ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Back home in Tallahassee, they call it "Sod Cemetery." It is the place that the Florida State football team celebrates a significant road victory by taking home chunks of turf from the opponent's field.
The Seminoles will be making a few more contributions to their burial ground today. Top-ranked Florida State ripped up Michigan Stadium yesterday, but only after doing the same to No. 3 Michigan, 51-31, before a crowd of 106,145.
It was the most points given up by a Wolverines team since a 55-24 loss to Northwestern in 1958. Florida State's eight touchdowns -- five in the first half -- tied a record set in the same game. The victory for the Seminoles kept the country's longest Division I-A winning streak alive at 10 games.
"I knew we could put points on the board, but I didn't think we could get us 51," said Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon, who completed 16 of 28 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. "But I don't think we played that great a game. There are quite a few things we could work on."
Such as points-after-touchdowns. The Seminoles converted only one of five in the first half -- freshman kicker Dan Mowery missed three of four PATs and eventually was replaced -- as Florida State built its lead to 37-21. But that was about the only weak spot for the Seminoles.
Starting with Terrell Buckley's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown, Florida State (4-0) made one big play after another. They came on flea-flickers and fourth-down gambles by Weldon. They came on long runs by tailback Amp Lee, who gained 122 yards on 20 carries and scored twice. They came on interceptions by Howard Dinkins and Todd McIntosh.
And they came on the brilliant play-calling by Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. Long respected for his offensive genius, Bowden might have outdone himself yesterday. If he doesn't draw them up himself, he steals them. The flea-flicker -- a 29-yard run by Weldon, after he threw the ball to backup quarterback Charlie Ward, who threw it back -- was taken right from the Florida playbook.
"We call it 'Crocodile,' " said Bowden, who later faked a field goal and had holder Brad Johnson, the team's second-string quarterback, shovel a pass to third-string fullback William Floyd for a 4-yard touchdown. "If we think they've got a chance to work, we try them."
Said Michigan flanker Desmond Howard: "Offensively and defensively, we had a lot of breakdowns. And they made a lot of great plays."
Howard, a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, made quite a few himself. After Buckley stepped in front of him for the interception on Michigan's second play from scrimmage, Howard came back to beat the Florida State cornerback on touchdown catches of 13 and 42 yards. Howard also broke a 40-yard punt return and a 48-yard kickoff return.
But after closing an early 25-10 deficit to 25-23, Michigan watched as Lee raced 56 yards to the Wolverines' 5 and, on the next play, went in for his second touchdown. Then, after Howard's long kickoff return (the only time Florida State kicked to him the entire game), Michigan drove to the Seminoles' 3. On third-and-goal, Wolverines quarterback Elvis Grbac wobbled a pass that was intercepted by Dinkins in the end zone.
"We knew we were going to get the ball back [to start the second half]," said Dinkins, a senior linebacker. "But if they scored on that play, it might have been a different outcome. That kind of play broke their spirit. They came out in the second half and didn't have the same spark, especially on offense."
Said Bowden: "Football is a game of momentum, and that was one of the plays that got back the momentum for us."
The Seminoles seemed to lose their hold when fullback Elmer Bennett fumbled at the Michigan 1 after a 10-play, 73-yard drive to start the second half. But Florida State's de
fense stopped the Wolverines on downs deep in their territory, and the Seminoles set up at the Michigan 34 after a short punt. Florida State scored four plays later on a 20-yard throw from Weldon to wide-out Eric Turral.
The Michigan defense stiffened after that, but the offense fell apart. With Howard being double-teamed and the Wolverines' offensive line tiring, Michigan failed twice on fourth-down plays. The second of those opportunities came on fourth-and-one at the Florida State 11, when fullback Burnie Legette was stopped by linebacker Marvin Jones with a little under 11 minutes left.
"You've got to convert those," Michigan coach Gary Moeller said of the fourth-down plays. "I wouldn't change those calls."
When Florida State drove from its 11 and scored again -- on a 10-yard, fourth-and-two pass from Weldon to tight end Lonnie Johnson, a play Bowden called because he lost confidence in his kickers -- it seemed as if the rout was on.
But after the Wolverines scored on a 16-yard pass from Grbac to Yale Van Dyne -- Grbac dived in for the two-point conversion -- and then recovered the onside kick, Michigan appeared to have a chance. The 21-point lead was down to 13 with a little under five minutes left. Even on the Seminoles' sideline, there was a trace of anxiety.
"We just knew they were never going to stop," said Weldon. "When they got the onside kick, I said, 'Here we go again.' You watch so many great games from this stadium, you think it's going to come down to the end."
It didn't. After being sacked twice, setting up third-and-24 from the Florida State 46, Grbac hit a 10-yard pass to John Ellison. But, on fourth down, linebacker Reggie Freeman got to Grbac again, and the Michigan quarterback tried to throw. The ball popped in the air, and was grabbed by McIntosh. The junior end rumbled all of his 268 pounds 49 yards for the touchdown.
"We were looking for the sack, or just a big play," said McIntosh. "This was more than I could ask for."
As the time ticked away in what was the biggest victory in Bowden's career, as well as for the Florida State program, the Seminoles stood on their benches and yelled at the crowd.
"We're not a finesse team," bellowed linebacker Kirk Carruthers, who led Florida State with 14 tackles. "We play smash-mouth football."
Just ask Michigan.
Better yet. Just check out the chopped-up field at Michigan Stadium or the "Sod Cemetery" at Florida State.