<
>

Rix, Washington help Bowden to 18th bowl win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Nice recovery, Chris Rix.

The Florida State Seminoles quarterback struggled for most of his career,
and nothing had changed in the Gator Bowl, his final game.

Coach Bobby Bowden stuck with Rix, who eventually gave the
Seminoles a spark. Rix crafted two long second-half touchdown
drives, leading Florida State (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) to a 30-18 victory over West
Virginia (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today) on Saturday.

"Chris played kind of like his career has gone," Bowden said.
"That's what's been missing all year. We finally got it, but now
the season is over."

At least it didn't end with a loss. The Seminoles (9-3) overcame
mistake after mistake to avoid an unprecedented third straight bowl
setback.

Bowden, facing his former school for the first time since the
1982 Gator Bowl, moved within one bowl win of Joe Paterno's NCAA
record of 19 at Penn State.

Rix fumbled three times and threw two interceptions, one of
which led to a touchdown. So at halftime, Bowden thought about
replacing Rix.

"It wouldn't have taken much more," the coach said.

Rix eventually settled down, completing five straight passes
during a 90-yard drive late in the third quarter, capped by his
14-yard TD pass to Craphonso Thorpe. Thorpe leaped for the ball
over Dee McCann in the right corner of the end zone for a 23-15
lead.

It was only Rix's third TD pass of the season.

"We were good throwing today when we had to," said Florida
State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden.

Rix also led an 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth, capped by
James Coleman's 1-yard run. Rix finished 16-of-31 for 157 yards.

"Statistically, I didn't have the game I wanted," Rix said.
"But the biggest thing is that we won."

Leon Washington carried Florida State much of the day, finishing
with 195 yards rushing.

Quarterback Rasheed Marshall and West Virginia's platoon of
running backs shredded the nation's top run defense for 238 yards.
Kay-Jay Harris carried 25 times for 134 yards and scored twice.

But the Mountaineers (8-4) failed to find the end zone three
times after advancing inside the 20-yard line.

"We prepared well. The focus was good. The effort was good. We
just made some mistakes," said West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez.
"You make mistakes against good teams, especially like Florida
State, it's going to cost you the game. It's as simple as that."

West Virginia has lost 11 of its last 12 bowls games and is 0-5
in the Gator.

West Virginia continued special teams miscues that were costly in
losses to Boston College and Pittsburgh to end the regular season.

In the first half, two kickers missed extra points, Brad Cooper
booted a kickoff out of bounds, and the Mountaineers later faked a
27-yard field goal attempt, but couldn't convert the first-down
run.

"We weren't real confident on kicking field goals after we
missed a couple of extra points," Rodriguez said.

Backup Andy Good practiced his kicks feverishly before the start
of the third quarter, and it paid off. He made field goals of 44
and 34 yards to cut the deficit to 23-18 early in the fourth
period.

The game featured the preseason favorites of the Big East and
Atlantic Coast Conference who couldn't secure BCS berths.

The Seminoles needed only six plays to score a season-high 10
points in the first quarter.

Washington went 69 yards down the right sideline on the game's
second play for the longest TD run in Gator Bowl history. He had
135 yards by halftime and had only 12 carries for the game, or else
he might have challenged the Gator Bowl record of 216 yards by
Syracuse's Floyd Little against Tennessee in 1966.

West Virginia's Adam Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff and
Gerard Ross recovered at the Mountaineers 17, leading to one of
three Xavier Beitia field goals.

It was a start similar to last year's Gator Bowl, when Maryland
scored 10 early points, led 24-0 at halftime and beat West Virginia
41-7.

This time, West Virginia fought back.

Harris scored on a 36-yard screen pass on the Mountaineers'
first offensive series. McCann intercepted Rix later in the quarter
and Marshall threw a 40-yard pass to Chris Henry to the 1. Harris
took it in for a 12-10 lead.

After the game, Henry, a junior who set a school record with 12
TD catches this season, said he intends to enter next spring's NFL
draft.

Florida State's Lorenzo Booker had 101 yards rushing on 20
carries. The Seminoles were penalized 17 times for 174 yards, both
Gator Bowl records.