(Friday, January 1st)
Final Score: Florida State 33, (18) West Virginia 21
Jacksonville, FL (Sports Network) - Jermaine Thomas ran for a pair of scores to help head coach Bobby Bowden end his tenure at Florida State as his team took down 18th-ranked West Virginia, 33-21, at the 65th annual Gator Bowl.
Bowden got win No. 389 and won his 22nd bowl game with Florida State, including seven straight wins in the Gator Bowl.
"I wanted 400 so bad," Bowden admitted after the game. "I wanted 400 so bad because I felt like, well, Joe [Paterno] is going to beat me...If I could just get to 400, it would be me and him. I could hang around with him and follow him around a little bit. I wanted 400 but didn't get a shot at it."
During his tenure, the Seminoles had 14 straight seasons of double-digit winning records from 1987-2000 -- a span that also included a final AP ranking among the top five.
He also guided the team to two national championships -- in 1993 and 1999 -- and 12 conference titles, including nine in a row from 1992-2000.
Thomas finished the game with 121 yards on 25 carries while E.J. Manuel also had a touchdown on the ground for the Seminoles (7-6), who won the 23rd bowl game in school history and beat West Virginia, 30-18, at this bowl event in 2005. Manuel also threw for 189 yards on 17-of-24 passing.
Jarrett Brown, Noel Devine and Ryan Clarke each had a rushing touchdown for the Mountaineers (9-4), who had closed out their regular season with wins over Pittsburgh and Rutgers. Devine finished the game with 168 yards on 16 carries.
"You want me to be honest, I don't like to lose. He taught me that," WVU head coach Bill Stewart said when asked if it was easier that his team lost to Bowden. "[He's] one of the classiest guys ever, one of the greatest gentlemen in the game, a guy that I try to emulate, a guy that coached me as a skinny son along with his own son."
Trailing by a point to start the third quarter, Florida State had its first drive kick-started on a 69-yard kickoff return to the West Virginia nine-yard line. However, the team was only able to get three points out of the drive as Dustin Hopkins booted a 22-yarder for a 16-14 lead with 12:15 left in the third.
The Mountaineers lined up for a 33-yard field goal attempt by Tyler Bitancurt, but he missed.
After Florida State punted, West Virginia was held to a three-and-out and a punt from Scott Kozlowski went just 28 yards as it was partially blocked.
Three plays later, Thomas took a draw around the left side and into the end zone from 19 yards out for a 23-14 lead with 3:50 to play in the third.
The Mountaineers answered on their ensuing touch as a nine-play, 80-yard drive was capped as Clarke bulled his way up the middle and into the end zone from five yards out to make it a 23-21 game on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Seminoles, though, came right back with a 12-play, 81-yard march that ate up over six minutes as Manuel took the ball to paydirt from two yards out for a 30-21 lead with just under nine minutes to play.
The Mountaineers were then held to a three-and-out and Hopkins sealed the win with a 37-yard field goal that capped an 11-play, 42-yard drive with just over two minutes to play.
West Virginia started the game with the ball and put together an eight-play, 72-yard march that was capped when Brown kept the ball and ran around the right side into the end zone from 32 yards out for a 7-0 lead 3:15 into the game.
Florida State answered with a Hopkins 26-yard field goal with just over seven minutes to play in the first.
However, the Mountaineers got a 70-yard run from Devine that set up his one- yard touchdown run around the left end for a 14-3 lead with 5:13 left in the first.
"These kids got all wrapped up in this Bobby Bowden-leaving thing and they weren't ready to play football, but they got better and better as the game went on," Bowden said of the slow start.
After an exchange of punts, Florida State tried a 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but Hopkins missed it.
Brown, though, was intercepted by Jamie Robinson to give Florida State the ball back at its own 39.
The pick led to seven points as Thomas took a pitch out to the left and raced into the end zone from 12 yards out to make it a 14-10 game with 10:58 to play in the second.
A 42-yard field goal from Hopkins in the final moments of the first half cut Florida State's deficit to just one point at the break.
Bowden has a record of 389-129-4 and is second all-time behind Penn State's Joe Paterno. Bowden was also the head coach at Samford from 1959-62 and was the head coach at West Virginia from 1970-75...Manuel had 70 yards on the ground on 14 carries while Jarmon Fortson had four catches for 73 yards in the win...Florida State controlled the ball for 37:07...Brown finished the game with 43 yards on six carries while Geno Smith was 8-for-15 with 92 yards passing.
01/02 00:45:41 ET