CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mark Stoops shuffled through the crowd like a politician, a broad smile plastered across the Seminoles defensive coordinator's face as he shook hands and posed for pictures with anyone who looked remotely familiar.
His clothes were soaked from the ice-water bath his players had delivered along the sideline after Karlos Williams' interception sealed a 21-15 Florida State win, a berth in the Orange Bowl and the Seminoles' first conference championship in seven years, but Stoops lingered on the field, taking in every last moment.
After nearly every member of the team had retreated to the locker room, Stoops stood on the edge of the far end zone as Florida State's band saluted him with a cheer of "Thank you, Coach."
This was the final time Stoops would coach a Florida State game before taking over as head coach at Kentucky, a job he has coveted for his entire career. But Saturday wasn't about his future. It was about scripting the perfect ending to this chapter in his career.
"I was much more nervous for this game than I've ever been," Stoops said. "I don't get too nervous or worked up before games, but I really did feel the pressure of this game, because it would've been hard to live with myself if we'd have went out of here without a win."
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