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Johnson sees FSU rallying around coach

ATLANTA - Paul Johnson says the hubbub over Bobby Bowden's future at Florida State will have the Seminoles fired up for Saturday night's game against his Georgia Tech team.

'I think they'll come together and I fully expect to get their best effort of the year,' Johnson said Tuesday.

Going into No. 22 Georgia Tech's first game in Tallahassee since 2003, Florida State is 2-3 - for the first time since Bowden's first season as coach 33 years ago.

After Saturday's loss to Boston College, the hometown Tallahassee Democrat said Bowden should retire after the season.

The pressure on the coach increased on Monday when Jim Smith, chairman of the Florida State University trustees, said he wants this to be Bowden's final season.

Bowden said he has no plans to retire. Johnson said Bowden does not deserve to be pushed out.

'You have to understand, it's a 'What have you done for me lately' business,' Johnson said. 'It's the nature of it. But that's life. I don't care if you're selling insurance or cars or whatever, if the sales drop off they look to move you on down the road. It's the same with any profession.

'The thing that's hard for Bobby is he's such a class guy and one of the greatest all-time coaches ever and a great person. You would like to think he's done enough to be able to go out on his own terms. In my mind, he put Florida State on the map with what he did. The loyalty thing goes both ways.'

Johnson said coaches have to expect criticism from fans, but he said the comments from Smith are more difficult to withstand.

'I think the thing that set off the firestorm there was when somebody from the Board of Trustees comes forward and makes a public statement like that,' he said. 'That's what caused the whole furor. If it were fans, probably nobody pays as much attention.'

Georgia Tech (4-1 overall, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has never won at Florida State. The Yellow Jackets beat the Seminoles 31-28 in Atlanta last season.

Johnson said Florida State is 'one of the more talented teams in our league.' He acknowledged the Seminoles, who are 0-2 in the ACC for the first time, are 'probably down a tad from what they're accustomed to.'

Added Johnson: 'They still have great players and a great tradition so it's going to be a huge challenge for us to go down there into Tallahassee and come out of there with a win.'

Johnson said there should be no lack of respect for Florida State.

'You're never going to underestimate Florida State,' he said. 'For all the people talking and all the moaning and groaning, I think it has been since 1973 since they had a losing season. That's pretty impressive, and the last time I checked I don't think Georgia Tech has even won in Tallahassee, so we've got a big challenge.'

Actually, Florida State was 5-6 in Bowden's first 1976 season but has 32 straight winning records since. That streak could be in jeopardy if the Seminoles fall to 2-4 with a loss to Georgia Tech.

Florida State is in last place in the ACC's Atlantic Division, while Georgia Tech is contending for the Coastal lead.

Florida State lost to South Florida and Miami before last week's 28-21 loss at Boston College.

Georgia Tech beat Florida State last season when freshman Rashaad Reid recovered a fumble in the end zone as the Seminoles were driving late in the game. It was an important win in Johnson's first season.

The fact the win came against a coaching legend made it even more memorable for Johnson.

'I said last year after the game I was humbled to be standing on the sideline and be looking across the field at a guy with his record and all the things that he's accomplished,' Johnson said.

'I've got the most respect for Coach Bowden and the job he has done at Florida State. It's monumental what he's done and what he's done for college football.'