowden is a great man. I came back because of the love of him. I won this game for him tonight," Warrick said.
Clearly, Warrick savored the moment.
A virtual no-show in the Seminoles' championship bowl losses in the 1998 and 1996 seasons, Warrick strutted onto the field during pregame introductions and then backed up his swagger.
He sped past single coverage to catch Chris Weinke's pass in full stride for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Early in the second period, he fielded a punt on one bounce and streaked into the end zone for a 28-7 edge
Warrick held off an interfering defender for a juggling, 43-yard TD catch with 7:42 left that closed out the No. 2 Hokies, and celebrated in style. He took off his helmet, bumped chests with several teammates and paraded up the sideline.
Warrick had achieved one goal last month when he received his degree in political science. But he wanted to put behind him something else - his arrest this season.
Some fans may have thought of that incident when they thought of Warrick. Until Tuesday night, that is.