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Vols Look To Shut Down Warrick

December 31, 1998

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ During Fiesta Bowl week, there have been a few theories on what it’ll take to shut down Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick.

``Keep him on the bench,″ offers Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis.

``Triple-team him,″ volunteered Seminoles cornerback Dexter Jackson.

Of course, Warrick has the answer.

Asked if there was anyone who could cover him 1-on-1, the All-American said: ``My mom.″

What kind of coverage? ``In my face.″

The Volunteers have to settle for cornerbacks Steve Johnson and Dwayne Goodrich, and that’s OK with Chavis. After all, the Vols didn’t win all their games without a pair of strong cornerbacks.

``He may be the very best receiver in college football, but we’re going to be Tennessee,″ Chavis said. ``If you’ve seen us play, we’re going to play a bunch of man-to-man and we’re not going to change our philosophy going into this game.″

That’s fine with Warrick. The last time a team tried single coverage on the 6-foot, 190-pound junior, he burned North Carolina’s Dre’ Bly for three catches and 125 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown, in a 39-13 win. And Warrick sat out the first quarter because of disciplinary reasons.

``I feel like I have to make big plays if we’re going to win this ball game,″ Warrick said Thursday, four days before No. 2 Florida State (11-1) plays No. 1 Tennessee (12-0) for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl.

Johnson is well aware of the challenge. Which is why he’s hoping a strong pass rush can shake up Marcus Outzen, the Seminoles’ quarterback making just his third start. In Florida State’s only loss, 24-7 to North Carolina State, the Wolfpack intercepted six passes against Chris Weinke.

``He’s a special kind of receiver,″ Johnson said. ``He’s made a lot of teams look silly and a lot of players miss and fall on the ground. His biggest asset is he makes something happen after the catch.

``I hope our guys can contain him. If not, it’s going to be a long night for us.″

Warrick caught 61 passes for 1,232 yards and 11 touchdowns. He threw for a score and ran for another. In Florida State’s 23-12 win over Florida, Warrick eight passes for 119 yards, including a 32-yard TD catch, and threw a 46-yard TD pass off a reverse.

Tennessee has a big-play guy of its own in wide receiver Peerless Price, who caught 61 passes for 920 yards and 10 TDs. He also returns kicks and the Vols are hoping he can match Warrick big play for big play.

``Peerless is a guy that has made as much happen as any receiver we’ve had at Tennessee,″ coach Phillip Fulmer said. ``We’re counting on him to make plays in this ball game just as much as they’re counting on their receiver.″

Price, a 6-0, 183-pounder from Dayton, Ohio, finished the season with a flourish, earning MVP honors in the SEC title game after catching six passes for 97 yards and TD in the 24-14 win over Mississippi State.

``I’ve been making big plays all season,″ Price said. ``I know people are counting on me to make those plays, and I know the measure of a man is in the big games. You go out and show what you can do in a game like this.″

Even with a new quarterback in Tee Martin, Price still finished with career highs in catches, yards and TDs and became the Vols’ third leading receiver.

And now he’s ready to go against the nation’s top-rated defense knowing a win will give the Vols the national championship.

``They’re probably the best defensive team we’ve played,″ Price said. ``Their secondary likes to get up in your face and disrupt your routes and we just have to have our timing down.″

While Price will rank as one of the best receivers at Tennessee, Warrick may be the best ever at Florida State. He had seven 100-yard receiving games this season, and excelled whenever teams covered him man-to-man.

Told that the Vols’ Deion Grant wants a shot at him, Warrick couldn’t help but smile.

``If that’s what they want to do, they can line ’em up in front of me,″ Warrick said. ``And we’ll see what happens.″

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