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December 31, 2007

Florida State falls short in the Music City

Andre' Woodson threw four touchdown paases against a depleted Florida State defense and Kentucky won its second straight Music City Bowl, beating the Seminoles 35-28 on Monday for Bobby Bowden's first bowl loss in December.

Kentucky hadn't ended back-to-back seasons with bowl wins since 1951-52, but the Wildcats pulled off the feat in Nashville one year after surprising Clemson, coached by Bowden's son, Tommy.

As for the elder Bowden, who has led the Seminoles to 26 straight bowls and two national titles, his December bowl record finally has its first blemish at 7-1-1. Bowden is major college football's winningest coach with 373 victories - one ahead of Penn State's Joe Paterno.

Florida State was playing with several players out due to injuries and suspensions stemming from an academic cheating investigation.

"It's a game that could have been a slaughter," Bowden said. "I'm wondering if we are going to be able to hang in with these guys. Our kids, they probably played as hard as any team we have played in maybe forever.

"At Florida State we usually play four defensive ends, five defensive tackles and five or six linebackers, that's the way we've always done it. We couldn't do that tonight. The defensive ends had to go the whole game, and we had walk-on linebackers at (backup) defensive end."

Woodson capitalized on the missing depth and finished the season with 40 touchdown passes, breaking Tim Couch's school-record 37 set in 1998. It was the 19th consecutive game with at least 200 passing yards and a scoring pass for Woodson, a senior who figures to be among the first quarterbacks taken in the NFL draft.

The two teams when into the locker room at halftime tied at 14-14. But the first two quarters were marred with several questionable calls by the Big East officiating crew. An offensive pass interference call on Greg Carr negated a 33-yard touchdown pass from Weatherford in the second quarter. Replays showed there was little, if any, contact between the junior receiver and the Kentucky defensive back. Instead of a touchdown, the drive ended in a missed field goal.

A questionable grounding call killed another Florida State drive, and a personal foul call on Kenny Ingram for allegedly jumping on a player's back while attempting to block a field goal also drew the ire of the Seminole fans in attendance.

The Wildcats took the lead for good midway through the third quarter on Woodson's 2-yard slant to Rafael Little, who 126 yards on 26 carries. It was the 13th 100-yard rushing game for the senior running back, tying him for second on Kentucky's career list.

Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford pulled the Seminoles to 28-21 with eight minutes left on a one-yard bootleg run - his first career game with two rushing touchdowns.

Woodson immediately answered, dumping off a short pass that Steve Johnson took for 38 yards for his second touchdown reception. Johnson led all receivers with 126 yards.

Weatherford would add a touchdown pass to Greg Carr with just over two minutes remaining, and Florida State got the ball back at the one minute mark behind by one score.

Linebacker Micah Johnson appeared to come up with a game-icing interception, but a fumble gave the Seminoles another chance. Weatherford's last-second pass fell incomplete in the end zone.

Junior Antone Smith rushed for a career-high 156 yards on 17 carries. His final run of 59 yards set up FSU's final touchdown.

The AP contributed to this story.



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