TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It may have been one of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden's biggest wins.
Perhaps not one of great significance to the rest of the college football world, but very important to the octogenarian coach who hopes to coach one final season here in 2010.
Big games before for Bowden were about national titles or conference championships. Now they're about survival.
"It was very big," Bowden said Sunday. "A pressure game."
In his first game after turning 80, Bowden watched redshirt freshman quarterback EJ Manuel lead the Seminoles to 41-28 victory Saturday at Wake Forest. Manuel, who replaced injured quarterback Christian Ponder, passed for a touchdown and ran for another in a memorable debut that reflected all the hype around his recruiting two years ago.
Bowden praised Manuel's poise.
"He was the same ol' cool hand Luke I've seen in practice," Bowden said. "I equate it to Danny Kanell when he got his first start (1993) against Maryland and played very much the same way."
Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards, Jermaine Thomas rushed for 149 yards and freshman Greg Reid, who ranks second nationally in punt returns, went 68 yards for a touchdown with a Wake Forest punt.
Both teams needed a win to keep their hopes alive for a bowl bid.
Florida State (5-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) evened its overall record to keep alive hopes of a 33rd straight winning season and a 28th straight bowl bid.
"That was not our goal at the beginning of the season," Bowden said. "Our goal was to get back to a BCS game."
With a season finale at top-ranked Florida, the Seminoles game Saturday against Maryland (2-8, 1-5) is a must to make a smaller bowl.
"As the season goes along, your goals began to dwindle," Bowden said. "That makes Maryland a very big game again."
After 387 career victories, Bowden is gearing up for another big game despite a disappointing season.
"Now you move to another game that you have to have," Bowden said. "You've got two games left, you've got to win one more."
And he didn't mention Florida.