Originally created 10/25/98

'Noles leave little doubt on who rules ACC

ATLANTA -- Forty-seven times s the Marching Chiefs of Florida State University graced the capacity crowd at Grant Field with the tortuous Tomahawk Chop chant, the Seminoles' brand of A Clockwork Orange and the movie's mind-numbing capacities.

The brimstone bullies of the ACC have their own theme song with which to bop to, and it's as demonic and dizzying as their impenetrable defense.

There is no debating who rules this conference's roost, not after FSU's head-knocking echoes levied Saturday night during its 34-7 triumph. Listen to the replicating tones of the windless evening and follow its trail.

Georgia Tech, in maybe the school's grandest home game since the Bobby Dodd days, couldn't quite match size for size, speed for speed, swagger for swagger in dropping its first conference game in more-than-convincing fashion. These Jackets, despite scoring 40 or more points in their five proceeding wins, lacked the one necessary ingredient needed for those postulating an upset of these confident 'Noles: They didn't have enough bully.

A week ago, nothing could faze Joe Hamilton and Dez White, as they punctured Virginia with an assortment of Mark McGwire plays. Saturday, White caught his first and only pass with 8:35 in the fourth quarter, and it came from second-string George Godsey as Hamilton nursed a bruised hip.

In a sense, Tech violated the first rule of the Bully Manual- if you're going to pick a fight with a bully, make sure a glass jaw isn't your trademark.

Tech relies so heavily on Hamilton and White that without them, you wonder if it can play with Clemson or South Carolina. (Well, anyone can compete with those two.)

FSU obviously learned from Virginia's faults that controlling those two players means controlling the Jackets' potency. No, Tech walked in Saturday with swagger and walked away staggering.

"We didn't get anything done offensively in the second half, and the Florida State defensive had a lot to do with that," coach George O'Leary said.

Bullies get to be bullies because they bring the fight, or its eminent threat, wherever they roam. A bully's territory is wherever its feet may be.

These Seminoles, the epitome of a football bully, swaggered into Atlanta not as theatrical as some of their previous MGM gridiron productions but certainly with requisite flair.

They'd rather bump into your shoulder than step aside and allow any dignity of passing through. They'd rather gang tackle your quarterback than worry about a piddling personal foul. They are that shiny new car fresh from the paint shop and needing to cruise up and down Washington Road until they've been noticed by all.

Bullies can do that, especially since they've been the Head Powerhouse in Charge the last two decades. In 53 conference games, these 'Noles have won 51, the fastest of the nine ACC members to reach such a plateau. Each year they've competed for the conference crown, they've taken it home with ease, stiff-arming away any apparent challenges.

Winning only feeds the swagger they carry.

So with a sandstorm of confidence Florida State cruised into this room temperature of a night, gazing with wonder at this year's challenger to its block and snickering under its breath with utter disdain.

Despite the loss, there is still an outside chance Tech can make itself conference champs and Orange Bowl-bound, but it will take a Virginia victory in Tallahassee, a thought that appears as fruitless as driving through Atlanta without getting stuck in a traffic jam.

So it appears that Tech will still play on New Year's Day, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville their apparent destination.

Good. That's miles away from the Tallahassee bully.

Sports columnist Rick Dorsey can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.


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