Coverage: ABC Regional coverage
3:30 PM ET, October 25, 2003
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- As the final minutes ticked away, the Florida State crowd started chanting "Bobby Bowden! Bobby Bowden!"
Forty-four years after coaching his first college game, Bowden reached the pinnacle Saturday.
FSU's Rufus Brown prepares to pounce on a Wake fumble.
He became major college football's winningest coach with his 339th career victory and clinched at least a tie for another Atlantic Coast Conference title as Florida State (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) kept its national title hopes alive with a 48-24 victory over Wake Forest.
"It's just something that happened," said Bowden, who has been reluctant to talk about surpassing longtime coaching friend Joe Paterno of Penn State. "I'm kind of uncomfortable about it because it ain't over. I expect Joe to come back and he will and I'll do the best I can do."
Penn State was defeated 26-14 at Iowa a few hours earlier, giving Bowden the opportunity to move into first by himself.
Last year, Bowden surpassed his coaching idol, Paul "Bear" Bryant, the late Alabama coach.
"When Joe broke Bear's record, Bear couldn't do a darn thing about it, he was underneath," Bowden said. "We broke Joe's, but big Joe's still out there huntin' and peckin'."
Bowden picked up 31 wins at Samford (Ala.) College, where he began his coaching career in 1959, another 42 at West Virginia and is 266-65-4 since coming to Florida State in 1976. Bowden, who spent six years as an assistant coach at Florida State and West Virginia in the 1960s, is 339-97-4 in 38 seasons with two national titles.
Bouncing back from an 9-5 season a year ago and an 8-4 mark in 2001, Bowden has Florida State aimed toward a 10-win season for the 18th time in his 28 years at the school.
"The only thing I've ever cared about is winning that next daggum game," said Bowden, who takes the Seminoles to South Bend, Ind., next Saturday against slumping Notre Dame.
Florida State (7-1, 6-0) holds a two-game lead over several conference schools with only two league games left -- Nov. 8 at Clemson and Nov. 15 against North Carolina State. A victory over either would give Florida State the outright championship and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game.
The Seminoles, 89-5 since joining the ACC in 1992 with 11 titles in 12 seasons, were just too strong for Wake Forest.
They took the lead for good late in the first quarter and built it to 48-17 late in the game to remain perfect against the Demon Deacons in a dozen league showdowns.
"It was good to see him reach that milestone, I just wish it wasn't against the Deacs," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "They were just too good for us."
Former Grambling (La.) coach Eddie Robinson has the all-time college record with 408 wins, one more than John Gagliardi of St. John's (Minn.), who won his 407th game Saturday.
The 74-year-old coach was joined on the sidelines at the end of the game by his wife of 54 years, Ann, before an brief game-ending ceremony to salute the achievement.
Junior quarterback Chris Rix, coincidentally matched Bowden's victory total by passing for 339 yards and a pair of scores before leaving the game after the third quarter.
Rix, who also ran for a touchdown, hugged his coach after the record victory.
"Thank you son, I appreciate it," Bowden told his oft-maligned junior quarterback. "You guys made it happen. Now you have to do it every week."
Rix threw a pair of touchdown passes to Craphonso Thorpe on plays covering 25 yards and 10 yards, the first giving the Seminoles a 27-14 halftime lead.
"The thing about Chris is that he is a feast or famine guy," Bowden said. "It's the consistency thing he's working on."
Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3) did lead briefly, 7-3, in the first quarter when Jason Anderson caught a 38-yard pass from Cory Randolph.
Rix scored on a 1-yard run with 1:38 left in the quarter as the Seminoles regained the lead 10-7 and Leon Washington raced 65 yards with a punt return less than two minutes later to give Florida State a 17-7 advantage.
"It didn't seem that far," said Washington, who had missed several games earlier in the season with an elbow injury. "Actually it was a blocked kick. By the time I caught it, everybody had overrun me."
Washington set a Florida State single-game record with 159 yards on seven punt returns.
"He's the most dangerous man we've got," Bowden said.
Greg Jones' 3-yard TD run gave Florida State a 41-17 lead after three quarters. Xavier Beitia started the scoring with 48-yard field goal and added a second from 43 yards in the second quarter.
Randolph scored on a 13-yard run with a minute left in the second quarter and Chris Davis scored on a three yard run for Wake Forest with 25 seconds left.