Seminoles’ win quiets talk of Bowden retirement

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Bobby Bowden wanted to find out what his Florida State team was made of: men or mice.

Trailing North Carolina 17-6 at halftime and playing badly, Bowden and

his coaches tore into the Seminole players with a verbal lashing the

coach said they deserved.

“You are not

playing up to your potential,” Bowden recalled of the scolding. “You’ve

got 30 more minutes to go out there and become a man or a mouse.”

The Seminoles gave up another touchdown and trailed 24-6 midway through

the third quarter before they broke loose behind Christian Ponder’s

brilliant passing.

With Ponder hitting his

last 16 passes, the Seminoles scored 24 points in less than 15 minutes

to grab a 30-27 win over North Carolina on Thursday.

“I can’t remember a better performance by a quarterback under the

circumstances,” Bowden said Friday. “How could it be any better?”

Bowden compared Ponder’s performance to a fourth-quarter comeback win

that Charlie Ward led the Seminoles to at Georgia Tech in 1992 and a

second-half comeback engineered by Chris Weinke that fell short at

Miami in 2000.

“They’re winners,” Bowden said, grouping Ponder with his two Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

Ponder’s heroics saved Bowden from his first four-game losing streak at

Florida State and temporarily quieted critics who want the 79-year-old

coach to retire from a program that has slipped from its status among

the collegiate elite in recent seasons.

“You can imagine what it would have been if we had lost,” Bowden said.

“The only answer is to win. You have to win. That’s where the pressure

comes.”

Aside from Ponder, the Seminoles

(3-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) looked inept for much of the game

— managing only 43 rushing yards and being tagged with 16 penalties.

Bowden, hoarse on Friday from a lack of sleep, said he couldn’t

remember a team that won while playing “that bad and that awful.”

Ponder was the exception. He continued his near flawless play this

season, completing 33 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns

while logging his sixth straight game without an interception. The

junior from Colleyville, Texas, has completed 70 percent of his passes

for 2,176 yards and a dozen touchdowns with just one interception. He

has thrown 237 passes since his last interception.

Despite their 1-3 ACC standing, the conference’s mediocre Atlantic

Division remains up for grabs and the Seminoles will have a say in who

wins it.

Bowden knows that the morale boost from the comeback win at North Carolina won’t last long.

“What does it mean?” Bowden asked. “Seven more days of peace?”