Two electric college football players came to the Sugar Bowl to play for the national championship following the 1999 season. Peter Warrick, a wide receiver at Florida State, might have been in consideration for the Heisman Trophy if not for a two-game suspension earlier in the year. Michael Vick had burst onto the scene with Virginia Tech and the freshman quarterback took what was a good, competitive program and lifted it to new heights.
Together, Warrick and Vick put on a great show in the Florida State-Virginia Tech national championship battle at the Sugar Bowl.
Florida State opened the season ranked #1 and rolled through the ACC, beating Top 20 teams in Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Miami. The Seminoles won their season-ending battle with Florida 30-23, in large part because of Warrick’s two touchdowns.
Virginia Tech steamrolled the Big East, including dropping 62 points on Miami (it wasn’t until 2004 that VT and Miami joined the ACC) and rose to #2, and a chance to play for it all in New Orleans.
Warrick put his talents on display early with a punt return for a touchdown, a 64-yard-pass for another, and Florida State built up leads of 14-0 and 28-7. Vick then led Virginia Tech on the way back, with a touchdown run, and a big 22-yard scramble that set up another score and by the time the fourth quarter began the Hokies had moved to a 29-28 lead.
It was time again for Warrick. He caught 43-yard touchdown pass that triggered a final Florida State burst, and they pulled away to a 46-29 win. Florida State had the national championship. It was the second title for Bobby Bowden, although his first crown in 1993 was more a media gift than it was earned on the football field.
In either case, the 1999 FSU team was the best in Bowden’s career, and the best to come out of Tallahassee until 2013 and the arrival of Jameis Winston.
Virginia Tech has continued to be a player on the national scene and a respected program, but have also hit a ceiling. Never again have they reached a game of this magnitude, which makes a proper remembrance of this one even more important.
The final score doesn’t indicate how close this game was, nor how well the Hokies controlled the line of scrimmage. Indeed, a friend of mine, a VT fan, who traveled to the Bayou for the game, recalled afterward a Florida State fan offering his hand in congratulations with the words “You guys kicked our asses up front.”
But the ultimate story of the Florida State-Virginia Tech national championship battle was Peter Warrick, with Vick winning the award for best supporting actor. Warrick would never reach his potential in the NFL, while Vick went on to have an up-and-down career, interrupted by a prison stretch for dog-fighting and its final chapter is yet to be written. For one night in New Orleans, back in their college days, they gave the nation an electric show.