Jan. 1, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida State overcame mistake after mistake to avoid an unprecedented third straight bowl loss.

Leon Washington ran for 195 yards and Chris Rix crafted two long second-half touchdown drives, leading No. 17 Florida State to a 30-18 victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Saturday.

Coach Bobby 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. The Seminoles finished 9-3.

Rix played poorly for much in his final game of an up-and-down career. Bowden's first four-year starter at quarterback fumbled three times and threw two interceptions, one of which led to a touchdown.

But Bowden stuck with Rix and he eventually gave the Seminoles a spark.

Rix completed five straight passes during a 90-yard drive, capped by his 14-yard TD pass to Craphonso Thorpe late in the third quarter. 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.

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.

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

West Virginia, the only unranked team playing in a New Year's Day bowl, continued special teams mistakes that were costly in losses to Boston College and Pittsburgh to end the regular season.

In the first half, two kickers missed extra point, 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.

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.

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

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 Mountaineers17, 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.

Florida State's Lorenzo Booker added 101 yards on 20 carries. The Seminoles were penalized 16 times for 161 yards, both Gator Bowl records.

The Gator Bowl is sponsored by Toyota.

The Associated Press News Service

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