Legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden dies at 91

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Bobby Bowden did it all.

Not only did he put Florida State on the map by taking the Seminoles from afterthought to dynasty, he left an indelible mark on the game with a rare combination of coaching acumen, gracious demeanor and a compassion for those he coached and competed against.

The beloved, folksy Hall of Fame coach who built one of the most prolific college football programs in history died early Sunday at 91 at his home in Tallahassee, Florida, surrounded by his wife Ann and their six children following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Bobby’s son, Terry, called his passing “truly peaceful.”

And while he’s gone, Bowden’s legacy as a top-notch coach – and human being – will live on.

The numbers are staggering: Bowden piled up 377 wins during 40 years as a major college coach and his teams won a dozen Atlantic Coast Conference titles and national championships in 1993 and 1999. Perhaps the statistic that jumps off the page is his sustained success with Florida State, which finished the season ranked in the top five of The Associated Press college football poll an unmatched 14 straight seasons (1987-2000) under his tutelage.

Bowden’s legacy can’t just be told in numbers.

“This guy was probably the greatest ambassador of all time because he had success coaching, but he was also one of the greatest people and set an outstanding example for everyone in our profession in terms of you don’t have to dislike somebody, you don’t have to discredit somebody that you’re competing against,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “That example of being a good person is something that can help us all professionally. He wasn’t always just about him; he was always about helping other people.”

Bowden, a devout Christian, said last month after announcing he had a terminal illness he had always tried to serve God’s purpose and he was “prepared for what is to come.”

“My wife, Ann, and our family have been life’s greatest blessing,” he said then.

Bowden added that he was “at peace.” Perhaps that’s because he had accomplished so much in what Saban called “a life remarkably well lived.”

Bowden was beloved by Seminoles fans, respected by his peers and throughout his life one of the most accessible stars in college football. His home number was listed in the Tallahassee phone book for years.

News of his death spread quickly. Flowers, many of them in Florida State’s garnet and gold color scheme, adorned the statue of Bowden outside of Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee and coach Mike Norvell addressed players about Bowden before a morning practice.

Assistant head coach Odell Haggins, who played and coached under Bowden, praised his friend for being a hard-nosed competitor, but also a compassionate coach.

“He never talked about winning the game. He always talked about saving lives. And that’s the thing I hope everybody sees (with) him,” Haggins said. “You know, they talk about how many football games he won. You talk about the national championships he won. But look at how many lives he won. Look at how many lives he saved.”

Bowden retired following the 2009 season with a Gator Bowl win over West Virginia in Florida State’s 28th straight postseason appearance, a victory that gave him his 33rd consecutive winning season. A month after he resigned, the NCAA stripped Florida State of victories in 10 sports because of an academic cheating scandal in 2006 and ’07 involving 61 athletes.

Still, only Penn State’s Joe Paterno is credited with winning more games (409) as a major college football coach. Bowden’s win total ranks fourth across all divisions in college football history.

Bowden was replaced in 2010 by his offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher, who had been Bowden’s replacement-in-waiting.

“He’s one of the great human beings that’s ever coached and one of the great coaches that’s ever coached,” Fisher said.

Bowden won the national championship in 1993 with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward and again in 1999 with his second Heisman winner, quarterback Chris Weinke, and All-American receiver Peter Warrick.

The Seminoles were a contender to win the title every season for more than a decade. Florida State lost national championship games against Florida, Tennessee and Oklahoma and narrowly missed out on the playing for titles in several other seasons because of losses to archrival Miami.

Bowden, in fact, once quipped that his headstone would read, “But he played Miami,” a one-liner that came the day after the Hurricanes escaped with a 17-16 win in 1991 when the Seminoles missed a field goal wide right in the final seconds. Miami also won in similar fashion in 2002 when a field-goal try went wide left, much to Bowden’s chagrin.

Florida State dominated the ACC under Bowden, winning championships in 12 of its first 14 seasons after joining the league in 1992.

“Bobby Bowden has meant everything to Florida State athletics and so much to college football in general,” Florida State athletic director David Coburn said. “He is a part of the heart and soul of FSU, but it goes beyond even that – he is a big part of the history of the game.”

Bowden was also the patriarch of college football’s most colorful coaching family. Son Tommy Bowden had a 90-49 record at Tulane and Clemson, and Terry was 47-17-1 at Auburn. Another son, Jeff, served 13 years coaching wide receivers for his father at Florida State and six seasons as offensive coordinator before he resigned in 2006 after Florida State’s offense slumped to its lowest production in a quarter century.

Bobby Bowden left West Virginia to take over a Florida State program in 1976 that had produced just four wins the three previous seasons. The Seminoles went 5-6 in Bowden’s first year and never again experienced a losing season with him in charge.

“You face similar tasks of motivation, preparation, teamwork, discipline,” Bowden said. “I probably get the most satisfaction out of putting in the strategies and watching them play out.”

By 1979, Bowden had Florida State positioned for one of the great runs in the annals of college football.

Led by All-American nose guard Ron Simmons, the Seminoles enjoyed an 11-0 regular season but lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. In 1993, despite a late slip at Notre Dame, Florida State won its first national title after nearly getting there in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992.

Bowden’s lone perfect season came in 1999 when the Seminoles became the first team to go wire-to-wire in The Associated Press rankings, No. 1 from the preseason to finish.

“The first championship was more of a relief,” Bowden said. “I think I was able to enjoy the second one a little more.”

Success also brought a glaring spotlight and Bowden’s program was touched by scandal on a few occasions. The school was put on NCAA probation for five years after several players in 1993 accepted free shoes and other sporting goods from a local store. The episode led former Florida coach Steve Spurrier to dub FSU “Free Shoes University.”

Bowden prided himself on giving players a second chance, but critics said he was soft on discipline with an eye on winning games.

“If short hair and good manners won football games, Army and Navy would play for the national championship every year,” Bowden retorted.

Randy Moss, one of the most talented athletes to attend Florida State, never played a down for the Seminoles and was kicked out of school after a redshirt season for smoking marijuana. In 1999, Warrick was caught in a shopping scam that led to his suspension for two games and probably cost him the Heisman Trophy that year.

“There’s only about 6 inches that turns that halo into a noose,” Bowden was fond of saying during the good days, when he was often called “Saint Bobby” by the Florida State faithful.

The Seminoles won 10 or more games in 18 of Bowden’s 34 seasons at Florida State, but were a relatively mortal 74-42 on the field from 2001-09.

The cheating scandal that led to the loss of a dozen wins from Bowden’s final resume took place in an online music history course from the fall of 2006 through summer 2007. The NCAA said some athletes were provided with answers to exams and in some cases, had papers typed for them.

Bowden stayed in the public eye after retirement, writing a book, making speeches and going public with his treatment for prostate cancer in 2007. His fear of retiring from coaching resulted in part from the death of his longtime idol, former Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who died within weeks of leaving the sidelines.

“After you retire, there’s only one big event left,” Bowden frequently said.

Bowden stayed active into his 80s, finally slowing down over the last year or so. He was hospitalized in October 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19. The test came a few days after he returned home from a long hospital stay for a leg infection.

Born Nov. 8, 1929, in Birmingham, Alabama, Robert Cleckler Bowden overcame rheumatic fever as a child to quarterback Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, then attended Alabama for a semester before transferring back to his hometown Howard College, where he starred at quarterback.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Ann, and they stayed together for 72 years.

Bowden built the Florida State program by scheduling the toughest opponents he could find, and he’d play them anywhere, usually at their stadium. He was dubbed “King of the Road” in 1981 after playing consecutive road games at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU – and winning three of the five.

His daring play-calling also earned him the nickname Riverboat Gambler in some quarters. Bowden’s most famous trick play came in 1988 at Clemson. He sent his punt team onto the field with 1:33 left in a tie game with a fourth-and-4 and the ball at Florida State’s 21. Florida State’s punter leaped high into the air and acted as if he were chasing down a high snap while the upback took the ball and slipped it between his legs where LeRoy Butler grabbed it and raced 78 yards to the Clemson 1 to set up the winning field goal.

“We were determined somebody was going to win that game,” Bowden said after the “Puntrooskie.”

Through Bowden’s career, Florida State won games in many of the nation’s toughest stadiums, including at Michigan, Southern California and, of course, rivals Florida and Miami. In 1987, the Seminoles crushed Big Ten champion Michigan State 31-3 at East Lansing and whipped Southeastern Conference champion Auburn on its home field, 34-6.

Bowden also was considered one of the best handlers of great individual talents, recruiting and developing the likes of Simmons, Ward, Weinke, Warrick, Butler and Deion Sanders, who earned the nickname “Prime Time” during his days as a Seminole.

“God bless the Bowden Family, Friends & Loved ones,” Sanders posted on Twitter. “I’ve lost 1 of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”

Florida State’s recruiting classes were nearly always among the top nationally. By the 1990s, the Seminoles poured star talent into the NFL on an annual basis, including four of the top 19 picks in the 2006 draft the same year Bowden was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Both coaches who birthed college football powerhouses in Florida during the 1980s have died this year. Howard Schnellenberger, who led Miami to its first national championship in 1983, died in March at 87.

Bowden is survived by wife Ann; sons Terry, Tommy, Jeff and Steve; and daughters Robyn Hines and Ginger Madden. Services were scheduled for Saturday at the Donald L Tucker Center, Florida State’s basketball arena.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.