CONTENTS

#1 vs #2: Miami 1991 - I

#1 vs #2: Miami 1991 - II

#1 vs #2: Miami 1991 - III

#1 vs #2: Notre Dame 1993 - I

#1 vs #2: Notre Dame 1993 - II

#1 vs #2: Notre Dame 1993 - III

#1 vs #2: Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl - I

#1 vs #2: Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl - II

#1 vs #2: Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl - III

#1 vs #2: Florida 1996 - I

#1 vs #2: Florida 1996 - II

#1 vs #2: Tennessee 1998 - I

#1 vs #2: Tennessee 1998 - II

#1 vs #2: Tennessee 1998 - III

#1 vs #2: Virginia Tech 1999 - I

#1 vs #2: Virginia Tech 1999 - II

#1 vs #2: Oklahoma 2000 - I

#1 vs #2: Oklahoma 2000 - II

 

Seminole Sidelines I

Seminole Sidelines II

Seminole Sidelines III

Seminole Sidelines IV

Seminole Sidelines V

Seminole Sidelines VII

Seminole Sidelines VIII


Football Magazine

Golden Rankings Home

Seminoles Sidelines - VI
#1 vs #2 Games

Florida State has been involved in six games pitting #1 vs #2 in the AP or BCS poll.
This series of articles discusses those games.


#1 vs #2 - Miami 1991 - Part I

FSU K Dan Mowrey
Dan Mowrey
FSU K Gerry Thomas
Gerry Thomas
Miami QB Gino Torretta
Gino Torretta
Miami WR Lamar Thomas
Lamar Thomas
Miami WR Horace Copeland
Horace Copeland
Miami Coach Dennis Erickson
Dennis Erickson

The '91 Seminoles entered their annual showdown with Miami on November 16 ranked #1 in the nation, a position they had held since the preseason.

  • The Seminoles had survived all tests so far, although they were worn down physically and psychologically from the process. The game at LSU had particularly taken its toll.
  • FSU hoped to extend its 16-game home winning streak. Still, the fans considered the previous ten games to be warmups for the final two against Miami and Florida. A sign in a Tallahassee business window said: Congrat­ulations FSU on a perfect 10-0 preseason record.
  • One chink in the Seminoles' armor was kicking. Dan Mowrey missed eight PATs in the first six games, more than FSU had missed during the previous seven seasons. Bobby Bowden lamented: I can see now why the pros hate to draft kickers.
  • Coach decided to use sophomore walk-on Gerry Thomas on conversions and continue with Mowrey on FGs. However, a few weeks later, Thomas took over the 3-point kicking as well.

This was the 26th matchup of the top two teams since the AP poll was inaugurated in 1936, but the first time the combatants hailed from the same state.

  • It was FSU's first 1 vs 2 experience and UM's third, the Canes having lost to Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl and defeated Oklahoma in the '88 Orange Bowl.
  • The Hurricanes had started the season at #3 but leapfrogged Michigan after starting the season with a 31-3 pasting of Arkansas and a 40-10 whipping of Houston. They had passed their only stern test of the season when they defeated Penn State 26-20 in the Orange Bowl.
  • The Canes would attack FSU's third-ranked D with the nation's #1 O. QB Gino Torretta threw to a set of wideouts known as the "Ruthless Posse" - Lamar Thomas, Horace Copeland, and Kevin Williams. Torretta said earlier in the season: They make my job a whole lot easier. I just try to get them the ball as quickly as I can, and let them make the plays.

Arriving in the Florida capital, Miami coach Dennis Erickson pronounced the FSU-UM series as "the best rivalry in all of college football."

  • The winner would not only keep or take over the top spot but earn a trip to the Orange Bowl to play the Big 8 champion for the national title.
  • Noting that Miami owned several crowns while he had none, Bowden joked: Dennis ain't gonna let us have one to make us feel good.
  • For what it was worth, Florida State was installed as a 3-point favorite, which means the oddsmakers considered the home field advantage as the difference between the teams.
  • Perhaps they didn't take into account that fact that Miami had won four of its last five visits to Tallahassee. They also ignored the fact that the Canes had won seven straight against #1 teams.

The night before the game, Bowden addressed the team at the Holiday Inn in Thomasville GA.

Men, I'm tired of being intimidated by Miami. ... Miami hasn't been behind this year. You and I have played in the mud. You and I have been 13 points behind in a rainstorm. You ain't supposed to come back and win them kind.

We've played in freezing weather. We've played with a 30mph wind ... We've played before 105,000 people. Men, we've been tested. Miami hasn't been through the test. They'll get their test tomorrow.

It will be a sixty-minute fight. There's no way we can expect for anything to happen in that game that will cause it to be over in ten minutes. One of their LBs, [Michael] Barrow, said, "We're going to be so tired after the Florida State game that the cheerleaders will have to drag us off the field." That was pretty good. I hope we feel that way. That we give every drop.

Now show class tomorrow. Dennis is controlling those guys real well. They can't hardly stand it. They're not used to that. But don't try to outshowboat those guys. We don't want that image. Your momma don't want that image. Your daddy don't want it. If he pushes me, I walk away. If he cusses me, I walk away. If he slugs me, I walk away. Then I see him after the ball game. I'll let you out early if you want to do that. Hand the ball to the official. Show good sportsmanship.

Continued below ...

References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Saint Bobby and the Barbarians: The Inside Story of a Tumultuous Season
with the Florida State Seminoles
, Ben Brown (1992)
Top of Page
#1 vs #2 - Miami 1991 - Part II

All the pre-game hype was over. It was High Noon, time to kickoff 1991's version of the "Game of the Century" between 10-0 Miami and 10-0 Florida State before a record crowd of 63,442 at Doak Campbell Stadium.

  • Most locker rooms were tense before the game. Bobby Bowden told his team:

Don't worry about making a mistake. It's the biggest game in the country. I've never been in one bigger than this either. But you've already done all the work. And this is really about the only thing fun about football, playing in a game. Go out there and play just as loose and as hard as you can. And if you make a mistake, don't worry about it. If we get behind, don't worry about it. They've never been behind. How are they going to respond? I know this, we've been in terrible situations and come back and won.

  • Jim Gladden's scouting report on the Hurricanes, who averaged 450y and 36 points per game, included these lines:

    This Miami team has great speed at the skill positions, an offensive line that will hold with the best and a confidence level that is extremely high. They are very cocky and think you are overrated.

Florida State won the toss and, as usual, deferred to the second half.

  • Miami looked like a team that had won seven straight collissions with the #1 team when they drove 74y to start the scoring on Stephen McGuire's burrow from the 2. Carlos Huerta's PAT made it 7-0 with less than two minutes expired. Only once did the Canes reach third down. On that play, QB Gino Torretta scrambled 11y to the 2.
  • Two personal foul penalties had greatly aided the drive. So Chuck Amato cornered his linemen when they came off the field and told them, "Play aggressively, but nothing foolish now."
  • FSU started fast with a 12y scamper by Amp Lee, but three more runs failed to gain 10y and the Noles punted. On the first play, Torretta made a perfect throw to Kevin Williams in the clear, but the speedster dropped it or else the Canes would have been 14 points ahead. LB Kirk Carruthers sacked Torretta to force a punt to the FSU 41.
  • QB Casey Weldon threw his first pass of the day. It sailed over WR Shannon Baker down the middle. Three plays later, Baker drew a pass interference penalty from SS Hurlie Brown to penetrate UM territory for the first time at the 48.
  • On second-and-15 following a sack, Weldon, just before being sacked again, lofted a pass to Lee, who was well behind the defenders but had to slow up to wait for the underthrown ball. That allowed Brown to make a desperate tackle that prevented a TD. The play gained 51y to the 2. But the Miami D stiffened. Lee was tripped up by Brown on first down for a 6y loss. Not seeing Bowden signalling for a timeout because he didn't like the coverage, Weldon threw an incompletion in the EZ. Facing 3rd-and-goal, Bowden called for a play called Y Hide. Then Casey rolled right and threw back across his body to wide-open TE Lonnie Johnson, who had blocked and fallen down to deceive the D and was now wide open on the 4. But the ball fell short. Thomas booted a 25y FG to make it 7-3 with 5:15 left in the period.
  • After an exchange of punts, the Noles got a break. DL Joe Ostaszewski knocked the ball out of McGuire's hands. Joe's twin brother Henry recovered at the Miami 24. FB Edgar Bennett ran 20y to the 4. Then Lee added a yard as the quarter ended.
 Gino Torretta runs against the Seminoles, 1991
Gino Torretta runs for a first down.

FSU took the lead in the second 15 minutes.

  • Bowden went to his patented FB dive three straight times to get the TD. Paul Moore slammed over on fourth-and-1. The first TD scored against Miami in the first half all season put the home team on top 10-7. It was also the first time the Canes had trailed all season.
  • The Seminole D stopped UM on their next three possessions. CB Terrell Buckley got a pick inside the FSU 15 when Torretta overthrew Lamar Thomas. A second INT also came deep in Nole territory when the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by DB Richard Coes and snared by diving LB Marvin Jones on the 13.
  • But FSU gave the pigskin right back three plays later when Weldon, pressured by DL Rusty Medearis from his left, hurried a pass that Charles Pharms grabbed on the FSU 40 with 3:49 left.
  • Miami bogged down on the 27. So Huerta attempted a FG that Sterling Palmer blocked to preserve the lead at the break.
  • The Nole D had held Miami's Posse to one catch. However, their Hurricane counterparts had lived up to their billing. Without the turnover, FSU would have scored just 3 points.

Both coaching staffs reviewed the first half to find an edge that might tip the scales in the second 30 minutes.

  • Dennis Erickson: "Boys, we're here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of gum."
  • Bowden told his troops:

Okay, men, we're down to the most important half of the year. We're thirty minutes away from what we've worked for.
Defense, you're only doing two things wrong. Tackling. I told you to hit the guy and clutch him.
Then the darn penalties. The score would be 10-0 now without the penalties. But, defense, if you can keep 'em off the board, we're okay.
We need a hero, men. We need a hero .

The second half would produce a goat, not a hero.

Continued below ...

References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Saint Bobby and the Barbarians: The Inside Story of a Tumultuous Season
with the Florida State Seminoles
, Ben Brown (1992)

Top of Page

1991 FSU-Miami Program
Casey Weldon

FSU RB Amp Lee
Amp Lee

FSU WR Shannon Baker
Shannon Baker

FSU TE Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson

FSU T Joe Ostaszewski
Joe Ostaszewski

FSU FB Edgar Bennett
Edgar Bennett

FSU LB Marvin Jones
Marvin Jones

FSU DT Sterling Palmer
Sterling Palmer

#1 vs #2 - Miami 1991 - Part III

 

FSU QB Casey Weldon
Casey Weldon

FSU QB Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

FSU TE Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson

 

 

Miami QB Gino Torretta
Gino Torretta

Part I | Part II

Leading 10-7, Florida State scored first in the second half.

  • First, disaster struck when Corwin Francis sacked QB Casey Weldon from his blind side, knocking his wind out and forcing him to retire to the sidelines.
  • Backup QB Brad Johnson entered and surprised the crowd by scrambling right and throwing back across the field to Amp Lee for 19y. Then Big Brad, all 6'6" 215lb of him, ran for 9y to midfield.
  • After Lee gained 4, Weldon returned and was promptly sacked again,Miami's fourth for the day.
  • Casey rallied to throw three straight completions, including one that broke FSU's 0-for-6 streak on third down conversions, gave the Noles a first down at the 8.
  • After Lee slipped and lost two, TE Lonnie Johnson was flagged for holding, pushing the ball back to the 22 and visibly angering Bobby Bowden.
  • FB Edgar Bennett got back 8 of the yards, but Weldon's pass to a leaping Ryan Baker in the EZ sailed through his hands.
  • So Gerry Thomas booted a 31y FG to increase the lead to 13-7.
 Miami sacks Casey Weldon
Hurricanes sack Weldon.

Miami mounted a drive of its own.

  • Starting on their 28 after the kickoff, the Canes made it to the FSU 34 before bogging down. Carlos Huerta came on to try a 51-yarder. A split second before he kicked the ball short and to the right, FSU called timeout. Coach Dennis Erickson then sent on the punt team, causing Huerta to fling his helmet to the ground behind the bench.
  • Using trap plays up the middle against the aggressive D-line, FSU moved methodically to a first down at the 10 with just seconds remaining in Q3.
  • In any close contest, a key to victory is converting opportunities into 7 points and not just 3. FSU had a chance to extend its lead to 13 points.
  • But the D dug in and stopped Lee for no gain, then stopped Johnson on the 4 after he took a short pass over the middle. On third down, Bennett tried slanting to his left but could gain only a yard.
  • With a chance to at least get more than one TD ahead, Bowden elected for another Thomas FG to make it 16-7 with 14:22 remaining.

Miami mixed passes and runs to move into scoring range.

  • They moved deftly to the FSU 13. Then a false-start penalty and two straight sacks of Gino Torretta, FSU's fifth and sixth of the afternoon, pushed them back to the 27.
  • So Erickson settled for Huerta's 45y FG to pull within six, 16-10, with 9:48 on the clock.

FSU DB Errol McCorvey
Errol McCorvey

FSU DB Terrell Buckley
Terrell Buckley

FSU WR Eric Turral
Eric Turral

The Hurricane D took the field determined to prevent a third straight FSU scoring drive.
  • The Noles made one first down, then on third down, Baker was open 15y downfield on a curl pattern but dropped the pass. The WR would see no more action. So the Canes took the punt back to their 42 with 7:20 to go.
  • For the third straight play from scrimmage, the Seminoles sacked Torretta. But Gino fought back with a 22y completion to a leaping TE Coleman Bell over CB Errol McCorvey to the FSU 41.
  • Stephen McGuire swept LE for 8, then broke up the middle for 17 more to the 16.
  • Torretta basically threw the ball away when he saw that CB Terrell Buckley had Horace Copeland well covered in the EZ.
  • After McGuire gained 4, Miami faced a crucial third-and-6 at the 12. Torretta went to the out pattern again, this time to RB Kevin Williams, who slipped after making his cut and fell down. That brought up fourth-and-6. With the clock under four minutes, Erickson chose to go for it.
  • FSU D-coordinator Mickey Andrews thought about putting his corners in bump-and-run coverage. But he decided not to take a chance on a TD pass over them.
  • As the Canes lined up, Buckley positioned himself at the 5 across from Copeland, who hadn't caught a ball all day. At the snap, Terrel backpedaled to the goal line. So Copeland ran past the first-down marker, turned, and took in Gino's pass a second before Buckley drove him backward. The motion motion made it a first down on the 3.
  • Miami then ran three straight plays at the right side of the Seminole line. McGuire gained 1, then 1 again. On third down, the FB and TE lined up in the backfield to the QB's left with Larry Jones right behind Torretta. Jones took the handout and burrowed into the EZ to tie the game with 3:01 left.
  • Unknown to the Seminoles, Miami faced a challenge on the PAT. The regular snapper had left the game with a strained knee. So DL Rusty Medearis, the backup snapper on punts, took over for the crucial play. Even though he had never hiked for a placekick in a game, he did his job, and Huerta booted the EP to make it 17-16.
  • Some Seminoles fans remembered that exact score eight years earlier when Miami won in Tallahassee to earn an Orange Bowl berth against #1 Nebraska.
Still, with two timeouts in their pocket, the Noles had a good chance of getting into position for the winning FG.
  • ABC TV announcer Keith Jackson reminded the audience:

All they need is three. Their history in place kicking has not been pronounced.

  • Starting from the 20 after a touchback, Weldon connected with Kez McCorvey for 9, then Lee gained 4 for a first down.
  • An 11y aerial to Eric Turral on an out pattern moved the chains and stopped the clock with 2:27 showing. DT Eric Miller sacked Weldon for a 3y loss. FSU used its second timeout. 2:18 to go.
  • Bennett gained 6 to the 47. Then Weldon floated a pass over the middle to Edgar for 6 more to make it 4th-and-1. After precious seconds ticked away while the officials decided whether Bennett went out of bounds or made the first down, Bowden used his last timeout, knowing that the next play was essential to victory.
  • Both of his kickers, Thomas and Dan Mowrey, warmed up on the sidelines in hopes of being called on. But they wouldn't be needed if FSU didn't make this first down.
  • Bowden didn't try anything fancy, just a handoff to Bennett around RE for 7 to keep the championship hopes alive. They even got a break when an injury to Medearis stopped the clock at the 1:10 mark.
  • Weldon then made a clutch play. Rolling right but not seeing anyone open on that side, he threw back to the left side to Bennett who got out of bounds at the 33. Six more seconds had elapsed.
  • After an incompletion on second down, Weldon went for the home run on third down. Turral broke away from one-on-one coverage by Ryan McNeil and was open 20y downfield. However, E. T. had gone inside when the route called for an outside move. So Casey hesitated a fraction of a second before lofting the ball toward the EZ halfway between the corner of the EZ and the post. Turral went to the corner after all, but the inside throw allowed McNeil to jump into him and draw an interference penalty rather than allow the sure TD.
  • The 15y penalty made it first down at the 18 with 53 seconds remaining. That meant a 35y FG if no more yards were gained or lost. Thomas's longest of the season was 40.
  • The game is won, Bowden thought. Don't do anything stupid to lose it. So he called a run to the right to position the ball more in the center of the field. Lee took the handoff but, seeing no room, instinctively veered left, gaining just a yard and putting the ball on the left hash mark.
  • Weldon lost his shoe on the play and knelt to replace it with the clock running. So Bowden directed O-coordinator Brad Scott to signal Casey to kill the clock.
  • With 40 whole seconds left, the QB indicated he wanted to run 46, a toss sweep to Lee. He planned to remind the TB to keep the ball in the center of the field.
  • But Scott didn't change his mind. Spike it. Weldon did as instructed.

The situation showed 3rd-and-9 at the 19 with 29 seconds left.

  • Running the ball was out of the question with no timeouts available. And passing would raise the specter of a disastrous sixth sack.
  • So Bowden sent in the FG unit. Brad Johnson knelt at the 24 to take the snap.

Let's pause in our narrative to review something that happened in the summer of 1991.

  • The NCAA Football Rules Committee was disturbed that many coaches were content to settle for three points instead of advancing for TDs.
  • So in its wisdom, the committee narrowed the width of the goalpost from 23' 4" to 18' 6".

As FSU lined up for the FG, Jackson announced to the TV audience:

And this is for a win. And this could be for a national championship.

  • The snap and hold were fine. Thomas's boot sailed toward the right upright with plenty of distance. It would be close either way.
  • Many of the Seminole fans were so certain it was on target that they began to celebrate.
  • Johnson jumped up and raised his arms to signal the FG was good. But Thomas, standing behind him, made no gesture. He could see the ball drifting to the right.
  • Bowden, confused by the crowd, reminded himself to restrain his players so they wouldn't get a celebration penalty.
  • Jackson proclaimed:

It's up. ... Missed it to the right!

  • Bowden jogged toward the South End Zone with a grin on his face only to pull up short when he saw the officials signaling no good. The coach said to no one in particular:

What's goin' on? I thought it was good.

  • A few moments after reporting the miss, Jackson noted:

You know what just ran through my mind - and Todd Berry reminded me of it - last year, that kick is good.

Gerry Thomas after missing wide rightBowden Meets Erickson after Game
L: Thomas after Wide Right; R: Bowden greets Erickson afterwards
Miami had beaten FSU by a single point for the fourth time since 1980.

  • Thomas stood on the sideline as the Hurricanes celebrated to the point of drawing a 15y penalty.
  • When the game ended, the Miami players danced in victory and saluted their fans. Some carved up slices of the turf to take back home. Maybe they'd start their own Sod Cemetery, they told reporters.

The Seminoles couldn't get to the locker room fast enough.

  • Some banged their helmets into lockers. Some kicked stools and ripped off their gear in frustration.
  • Do we have to score for them too? yelled DE Toddrick McIntosh, angry at the offense.
  • Most players, however, stumbled in like zombies. Many cried openly; others had glistening eyes.
  • When Bowden finally addressed the team, he told them:

There was only one difference today. You probably fought as hard as they fought. They made one more big play than we did.

  • Thomas faced reporters teary-eyed and accepted blame for the defeat: I didn't do my job.
  • Across the way, Erickson pronounced it the greatest win I've ever been involved with.

Aftermath

  • Miami edged Boston College the next week before closing with a romp over San Diego State. A 22-0 pasting of Nebraska in the Orange Bowl clinched their national championship.
  • The Seminoles lost the next week at Florida, then won a lackluster Cotton Bowl in frigid conditions over Texas A&M to finish #4.
  • 23 Seminoles and 18 Hurricanes who suited out that day made NFL rosters, purportedly the most ever in a single game.
References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Saint Bobby and the Barbarians: The Inside Story of a Tumultuous Season
with the Florida State Seminoles
, Ben Brown (1992)
Top of Page
#1 vs #2 - Notre Dame 1993 - Part I

FSU Coach Bobby Bowden and QB Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward and Bobby Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz

Notre Dame D Coordinator Rick Minter
Rick Minter

Florida State D-Coordinator Mickey Andrews
Mickey Andrews


One of the most hyped games of the 20th century was the Seminoles' visit to Notre Dame on November 13, 1993.
  • #1 Florida State had won all nine of its games by 18 or more points.
  • The #2 Fighting Irish sported the same record, their only close game being a 27-23 victory in Ann Arbor.
  • The Noles averaged a national-best 44.3 ppg while ND weighed in at 37 ppg. FSU also led the nation in scoring D as well (6.4).

The game had special meaning to Bobby Bowden.

  • He recalled listening to Notre Dame football on the radio when he was growing up in Birmingham. In particular, he idolized QB Angelo Bertelli, 1943 Heisman Trophy winner.
  • His Noles had won their only meeting with the Irish in 1981, one of the many road games on the brutal schedules of his early years in Tallahassee.

Bobby had several major concerns heading into the clash.

  • Notre Dame had two weeks to prepare for the Seminole invasion.
  • Bobby's star QB Charlie Ward still suffered from sore ribs from the hit he suffered in the Wake Forest game two weeks earlier. Charlie sat out the Maryland game to make sure he was as healthy as possible for the Irish.
  • Charlie had a philosophical attitude toward the matchup:

If we won all of our games, and they won all their games, we would have ended up playing them anyway [in a bowl].

The Seminole players seemed to go out of their way to deemphasize the Notre Dame mystique.

  • Ward: It's just another game. It's Notre Dame, of course, and they have a lot of tradition, and I understand that. I've heard a lot of people talking about the tradition, and South Bend. I'm sure it's a lovely town. I'm going there to play a football game. I'm not going there to sightsee. We're going out of town to play. It's no different than going to the Orange Bowl. It's no different than going to Florida Field. It's no different than going to North Carolina.
  • Two of his teammates gave the identical answer when asked about classic Notre Dame names they had heard. "Rock Knutne," said WR Kez McCorvey. "Rock Knutne," replied LB Chris Cowart.
  • When asked about the Fighting Irish tradition, CB Clifton Abraham said: Things like that don't impress me. I'm not living in the 1940's. I'm living in the 1990's.
  • Another Seminole referred to "the Three Horsemen." WR Tamarick Vanover asked, "What's the Gipper?"
  • When the Seminoles went through a light workout in Notre Dame Stadium the day before the contest, they wore green FSU baseball caps with shamrocks on them.

Irish Coach Lou Holtz had all the bulletin board material he needed.

  • Yet his players had also provided the Noles with extra motivation by questioning their class and brainpower. A popular t-shirt on campus read CATHOLICS VS. CREMINOLES.
  • The oddsmakers did FSU no favors by installing Notre Dame as 14-point underdogs on their home field despite their #2 ranking. Holtz used the lack of respect to spur his team.

Holtz and his D-coordinator Rick Minter set three lofty goals for their senior-laden defensive unit.

  • Keep Ward under 10y rushing.
  • Keep FSU under 100y rushing.
  • Prevent the Seminoles from gaining more than 50y after pass receptions (what today is called "YAC," yards after catch).

Lou had this to say about Ward and his "Fast Break" offense.

We just have to be patient. We aren't going to stop them. We've played pretty well on defense this year, but we've never faced a team that runs and throws and has the overall skill and talent, and the confidence level, of Florida State. ... We aren't going to confuse Charlie Ward. Here's a fifth-year senior. He's seen all the coverages. The blitz isn't going to faze him, the full-court press, he's been under pressure in basketball. He knows what he's doing.

DE Brian Hamilton:

We've played some good QBs, but Charlie Ward does bring a new dimension. We know we can't let him get outside of the pocket. We're emphasizing keeping him in the pocket, but we also have some things to get some pressure on him.

On the other side, Mickey Andrews' D had to contain the Irish's #5-ranked rushing O averaging over 275y per game.

  • The Golden Domers did nothing fancy, just batter opponents behind a fearsome O line that weighed in at over 1,400 pounds. The smallest member was C Tim Ruddy, a mere 286. But he compensated by being the strongest player on the team, bench pressing better than 500 pounds.
  • The Seminoles would face that bulk with a three-man front whose biggest player was 268lb E Toddrick McIntosh. Andrews would try to neutralize the size with speed. Bowden:

In this Notre Dame team, I can see a lot of Woody Hayes. There's power in everything they do. This team is dominated by blue-chip athletes. They play a different style than what we're used to. It's like a black-and-blue division game.

Speed is nice, but when they run right straight at you, how can you pursue something that comes at you? You pursue things that run away from you. Notre Dame don't like to run away from people all that much.

FSU hoped the weather would not be too bad on the south shore of Lake Michigan. In that, they got a break. The day was gray and chilly but without the rain that was forecast. Let the game begin!

To be continued ...
References: No. 1 Noles! FSU's National Championship Season,
The Tallahassee Democrat (1994)
Top of Page
#1 vs #2 - Notre Dame 1993 - Part II
A typical fall day in South Bend with a chill in the air, the leaves turned brown, and 59,075 fans watching "The Game of the Century" - 9-0 Florida State (#1) vs 9-0 Notre Dame (#2).

  • For the first time, ESPN's seven-year-old College Game Day program left the studio and set up shop outside the stadium even though the game was televised by Notre Dame's network, NBC. Lee Corso picked his alma mater to win 31-30. He came within a few seconds of almost nailing the score.
  • The game attracted celebrities, including Spike Lee, a friend of FSU QB Charlie Ward, and talk show host and ND grad Phil Donahue.
  • Scalpers were selling end zone seats for $400 and sidelines for $1,000.
  • NBC's sideline reporter, O. J. Simpson, interviewed Coach Bowden right before the game.
  • Ten years later, Bobby called it:

    Greatest atmosphere I've ever been in. That was the most electrifying one I've ever been in. I mean, man, was it thick. You could feel it.

The Seminoles, showing no signs of intimidation, started the game with a bang.

  • The D held the Irish and forced a punt to the 11.
  • From there, Ward conducted a clinic to score in 10 plays. He scrambled twice for 34y and completed all five of his passes, the last one a 12y TD toss over a blitz to Kevin Knox, who made the catch at the 8 and spun past the defender.
  • The Noles would not score again until less than 5 minutes remained in Q3.
FSU-Notre Dame Action
The lines square off.

The Irishwasted no time in tying the game.

  • After the kickoff went into the EZ, QB Kevin McDougal cranked up an 80y drive, 70 of which came on the ground.
  • When ND reached the FSU 32, Coach Lou Holtz pulled some dipsy-doo. Taking advantage of the Noles' great pursuit, he called a reverse that worked perfectly. The ball carrier started left, then gave the pigskin to flanker Adrian Jarrell who raced untouched to pay dirt. It was Jarrell's fourth carry of his college career.
  • LB Derrick Brooks, in particular, bit hard on the play, following the blockers and FB to his right.

They surprised me on that reverse when they used my speed against me. Our line was doing the job of getting to their guys, and then we'd miss tackles or overrun plays.

  • Jarrett wouldn't have scored without the block of LT Aaron Taylor, who ran 30y from the other side of the field to clear out the last defender. RT Todd Norman jokingly explained afterwards:

He's supposed to fall down on the other side of the field, but he comes all the way across and makes my block. He was moving pretty good for a ma of his obesity.

  • Flushed from the pocket but completing passes on the run, Ward led a drive past midfield. But a third down sack led to a missed 54y FG by Scott Bentley that gave ND good field position.

Lee Corso Game Day 1993
Lee Corso picks FSU over ND 1993

FSU WR Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox

Notre Dame QB Kevin McDougal
Kevin McDougal

FSU LB Derrick Brooks

Notre Dame's first TDCharlie Ward scrambles
L: Adrian Jarrell scores first ND TD; R: Charlie Ward scrambles
The game moved into Q2, which proved to be an unmitigated disaster for FSU.

  • When Notre Dame faced fourth-and-1 at the FSU 30 early in the period, Holtz went for it, but the Noles stuffed McDougal on a sneak to take possession.
  • The FSU O found the going tough against the wind. Also, ND D coordinator Rick Minter had installed a scheme that involved three and four linemen pressuring Ward without blitzes. That allowed the LBs and secondary to sit back and cover the receivers.
  • So the Irish came right back, pounding the ball on the ground as Bowden feared. Lee Becton's 26y run produced a 14-7 lead with 10:42 left in the half. Lee had already gained 100y for a school-record fifth straight game.
  • The Irish capitalized on a turnover to make it 21-7. With the ball on his own 6, thanks to a disastrous double lateral that lost 14y, Ward rolled right in the EZ and lofted a pass toward Knox behind the secondary. But the strong wind held the ball up, and John Covington intercepted to put the Irish only 39y from another six. The INT doubled Charlie's count for the season, breaking a streak of 159 attempts without a pick. Four plays later, Jeff Burris, an All-American candidate at safety who was used as a runner in goal-line situations, ran in from the 6 after breaking an arm tackle by Toddrick McIntosh and bouncing off Brooks.

Notre Dame-FSU Action - Covington INT
John Covington intercepts Ward's pass intended for Kevin Knox

 Burris Scores ND's Third TDNotre Dame-FSU Action
L: Jeff Burris scores Notre Dame's third TD. R: Ray Zellars rambles.
The Seminoles faced their biggest deficit since trailing Georgia Tech by the same score in 1992. Ward had led a scintillating comeback in that game that established the "Fastbreak Offense" as Bowden's preferred mode of attack. Could Charlie work his magic again?

  • After an exchange of punts, FSU began running the ball effectively, Sean Jackson and William Floyd doing the damage. But Knox fumbled after a completion to halt the momentum.
  • When the period mercifully ended after another punt swap, the Noles found themselves behind at intermission for the first time in 23 games, dating to the Florida game in 1991.
  • With an O line that outweighed the FSU defensive front by 42 pounds per man, the Irish gained 165y on the ground in the half, a pace that would allow them to exceed their 275y average per game. With a lead, there was no need for Holtz to deviate from his rush-first game plan in the second half.
  • Also, ND had sacked Ward twice after he had been snared only seven times in the first nine games.
  • Averaging 565y per game, FSU was held to a measly 39 in Q2.
FSU FB William Floyd
Notre Dame-FSU Action Zellars Eludes Abraham
L: Kevin McDougal pitches out. R: One of the many missed tackles - Zellars eludes Clifton Abraham.
With Florida State receiving to start the second half, Holtz chose to put the Noles against the wind for another 15 minutes.

  • The plan worked beautifully as the Irish held, then drove into FSU territory to set up Kevin Pendergast's 47y FG with the wind, the longest of his career.
  • The Tribe O finally came to life on the next possession, mounting a drive that culminated in Ward's pass in the left flat to freshman RB Warrick Dunn who scampered into the EZ from 6y out.

Doing a much better job of defensing the Irish, the Seminoles drew closer in Q4.

  • With 10:40 left in the game, Scott Bentley booted a 24y FG with the wind to cut the lead to 24-17. Ward found Kez McCorvey four times for 38y and went 7-for-8 on the scoring drive.
  • With all the momentum on the side of the Noles, Notre Dame mounted a classic nine-play, 80y drive that ended in Burris's 11y TD run to take a seemingly insurmountable 31-17 with only 4:05 on the clock.
  • On all four Fighting Irish TDs, the runner was upright when he crossed the goal line.

Staying calm as he always did, Ward directed another drive.

  • With the D tiring, the Seminoles reached the ND 5, but a pair of penalties made it fourth and goal from the 20.
  • Charlie spotted McCorvey in the back of the EZ, but didn't see S Brian Magee. Fortunately, Magee tipped the ball into McCorvey's grasp to cut the margin in half with 2:26 left.
  • After wasting two timeouts earlier in the half, the Noles had only one left. After a failed onside kick, the Nole D forced an Irish punt after three plays, using the timeout in the process. The partially-blocked punt against the wind netted just 5y, giving Ward & Company possession at their 37 with 0:51 showing.
  • Charlie began the desperation drive by flipping the ball to McCovey for 9. Then Charlie hit Dunn for 4 and a first down. Then followed two more completions to McCorvey, 18y each. Amazingly, the Noles had reached the ND 14 with 10 seconds left. Time for two passes.
  • Ward's first attempt was batted down at the line, leaving but 3 ticks on the clock.
  • Both Irish and Seminole fans will remember the final play to their dying day. FSU LB Ken Alexander knelt near the bench on the 30y line and closed his eyes, unable to watch.
  • Knowing he had to throw the ball into the EZ, Charlie scrambled out of the pocket to his left. He didn't see an open Matt Frier but instead locked on Dunn in the back of the EZ. Warrick, whose eyes got big as the ball came toward him, never got a chance to snag the TD because DB Shawn Wooden cut in front at the 2 and knocked it down.
  • The fans stormed the field to celebrate their Irish taking over the #1 spot.

The post-mortems included recriminations and talk of a rematch.

Video highlights of the game

Continued below ...

References: "Round 1 to the Irish," Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated,
November 22, 1993
"No. 1 FSU can't stop No. 2 Notre Dame, now hopes for rematch," Steve Ellis, Tallahassee Democrat, November 14, 1993
Taylor Exults for ND
Aaron Taylor exults in front of Devin Bush after ND's fourth TD

FSU WR Kez McCorvey

Notre Dame S Brian Magee
Brian Magee

FSU-Notre Dame Final Scoreboard

#1 vs #2 - Notre Dame 1993 - Part III

 

Lou Holtz Faces Reporters
Lou Holtz

FSU Coach Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden

FSU DE Derrick Alexander
Derrick Alexander

FSU RB Warrick Dunn
Warrick Dunn

FSU WR Kez McCorvey

Boston College-Notre Dame 1993
BC Kicks Winning FG at ND

Top of Page

After his team won the "Game of the Century" 31-24, Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz praised his opponent.

Florida State is the best football team we have beaten since I've been coaching.

All we were doing was trying to be the best football team in the stadium, not the country. That was our objective.
  • Lou also pointed out a shortcoming that some Seminoles agreed with: I did think they'd try to run the ball more.
  • Notre Dame did just exactly what FSU feared they would: run right at them behind their huge O line that outweighed the defensive front 39lb a man. Said LG Mark Zatavesi of 6'4" 299lb LT Aaron Taylor, 6'5" 273lb RT Todd Norman, and 6'3" 295lb C Tim Ruddy: That's really the core of the team, right there. You can run anything behind those three guys.
  • Lee Becton turned in his fifth straight 100y rushing game, gaining 122, more than all Seminoles runners combined, on 26 carries.

FSU's reign as #1 ended after 12 weeks, the longest streak in school history.

  • Bobby Bowden:

You all asked me about Notre Dame, and I'm not making any excuses or alibis. They won because they were the better team. Today.
I'm sure some will say the "big one" got away. After six years, I finally found out what the big one is - it's the one you lose. The Miami game this year [a 28-10 victory] wasn't a big one. This was a big one.
I'd like to be Lou Holtz tonight. He'll have a good time.

  • DE Derrick Alexander summarized the game like this:

The reason we lost was missed tackles. If we missed a hundred of them, I would not be surprised at all. So many were in third-down situations where we had made the play. They have great backs, and they ran through us like they said they would.

There was much talk by the media and even the players in those pre-BCS days of a rematch in a bowl game.

  • Sports Illustrated's article on the game was headlined, "Round 1 to the Irish."
  • FSU FB William Floyd used the same term right after the game: We're hoping this was just Round 1.
  • Not all Noles were that optimistic. RB Warrick Dunn recalled:

We thought we deserved to be in the national championship game. But we thought that loss ended our chances. We were wondering how far we'd drop in the polls. We didn't drop far. [#2]

Some aspects of the game stuck in the craw of some FSU players and Coach Bowden a decade or more afterwards.

  • WR Kez McCorvey, who caught 10 passes for 124y in the second half:

When we pulled up to the stadium and, as we walked onto the field, we noticed they had turned the sprinkler system on. I was thinking to myself, "Who would turn the sprinkler system on before a game?" Only at Notre Dame ... As the game progressed, we kind of saw how that water advantage came into play. They were stronger up the middle, they were a bigger team; they weren't as fast but they were powerful up the middle. We were a quicker team, but we had bd footing the whole game. ...
My high school coach sent me some long spikes. I was the only one on our side of the field that had good footing.

  • Bowden remembered the last minute of the game when there were people standing in the back of the end zone, making it difficult for his QB, Charlie Ward, to find an open receiver.

I've never played a team that crowds the end zone like that. I mean it's nearly unfair. If the end zone would have been open, it's not unlike Ward to have spotted [an open Tamarick Vanover] - there's a body over there, instead of 1,000 bodies. That's the thing I'll remember about that doggone game.

  • Bobby made a major admission to a reporter writing an article on FSU's first visit to South Bend since the '93 game (a contest the Noles won 37-0 over Ty Willingham's Not-So-Fighting Irish).

I did nothing right that week. I tried to downplay their spirit. I knew [Notre Dame] thrives off that. But they made us eat everything that was said.

  • He also rued having his players wear green hats with FSU on them for the workout the day before the game.

I thought that would be a nice gesture for them. "We'll wear Notre Dame's colors with Florida State on them. That'd be nice." Well, they jumped all over that thing. You have to hand a lot of that to Lou Holtz. He was a master at getting his team up for you.

To the same writer, Holtz recalled his team's motivation.

We were No. 2 in the country, but we were a two-touchdown underdog. I thought that was sort of a lack of respect for our program.

  • He said his biggest problem was keeping his players' excitement under control.

We were loose and had great preparation so all you had to do was keep the players from getting too excited too early and that's when you really know you're home with your program.

Notre Dame's stay at #1 lasted only a week.

  • Boston College upset the Irish 41-39 in South Bend on a last-second FG to drop ND to #4 in the AP poll and put Florida State back on top with undefeated Nebraska #2.
  • However, 1993 was the second season of the Bowl Coalition poll, which was inaugurated by five conferences (SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC, Big East) and Notre Dame and six bowl games (Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Gator, and John Hancock) to ensure quality post-season matchups, including a #1 vs #2 clash if bowl contracts allowed it.
    • The Coalition Poll had the Cornhuskers #1 and FSU #2. When both teams won their season finales against their archrivals Oklahoma and Florida to keep their top spots in both polls, they accepted bids to meet in the Orange Bowl in what amounted to the National Championship Game.
References: "Round 1 to the Irish," Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated, November 22, 1993
"A decade later: Notre Dame has struggled since its victory in the 'Game of the Century,'" Joe Hettler, October 30, 2003
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
#1 vs #2 - Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl - Part I
It didn't take long after the 1993 loss in South Bend for Florida State to play another Top Two contest.

  • This time the Seminoles were #2 playing #1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to end the season.
  • Bobby Bowden got a second chance at winning his elusive first national championship because Notre Dame lost to Boston College at home the week after the Irish upset the Noles.

Both coaches suffered from the same stigma: outstanding records year after year but no national championship - "Can't win the big one" syndrome.

  • Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, the winningest active Division I-A coach (206-45-3, .814 in 21 seasons): I want to win the game very much, and I hope we can have that trophy. However, he added: If you're donig something for 31 years, you hope it doesn't come down to one game to define what you did or didn't do. I'm not obsessed with this game. My main obsession is to have the team play the best it can play.
  • Pregame talk included the possibility that FSU could win and still have to share the championship with 11-0 West Virginia should the Mountaineers beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. "Share the championship" meant one team finished atop the AP poll and the other was #1 in the USA Today-CNN rankings.
  • Bowden, the second winningest coach (238-78-3 in 28 years) in the top division, said he'd settle for a piece of the title: You'd like to be so good that you could win it all. But if it didn't happen, I'm sure i could survive by winning one of them.
  • Because of their 11-0 record, the Cornhuskers were expected to finish atop both rankings should they emerge victorious in Miami regardless of what WVU did.
  • #4 Notre Dame was considered to have little to no chance of finishing on top of either poll even if they beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
  • Despite their #2 ranking, the Noles were favored by 17 points, a betting line that disturbed both coaches.
    Osborne: If the gamblers know what they're talking about, it's an uncomfortable feeling.
    Bowden: When you're favored like we are, you're not supposed to worry. But I worry more. You're always afraid that the kids and the coaches might underestimate the opponent.
    Still, he added: The closer to the game I get, the looser I get.

The two programs had opposite bowl streaks entering the game.

  • The Seminoles hoped to extend their eight-game winning streak and 11-game non-losing streak in bowl games.
  • Nebraska, on the other hand, wanted to end its six-game slide in postseason games, including a 27-14 loss to FSU in the 1993 Orange Bowl.
  • That victory gave Bowden a 1-2 record in Orange Bowl games, but that topped Osborne's dismal 1-6 mark in Miami.
  • Bobby enjoyed a 4-1 advantage in head-to-head matchups with Dr. Tom.

Osborne's decision at the end of the 1984 Orange Bowl still provided fodder for discussion.

  • Undefeated and ranked #1 that season just as they were ten years later, the Huskers roared back from a 17-point deficit to Miami to pull within a point with 48 seconds left. Tom decided to go for two, but QB Turner Gill's pass was knocked down in the EZ. Most observers felt that a tie would have clinched the top spot for Nebraska.
  • When asked about it before the '94 Orange Bowl, Tom replied: You can call it courageous, but to be courageous, you have to be aware of the choicees. I didn't know there was a choice. I didn't waiver or agonize over that decision. I just thought we had to win it.
  • When a reporter asked him if he'd make the same decision if the situation arose against FSU, Osborne said: I suppose I'd do the same thing. I suppose my instinct wouild still be to try and win it. But I can't tell you that for sure.
  • If Tom had any regrets, he had kept them to himself. The only thing I have now that I didn't have then is an understanding of how things work. A lot of people have told me since then that if we took the tie, we would have won the national championship. It's not like I'm going to step off the end of the earth if we don't win this one.

The teams were healthy entering the fray.

  • Bowden had a slight concern when QB Charlie Ward missed most of practice two days before the game because of a sore throat and slight fever. But the Heisman Trophy winner was expected to be 100% by kickoff.
  • Both teams boasted All-American LBs, Trev Alberts for Nebraska and Derrick Brooks of FSU.

The teams had achieved their lofty perches with contrasting offensive styles.

  • Osborne's philosophy was run, run, and run some more. I-back Calvin Jones led the Big Eight with 1,043y rushing on 185 carries. QB Tommie Frazier ran the option deftly (704y on 126 carries) but could also pass (77-of-162 for 1,159y). However, NU's leading receiver, Abdul Muhammad, had only 25 receptions for 383y.
  • FSU's Ward, by contrast, had thrown the ball over twice as many times as Frazier, connecting on 264-of-380 for 3,032y. His favorite receiver, Kez McCorvey, had 74 receptions for 966y. FSU fielded two TBs with more than 500y rushing - Sean Jackson (825) and Warrick Dunn (511).
  • Nebraska's "Black Shirts" D allowed 16 points and 307.6 yards per game while the Seminoles surrendered a mere 9.4 points and 284.5y per game.

The highly-anticipated match would not disappoint.

Continued below ...

Top of Page

Tom Osborne & Bobby Bowden
Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden before their first meeting, in Lincoln in 1980

Charlie Ward & Bobby Bowden
Charlie Ward and Bowden

Nebraska LB Trev Alberts
Trev Alberts

FSU LB Derrick Brooks
Derrick Brooks

Nebraska I-Back Calvin Jones
Calvin Jones

Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier
Tommie Frazier

Nebraska WR Abdul Muhammad
Abdul Muhammad

#1 vs #2 - 1994 Orange Bowl - Part II

1994 Orange Bowl Program
FSU QB Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward under duress

FSU K Scott Bentley
Scott Bentley

Both teams boasted high-powered offenses, but the defenses predominated all evening.
  • Maybe it was the pressure of trying to win their coach's first national championship or the pressure applied by the Black Shirt D or both, but FSU's O line "went out and played like large lumps of Limburger cheese" (Rick Reilly in SI).
  • Charlie Ward played like the Heisman Trophy Jinx - the last four winners had lost their bowl games - was alive and well. Reilly:

All week he had his own police officer protecting him everywhere he went, but where was that guy now?

  • Nebraska sacked Ward four times in the first half alone, two of them by LB Trev Alberts.
  • Knowing Charlie played basketball as well as football, the Cornhusker fans gleefully shouted "N...B...A!"
  • Coach Bowden gave another reason for his star QB's ineffectiveness.

Charlie was dead tired from the Heisman and all those dadgum distractions.

An officiating ruling in the first half has caused controversy ever afterwards.

  • Nebraska's Corey Dixon ran a punt back 71y for a TD, but the Big East officiating crew called a clip. NBC announcer Bob Trumpy, in those days before officials identified the offender on a penalty, assume the culprit was CB Tyrone Williams and pointed out that the replay showed Williams did not clip.
  • After the game, an NBC spokesman told The Miami Herald:

    The officials obviously don't have the benefit of instant replay, but none of our replays show a conclusive clip. We looked at it four or five times from different angles and could not find a clip.

  • Reilly, however, wrote:

Well, they looked in the wrong place. Williams didn't clip anyone - FB Lance Gray did.

That bad break was counterbalanced by a good break.

  • The only TD of the first half came on a 34y pass from QB Tommie Frazier that bounced off the hands of FSU S Devin Bush into those of SE Reggie Baul, a backup who hadn't made a catch in five games. The 7 on Baul's jersey was lucky that night.
  • That made the score 7-3 after Scott Bentley hit a 34y FG earlier in Q2.
  • Bentley scored again with a 25y boot with 0:29 left to make it 7-6 Huskers at the half.

The Seminoles dominated Q3.

  • Culminating the opening drive of the half, William Floyd scored from the 1 on another controversial play as he fumbled at the goal line. But officials ruled he had broken the plan first.
  • Leading 12-7, Bowden went for 2 but Ward's pass fell incomplete.
  • With 3:06 left in the period, Bentley's 25y FG made it 15-7.

That set the stage for an eventful final quarter, which ended twice.

Continued below ...

References: "Wide Left," Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated, January 10, 1994
Top of Page
Nebraska's Corey DixonNebraska QB Tommy FrazierFSU S Devin BushWilliam Floyd fumbles while scoring
L-R: Corey Dixon; Tommy Frazier; Devin Bush; William Floyd fumbles while scoring.
#1 vs #2 - 1994 Orange Bowl - Part III

Florida State entered the final 15 minutes leading 15-7. Hold on and Bobby Bowden would win his first national championship.

  • The lead almost ended on the very first play of Q4, Nebraska RB Lawrence Phillips scored on a 12y run.
  • Tom Osborne didn't hesitate to order a two-point conversion despite haunting memories of a failed two-point conversion at the end of the 1984 Orange Bowl that cost him the national championship to Miami on the same South end of the field.
  • QB Tommie Frazier rolled to his right and, not noticing a receiver open in the right rear corner of the EZ, chose to run. But LB Ken Alexander and DE Derrick Alexander knocked him out of bounds on the 1 to preserve the two-point lead.

Nebraska played without its leading rusher, Calvin Jones, and leading receiver, Abdul Muhammad, both of whom were forced to the sidelines with injuries.

  • Still, with the D keeping Charlie Ward & Company at bay, the Huskers drove to the FSU 22. On third down and 9, a first-down run by Frazier was nullified when most of the O line moved before the snap.
  • Set back to the 29, on the edge of FG range, Frazier made his most costly mistake of an otherwise brilliant evening. Richard Coes stepped in front of Tommie's pass intended for WR Clester Johnson.
  • But FSU couldn't make much headway and had to punt the ball back to the Huskers with four minutes left.

Frazier drove his unit downfield again.

  • The key play in the drive came on second-and-2 at the FSU 40 when Frazier rambled 32y on an option play. Half the distance to the goal was added becaues of a face mask penalty.
  • The Noles dug in and stuffed two runs for before NG Jon Nance dropped the RB for a 5y loss to the 10 to forced a FG attempt.
  • Byron Bennett put NU ahead 16-15 with just 1:16 left, sparking a celebration by the 17-point underdogs and their fans, who thought they had finally triumphed in that hexed stadium.
  • But in the immortal words that another Seminole was making popular at that time, "Not so fast, my friend."

Needing just a 3-pointer to retake the lead, FSU stormed back with the help of not one but two 15y penalties.

  • The first break came right away when the kickoff went out of bounds to give possession on the 35. Afterwards, Ward recalled the huddle: Everyone was looking at me. I got no problem with that. I know I'm going to have to make a play sooner or later.
  • A few plays later, Charlie hit RB Warrick Dunn, his roomate, on a down and out route, and he scampered clear across the field 21y to the 33. As he went out of bounds, Barron Miles pushed him, drawing a 15y roughness penalty that Osborne strongly objected to. However, replay showed Warrick was 2y out of bounds when Miles made contact.
  • From the 18, Ward threw an incomplete pass intended for Kez McCorvey. Charlie then spotted McCorvey as he raced toward the EZ. But Kez was tripped at the goal line, drawing an interference penalty that put the ball at the 3.
  • TB Sean Jackson lost 2 before Bowden decided not to take a chance and sent out the FG unit despite his many Wide Right and Wide Left experiences. However, caught up in the excitement, he called timeout too soon when he could have let another 10 ticks count off, a mistake that nearly cost him the game.
  • K Scott Bentley recalled: It was like everyone expected me to miss. It's like, if it comes down to Bentley, he'll miss it.
  • In the stands, his father sat while all around him stood screaming. His mother just felt sick. His brother, a junior at Creighton who tended bar in Omaha, thought that tips would be low in 1994 if Scott made it.
  • But that's what he did, booming a 22-yarder through the uprights with 21 seconds to send the Garnet and Gold into ecstacy.
  • In Dallas where they had won the Cotton Bowl that afternoon, Notre Dame players watching on TV leaped to their feet and cheered because they thought a Seminole win would give the Irish the national championship since they had beaten FSU in November.

But the game wasn't over.

  • A 15y walkoff for excessive celebration forced Scott to kick off from the 20.
  • From his 43 after the runback, Frazier threw an incomplete pass to Trumane Bell. But his next pass connected with Bell down the middle to the FSU 28.
  • Pandemonium broke lose when the clock read 0:00. Bowden started across to shake hands with Osborne, as he recalled years later.

They hit me in the head with that stinkin' ice [from the POWERade container]. I don't know if people realize it or not, but that liked to knock me out. ... They hit me with that bucket in the head. If you look at the film, I start to go down. Gosh, that hurt.

But Bobby wouldn't be allowed to enjoy his first national championship just yet.

We go out there to around midfield, and I start to shake hands with Tom; the crowd is all around us. And the official comes up there and says, "Coach Bowden, we got to put one more second on the clock."

I said, "Where is the ball?" And they said on something like the 33y line. Well, their kicker had never kicked one over 47y. I knew what his range was, and this was going to be five yards further than that - 50 or maybe more. So I'm thinking, "No sweat. This kid can't kick one over 47y."

  • The officials cleared the field and placed the ball at the 34. Bowden:

Now we're back on the sidelines, and the official comes up to me again and says, "Coach, we were wrong. We got to move the ball up five more yards. The press box said the ball was supposed to be up here." And now I'm thinking, "Now they are in range."

Can you believe this? Not only did they get one second back, but they got five yards out of it. It was really unbelievable. ... You're trying to get everybody focusing on the kick, trying to block that kick. I didn't really say anything to the officials. They call what they see, and once they call it, that's the way it is. I just remember people behind me were cussing the officials. Administrators. There were some upset people on the sidelines. It did cross my mind, "Good gracious, we could lose this thing on all of this."

  • In the stands, Bobby's wife Anne was in tears as the Seminoles FG-defense team took off their national championship caps and laid down their national championship t-shirts to try to block the kick.
  • Bennett set up for a 45y FG that would end decades of heartbreak for his coach. Just my luck, he thought. I have to reprove myself a few minutes later.
  • He slipped on the wet field and hooked the boot badly. Now FSU could rejoice!

After the game, Bobby talked about the second ending to the game: It seemed like some kind of cruel joke to me. Really, the crudest joke ever played on me.

  • Still, It was very sweet winning here. It was just our time.
  • Concerning his calling timeout too soon before Bentley's winning kick: We weren't organized. Tom did a better job than I did. Nebraska played as good or better than us. We're very thankful we won that game. You could say we could have lost. You could say we should have lost. We didn't play very well on offense, but I'll take it.
  • The Cornhuskers outgained FSU on the ground 183-47 and 389-333 overall. Osborne: As far as I'm concerned, we won.
  • Bennett philosophied: You wait all your life for a chance to kick the winning FG, and it just didn't happen. I think maybe God has something better for me in my life. The two head coaches, both devout Christians, would have commended his attitude. Bentley said of his counterpart: That guy had nothing going for him. With one second left, we had already been on the field celebrating. Then they had to reset everything, plus the angle, plus the wind and the circumstances. He had everything going against him. I felt really bad for him, but I couldn't feel too bad.
  • Some Huskers were not so stoic about the Big East officiating crew. LB Trev Alberts: It didn't seem like we got any calls. I was absolutely amazed by some of the officiating. I think it was the worst I've ever seen.

Now the debate turned to who should be voted #1.

  • Florida State became the first team since Oklahoma in 1975 to win the national championship after losing a game in November. The Noles' margin was greater in the AP voting than in the coaches' poll.
  • The person most upset by that result was Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz. I didn't think there was any possibility that we wouldn't win it. I guess [the ND win over FSU] didn't count for anything. Everybody said it was the Game of the Century. I guess it's only the Game of the Century if the right team wins it. I hurt. I hurt as bad as I've ever hurt for our players.
  • Bowden knew what Lou was going through. I've been there. He might have deserved it more than when I was there, but that's the way the poll works. You got to look at the season overall. Can't just look at one game. We didn't lose to the No. 16 team in the nation at home.
References: "Wide Left," Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated, January 10, 1994
Bobby Bowden's Tales from the Seminoles Sideline, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis (2004)
No. 1 Noles! FSU's National Championship Season, The Tallahassee Democrat (1994)
Top of Page

Nebraska RB Lawrence Phillips
Lawrence Phillips

FSU LB Derrick Alexander
Derrick Alexander

FSU LB Ken Alexander
Ken Alexander

FSU NG John Nance
John Nance

Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier Passing
Tommie Frazier

FSU DB Richard Coes
Richard Coes

1994 Orange Bowl Final Score

Bowden Exultant After Second Ending
Coach Bowden after the second ending

Crestfallen Cornhusker
Despondent Cornhusker

1994 Orange Bowl - SI Cover

#1 vs #2 - Florida 1996 - Part I

FSU Coach Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden

Florida Coach Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier

Florida QB Danny Wuerffel
Danny Wuerffel

1996 FSU-Florida Program

There's never been a bigger Florida State game than this one.

Bobby Bowden, not known for hyperbole, spoke those words several days before undefeated Florida, ranked #1, met #2 Florida State, also undefeated, in Tallahassee.

  • FSU LB Daryl Bush added his two cents: The winner of this game can go on to the national championship game. And with all this build-up, it'll probably be the biggest game in the schools' history.
  • Leave it to Keith Jackson, the voice of ABC College Football, to put it more into perspective: It's the game of the century - this week.

Both teams had roared through their first ten games.

  • The closest anyone had come to upending the Seminoles had been Virginia, which lost 31-24 on October 26. Bowden's offensive juggernaut had exceeded 43 points in six games and topped 30 in three others.
  • Yet the Gators' slate was more impressive if only because they played in a tougher conference. Steve Spurrier's offense had scored 62 and 65 points as well as 56, 55, 52, 51, 47, and 42. Or, to put it another way, opponents had held UF under 42 just twice (35 against Tennessee and a measly 28 against Vanderbilt). Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Danny Wuerffel, the most accurate passer in NCAA history, Florida averaged nearly 500y per game.
  • Danny was a Florida State fan while in high school in Fort Walton Beach. So I definitely was considering playing for Coach Bobby Bowden, Wuerffel recalled later. There were two things that made me decide on Florida. One, Coach Spurrier had so much success; and, two, if I weren't playing football there was no question I'd have gone to Florida. It's funny because my sister was at FSU and I actually went to more of their games when I was in high school. I was naturally and emotionally tied to Florida State. But I wanted to think this through. I leaned on my mind.

The teams' offensive stats would normally point toward a high-scoring, last-team-with-the-ball-wins kind of game except that the two defenses were also among the best in the nation.

  • DE's Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson led the FSU D with 19 and 12 sacks respectively. Bowden on Wuerffel: If we don't harass him some, we won't be able to stop them. Heis so good at finding his open receivers.
  • Spurrier in his usual coy, understated style: No one has gone up and down the field on FSU, and that's why they're the No. 1 defense. Hopefully, we can make some yards here and there, run a little and throw a little and see what happens.
  • The Gator D geared up to stop RB Warrick Dunn, whom they had not checked in the previous four meetings - including the rematch in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. LB Mike Peterson: You've just go to ... hold him down. Mike added: This is like the Super Bowl.
  • A challenge for the Gators that wasn't talked about leading into the game was the fact that both tackles were out: Zach Piller and Mo Collins. A sophomore, Cooper Carlisle, would have to block Boulware. FSU D coordinator Mickey Andrews knew this and planned to take advantage to make it a tough day for Wuerffel.

For the first time since 1987, FSU was an underdog on its home field, with the visitors favored by 2 1/2 points.

  • A victory would send the Seminoles to the Sugar Bowl for the national title game on January 2, most likely against the winner of Nebraska-Colorado.
  • Florida, the SEC East champions, would meet Alabama in the conference title game the following Saturday. If the Gators won out, they would get the Sugar Bowl slot.
  • Spurrier and his players wanted another crack at Nebraska, who had humiliated them in the Bowl Alliance championship game in the Fiesta Bowl the year before, 62-24.

Steve summarized the Game of the Century like this: We don't like FSU and they don't like us. That's the way it should be.

Continued below ...

Reference: Game of My Life: Florida Gators, Pat Dooley (2011)
Top of Page
#1 vs #2 - Florida 1996 - Part II

Two undefeated teams met in the regular season finale for only the fourth time in college football history when Florida State hosted Florida on November 30, 1996.

  • The Seminole D got after Heisman Trophy frontrunner Danny Wuerffel from the start, wracking up three first-half INTs and sacking him six times on the day, not to mention the numerous knockdowns and hurries he endured.
  • The Gators' banged up O line, that included two freshmen replacing veterans, struggled to cope with the Nole rush led by Andre Wadsworth and Peter Boulware.
  • Wuerffel would recall several years later: There was a lot of talk about late hits, but it never really affected me. I tried not to personalize it. My dad told me he counted the number of times I was hit by FSU defenders, and it was 32. It felt like it. Coach Spurrier made some comments, but he was just trying to stick up for me. I was just disappointed that we had made another great run and that loss had ruined it.

The result for a 17-0 Q1 lead for the home team.

  • On the fifth play, S Shevin Smith picked off a pass at the FSU 20. Led by TB Warrick Dunn, who carried seven of the next 13 plays, including runs of 25 and 17y, FSU moved 72y until Scott Bentley kicked a 26y FG for a 3-0 lead with 6:25 left in the quarter. Dunn would amass 133y by halftime.
  • Shortly afterwards, the Seminoles scored two TDs in a 2:08 span. Boulware broke through and blocked Robby Stevenson's punt, Smith recovering at the 3. Two players later, Pooh Bear Williams scored. After another three and out, the Gators punted to Peter Warrick, who returned 19y to the UF 39. QB Thad Busby hit Warrick on the 38y completion to the 1, then connected with TE Melvin Pearsall in the EZ on the next play with 59 seconds left in the period.
 Spurrier and Wuerffel Confer
Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel Confer
With the wind at their backs, Florida fought back to nearly tie the game by halftime.
  • FSU LB Vernon Crawford intercepted Wuerffel at the UF 38, but the officials called pass interference, moving the ball to the 49. On the next play, Danny hit Reidel Anthony for 50y to the 1. The Gator QB then matched Busby's feat by throwing his own 1y TD pass to Jacquez Green.
  • Less than three minutes later, it was 17-14 on another Wuerffel-Green connection, this one from 9y. On the 71y drive, the Seminoles were called for a personal and two roughing-the-passer penalties, the last of which occurred on the TD pass.
  • Florida drove close enough for Bart Edminston to attempt a 53y FG on the last play of the half, but the ball fell short.
  • FSU was flagged nine times for 109y in the first 30 minutes of action.
 Warrick Dunn on the run
Warrick Dunn runs on the Gators
Florida State couldn't take advantage of the wind advantage in Q3.
  • The good news, though, was that the D continued to smother the vaunted Florida O.
  • Neither team did much with the five total possessions in the period.
 FSU Defenders Rejoice
FSU Defenders Rejoice
So the Doak Campbell Stadium record crowd of 80,932 braced themselves for an exciting finish. They were not disappointed.
  • Early in the period, Florida missed a second game-tying FG, this one from 41y out with 12:03 left.
  • The Seminoles then began an 11 play drive that covered 75y into the wind for what proved to be the clinching TD. Facing third and six from the 29, Busby, who completed only 12 of 32 for 124y, made his biggest throw of the day, hitting Warrick across the middle for 29y to keep the drive alive. FSU converted its next third down when Dunn raced for 18y before being knocked out on the 1. It took three plunges by Pooh Bear but he finally pushed the ball over for a 24-14 lead with 7:15 left.
  • Wuerffel took the Gators to midfield on their next drive until his fourth down pass failed. Desperately needing a stop, the Gator D got just that, allowing just 1y on three snaps to force a punt into the EZ.
  • Florida converted two third downs on an eight-play, 80y march that ended with Wuerffel finding a leaping Anthony in the EZ for the game's third 1y TD pass to make it 24-21 with 2:28 on the clock.
  • Steve Spurrier called for an onsides kick, but it went out of bounds. Dunn's 14y run for a first down allowed the Seminoles to run out the clock and preserve the second perfect season in school history (the other being 1979).
  • The defeat ended Florida's 23-game regular season unbeaten streak. The win moved FSU's record in its last 56 home games to an astounding 54-1-1.

Dunn's career high 185y rushing drew praise from both coaches..

  • Spurrier: Warrick was sensational. He won the game for them, probably. We knew we had to slow him down and didn't do a very good job of it.
  • Dunn, a native of Baton Rouge, was especially pleased that the victory clinched a berth in the Sugar Bowl in the Bowl Alliance championship game. It will be a fairy tale end to my career to play in the Sugar Bowl. That was one of my goals when I decided to stay for my senior year.
  • Bobby Bowden: It's just nearly too good to be true that you can end up with a 1-2 and win that darned thing in front of our home fans. I've got to hand our offensive line a lot of credit, because they got Dunn beyond the line of scrimmage. And if you can get him beyond the line of scrimmage, he'll just eat you alive.

The Seminoles expected to play #4 Nebraska, which moved up to #3 after Florida's loss and was a heavy favorite to defeat Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

  • But the Longhorns upset the Cornhuskers to leave Florida State and Arizona State as the only undefeated teams. However, the Sun Devils, as Pac-10 champions, was committed to the Rose Bowl, which was not part of the Alliance.
  • So the Sugar Bowl gave Florida a second chance at the Seminoles. In a scenario that presaged the dismal end to LSU's fabulous 2011 season, the Gators won the rematch easily, 56-20. Since Arizona State lost to Ohio State, Florida jumped to #1 in the final rankings.

FSU DE Andre Wadsworth
Andre Wadsworth

FSU DE Peter Boulware
Peter Boulware

Seminoles Sack Danny Wuerffel
DE Reinard Wilson tackles
Danny Wuerffel

FSU S Shevin Smith
Shevin Smith

FSU FB Pooh Bear Williams
Pooh Bear Williams

FSU WR Peter Warrick
Peter Warrick

FSU QB Thad Busby
Thad Busby

Florida WR Reidel Anthony
Reidel Anthony

Florida WR Jacquez Green

Warrick Dunn on cover of Sports Illustrated

 



#1 vs #2 - Tennessee 1998 - Part I

1998 Florida-FSU Program

FSU WR Peter Warrick
Peter Warrick

QB Marcus Outzen Vs Florida
Marcus Outzen

QB Marcus Outzen In Action Vs Florida
Outzen vs Florida

FSU WR Ron Dugans
Ron Dugans

PK Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski

The 1998 Seminoles approached the annual finale with Florida in Tallahas­see with little hope of playing for the national championship in the first year of the BCS.

  • 10-1 FSU stood at #4 in the rankings, which comprised the average of the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls plus the average of three computer rankings.
  • Three undefeated teams, Tennessee, UCLA, and Kansas State, ranked ahead of the Noles. The Vols had an easy game with Kentucky, then the SEC championship game against Mississippi State. UCLA faced its traditional rival, 7-3 USC, and Miami (FL) in a game postponed from earlier in the season because of Hurricane Georges. K-State's slate included 7-3 Missouri and the Big 12 Championship, probably against Texas A&M.
  • Clearly, another loss would end the Noles' chances of capturing their second national championship.
  • To make matters worse, Bobby Bowden's team would have to face the 9-1 Gators, #5 in the BCS, without starting QB Chris Weinke, who had suffered a serious neck injury in the Virginia game two weeks earlier.
  • Marcus "Rooster" Outzen played the second half of that 45-14 romp, then engineered the 24-7 road victory over Wake Forest. However, he didn't throw a TD pass during his three halves of action.
  • Bowden dropped hints before the game that he might be hatching some trick plays.

We've probably got five, six or seven that if we ran Saturday, you'd call them trick plays. We hope we don't have to use them.

1998 FSU-Florida Pregame Ruckus
Pregame Ruckus

FSU did run a special play quite successfully.

  • WR Peter Warrick caught a 32y TD pass from Outzen and threw a 46y TD off a reverse to Ron Dugans to spark the 23-12 triumph.
  • Down 12-6 at halftime, the Noles' top-ranked D held the potent Gators, averaging 487.7 ypg, scoreless in the second half. Steve Spurrier's O gained just 61y and only two first downs in the final 30 minutes of play.
  • Sebastian Janikowski boomed three FGs, including a crucial 41-yarder with 4:31 remaining to seal the win.
Marcus Outzen vs Gators 1998 
Marcus Outzen stands in against the Gators.
Outzen completed 13-of-22 for 167y with 0 INTs. Bowden celebrated the victory in the locker room by singing the "Rooster Song" from World War II.

We had a chicken,
No eggs would it lay.
One day a rooster came into our yard
And caught that chicken right off its guard.

At that point, the players yelled,
They are laying eggs now,
Just like they use ter,
Ever since that rooster came into our yard.

All the Noles could do now was hope that two of the three undefeated teams ahead of them would lose. And that's exactly what happened.
  • UCLA beat USC but lost to Miami 49-45.
  • Texas A&M upset Kansas State 36-33 in 2 OT to cop the Big 12 Championship.
  • Tennessee survived the carnage undefeated by upending Mississippi State 24-14 for the SEC crown.
That sequence of events catapulted Florida State into the BCS Champion­ship Game against Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.

Continue below ...

#1 vs #2 - Tennessee 1998 - Part II

The Seminoles prepared for the first-ever BCS Championship Game on January 4, 1999, in the Fiesta Bowl.

  • For the first eight years of the system, one of the four BCS bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Rose) hosted the title game as its bowl game.
  • The Tennessee Volunteers sported a 13-0 record after defeating Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game.
  • The Seminoles finished #2 thanks to a fortuitous set of circum­stances the last two weeks of the season. There was even talk that, if FSU upset Tennessee, #3 Ohio State might get enough votes in the AP poll to jump ahead of the Seminoles should the Buckeyes defeat Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl (which they did, 24-14).
  • Florida State would enter the big game without Chris Weinke under C after he suffered a season-ending neck injury. Instead, Marcus Outzen, the hero of the upset of Florida in the finale who started the season on the third team, would lead the attack.
  • Bobby Bowden headed one of the most veteran staffs in the na­tion: O coordinator Mark Richt - 13 seasons, D coordinator Mickey Andrews - 15, assistant head coach Chuck Amato - 17, RB coach Billy Sexton - 23, D assistant Jim Gladden - 24.
  • Andrews explained why he and the others were so loyal to Bob­by: He gives you a job, a responsibility, he doesn't tell you how to do it. When you goof up, he's there to help you, but he doesn't micro­manage you.
  • The formula had succeeded handsomely. FSU had won at least 10 games for 12 years in a row and achieved a final ranking no lower than #4 for 11 straight years, a record unmatched in college foot­ball history.
  • But that record included only one national championship - 1993. Bobby claimed he wasn't bothered that he didn't have more. I like to win it and I'm disappointed when we don't, but I came from the other side of the tracks so I'm just happy to be here.
  • Bowden gained a reputation as a riverboat gambler in his early years in Tallahassee. But now he seldom needed to use trick plays or take chances now that he had better players. When he pulled a surprise, it was just to gain momentum.

Tennessee would also have a change on offense.

  • O coordinator David Cutcliffe left after the last game to become the head coach at Ole Miss. So Head Coach Phil Fulmer promoted RB coach Randy Sanders to Cutcliffe's position.
  • Randy, a backup QB at Tennessee in the mid-80s, brought a sense of humor to his new task. When asked what tendencies he saw on film from the Seminoles' top-ranked D, he replied: They have tendencies. They have a tendency to make people punt. He added on a more serious note: I'm not nervous, but there will be a lot of anxiety about calling plays in a national championship game. The fact that Florida State gives up only 214y a game doesn't put us at ease. But if we're prepared, there's no reason to be nervous. It's just a matter of calling the plays and executing. ... My philosophy is you attack their weakness. I just haven't found a weakness yet.
  • The FSU D held five opponents to under 100y passing and 10 teams were unable to complete 50% of their passes.

Sanders would work with QB Tee Martin, who sat in a hot seat when he took over for Peyton Manning at the beginning of the '98 season.

  • But he succeeded just fine, thank you, guiding the Vols to an un­defeated season and the SEC championship. Peyton had done the latter but not the former during his four years in Knoxville.
  • Jamal Lewis began the season as the TB charged with taking the pressure off Martin as he grew into the QB role. But Jamal was lost for the season in the fourth game. But just as Outzen stepped up in Weinke's stead for FSU, Travis Henry shouldered the burden, amassing 970y on 176 carries for 5.5 average per carry.
  • The high point for Martin came against South Carolina when he completed an NCAA record 23 straight passes.

The game would match two of the top four programs in the nation in the 90s.

  • The Seminoles led all schools with a 97-12-1 mark for the decade.
  • The Volunteers, at 89-19-2, followed Nebraska and Florida.

Continued below ...

Coach Bobby Bowden 1998
Bobby Bowden
FSU O Coordinator Mark Richt
Mark Richt
FSU D coordinator Mickey Andrews
Mickey Andrews
FSU Ass't Head Coach Chuck Amato
Chuck Amato
FSU RB Coach Billy Sexton
Billy Sexton
FSU Ass't Jim Gladden
Jim Gladden
Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer
Phillip Fulmer
Tennessee O coordinator Randy Sanders
Randy Sanders

Tennessee QB Tee Martin
Tee Martin

Tennessee RB Travis Henry
Travis Henry

#1 vs #2 - Tennessee 1998 - Part III

1999 Fiesta Bowl Program
Tennessee QB Tee Martin
Tee Martin

Tennessee WR Peerless Price
Peerless Price

FSU S Derrick Gibson
Derrick Gibson

FSU FB William McCray
William McCray

FSU PK Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski

Darwin Walker Sacks Outzen Darwin Walker sacks Marcus Outzen

FSU WR Ron Dugans
Ron Dugans

FSU LB Brian Allen
Brian Allen

Broadcaster Keith Jackson
Keith Jackson

Tennessee LB Al Wilson
Al Wilson

Coach Bobby Bowden at Fiesta Bowl
Bobby Bowden

UT Coach Phillip Fulmer
Phillip Fulmer

Lynn Swann interviews Tee Martin.
Lynn Swann interviews Tee Martin.

January 4, 1999, Florida State faced Tennessee in the first BCS Championship Game, staged as the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe AZ.
  • The Seminoles sought their second national championship, the first coming in 1993.
  • The Vols last won a national championship of any kind in 1951 when the final polls came out before the bowl games, which benefitted UT because they lost to Maryland in the Sugar Bowl.
  • The game marked the end of the 26-year career of ABC's Keith Jackson as a college football announcer.

A record crowd of 80,870 watched:

  • Tee Martin do something in his first year that Peyton Manning couldn't do in four;
  • Peerless Price live up to his name;
  • Marcus Outzen fizzle in his third college start;
  • Seven turnovers, 21 penalties for 165y, and very little offense at times.

Frank Fitzpatrick of Knight Ridder newspapers wrote: Until its final hectic minutes, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was as unappealing as a week-old nacho.

  • Both offenses started slowly, resulting in a scoreless first period.
  • Tennessee struck first on a a 76y bomb from Martin to Price that set up Tee's 4y toss to Shawn Bryson to put the Vols in front 7-0 with only 55 seconds gone in Q2.
  • Just 25 seconds later, Dwayne Goodrich returned an INT of Outzen's pass 54y to jump the double the advantage. Goodrich knew he had help from S Deon Grant behind him. So when Peter Warrick broke off a short route in the right flat, he gambled. The ball kind of floated out there. To make an interception for a touchdown in a championship game, that's every defensive back's dream.
  • But the Noles fought back to cut the lead to five by halftime. Derrick Gibson's INT and 43y set up a short drive capped by FB William McCray's 1y plunge at 8:50. Kick failed. Janikowski 34y FG 1:17.

QB Martin RunsBryson Scores for UT
L: Martin runs. R: Shawn Bryson scores UT's first TD.

Goodrich intercepts pass for Warrick.Dwayne Goodrich returns INT for TD.
Dwayne Goodrich intercepts Marcus Outzen's pass intended for Peter Warrick.

Tennessee D swarms Outzen.
Tennessee defense swarms Outzen. Seminoles Try to Block UT Punt
Corey Simon (53) and Chris Walker (93) try to block Wes Overton's punt

Q3 mirrored the opening stanza - no scoring.
  • The Noles smashed Martin so hard that he still felt a little woozy after the game.
  • But Outzen & Company couldn't take advantage on a night when Marcus completed only 9-of-22 for 145y with two INTs.
Martin escapes Corey Simon
Martin avoids Corey Simon (53) sack
Sean Key tackles Peerless PriceDexter Jackson's interception
L: Rover Sean Key tackles Price. R: Jackson intercepts off Price's chest.
Come Q4, Price went from goat to hero in a space of four minutes of playing time.
  • First, Martin fired a first down pass to Price, who sliced between two defenders just across the goal line. But the ball bounced off his chest into the hands of Dexter Jackson, who returned the ball to the FSU 26. The play provided some solace for Jackson, who had a miserable first half when he was called for roughing the kicker on a FG try and a late hit. FSU moved out to midfield but no further.
  • When UT got the ball back, Price made the biggest catch of his career on a play called 69 All Go, meaning that three wideouts ran straight down the field. Their DBs had been having trouble jamming us all night, said one of those wideouts, Jeremaine Copeland. Price got loose down the sidelines and gathered in a majestic pass at the 25 that Mario Edwards leaped and missed and ran untouched into the EZ and Volunteer legend to complete the 79y TD to make it 20-9 with 9:17 on the clock. The kick was blocked.
Price outruns Edwards
Price outraces Mario Edwards to EZ.
UT added a 23y FG with 6:01 showing.
  • Now needing two TDs to win, Outzen directed a five-play drive that culminated in his own 7y run. The play was set up by a 39y pass to Ron Dugans on 3rd-and-7 - one of Ron's six catches for 135y. Janikowski's PAT cut the deficit to just 7 with 3:42 showing.
  • Bowden ordered an onsides kick, and a Seminole recovered it. But the officials ruled that the bouncing ball had grazed Janikowski before traveling 10y.
  • Martin directed a time-consuming drive into FSU territory, where he faced 4th-and-1. He completed a swing pass to Bryson for the first down. I was surprised to get a pass called when it was fourth and that close, said the Tee Man afterwards. He was so wide open, I just had to make sure I didn't overthrow him or underthrow him.
  • But shortly afterwards, Travis Henry fumbled, and Brian Allen recovered for the Seminoles on the 10. However, on the very next snap, Outzen, who never looked comfortable all evening, threw a long pass intended for WR Laveraneus Coles that Grant tipped and Steve Johnson intercepted, returning it 20y to the FSU 45.
  • Finally and fittingly, one last FSU penalty - its 12th - on a third down late hit sealed the deal.
Johnson intercepts pass.
Deon Grant tips INT to Steve Johnson.
Keith Jackson, age 70, ended his final broadcast like this: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16. And so it is done. I say goodbye to all of you. God bless and good night.

Post-game comments

  • Vol coach Phillip Fulmer: All year long we've been called a team of desiny. During the course of the year, we did what we had to do. It wasn't always pefect, it wasn't always pretty, but they found a way to get it done.
  • Tennessee QB Martin, who threw only 16 passes in his first two seasons in Knoxville playing in the shadow of Manning, referred to the fact that his team, despite being undefeated, was a 5 1/2-point underdog: We had to prove to everybody we were the No. 1 team in the nation. We had a chip on our shouldes. We won all our games. And we still didn't get our respect.
  • Vol LB Al Wilson, the leader of Jon Chavis's D, said of his QB: You can tell by each guy's personality what his childhood was like. I've never seen Tee Martin nervous, and I think that's one of his biggest attributes. He's alway relaxed. Al referred to the fact that Martin's childhood included changing address 22 times as he shuttled between his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Tee wore a wristband on which he had written "mob" for his hometown of Mobile. Death was part of my life in Mobile. I lost 12 friends, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about them. This one was for Mobile.
  • Fulmer on his field general: He played an outstanding game. He knows how to manage a game. He gives you a threat as a runner, he's very difficult to defend. As the season has gone along, he's gotten better and better. I would not trade Tee Martin for anyone in the country.
  • Manning, who attended the game, said of his successor: It wasn't pretty early this year for Tee. He kept plugging and plugging. He's gotten confidence. We roomed together on the road. A couple of times he got phone calls telling him that friends had been killed. I'm thinking, "Jiminy, this is unbelievable," but Tee is such a strong person, mentally and spiritually.
  • Bowden said his team showed the effects of not having played in 44 days. Our discipline wasn't good, and we were sloppy. We were a very, very rusty football team. Both of us laid off way too long. They made more big plays than we did. We had a hard time getting the ball to our threat, and they deserved to win. Bobby was referring to the fact that Tennessee held Warrick to just reception for a measly 7y.
  • Despite the loss, FSU finished #4 in the final AP poll, making it an amazing 12 seasons in a row the Seminoles finished 4th or better.
#1 vs #2 - Virginia Tech 1999 - Part I
The 1999 Seminoles did something unprecedented in NCAA football. They started the regular season ranked #1 and stayed there throughout their 12-0 campaign.
  • The second BCS rankings were less controversial than in '98 when Florida State's #2 finish was widely questioned after their early season loss at North Carolina State. Bobby Bowden got the monkey off his back of being the only Bowden who had been a head coach at the Division IA level and hadn't enjoyed an undefeated regular season. Terry had finished 11-0 at Auburn in 1993, and Tommy had matched that mark with Tulane in '98 before heading to Clemson.
  • Florida State and Virginia Tech both finished 11-0. 11-1 Nebraska finished #3 after avenging its only defeat with a 22-6 victory over Texas in the Big 12 champ­ionship game.
  • Bobby Bowden was happy for another shot at the title but I'd just as soon be No. 2 going in. There's a little more incentive. The Tribe had only three single-digit victories: Georgia Tech 41-35, Clemson 17-14 in Bowden Bowl #1, and Florida 30-23, the last two on the road.
  • Frank Beamer's Hokies, Big East champions, had only one scare, a 22-20 squeak­er at West Virginia in early November. The coach admitted to being ner­vous the first Sunday of December when the bowl pairings were announced. He feared that the computers that accounted for half the weight of the BCS system - the brainchild of SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer - might cost his team the #2 position. Frank explained, I'd been telling them all the time, "Take care of business, and we'll be in the game." I'm just glad it worked out and that I wasn't telling them a story.
  • About an hour after the BCS show, Bowden suggested a way the system could be changed: any time just two teams finish undefeated, they should automati­cally play each other, and the computer rankings should be forgotten. Of course, Bobby forgot about 12-0 Marshall, the MAC champions, just as his son Tommy's undefeated Green Wave had been ignored in '98.

The two QBs in the title game couldn't be more different.

  • 27-year-old junior Chris Weinke, a former minor league baseball player who had missed the first BCS championship game against Tennessee because of a serious neck injury, had thrown for 3,103y and 25 TDs. A classic NFL-style pocket passer who rarely ran with the ball, Weinke said he wouldn't announce whether he would pass up his last year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft until after the January 4 Sugar Bowl. Bowden told some of his assistants that Weinke was the best pure QB prospect he'd seen in many years and maybe ever.
  • Redshirt freshman Michael Vick became the surprise star of the season, showing the poise of a veteran in leading Tech to a perfect season. Michael compiled 1,840y passing and 585 rushing as teams had to respect his shifty running as well as his strong-armed passing. He went to New York as one of the five Heis­man finalists but lost out to Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne. Vick reminded observers of another Seminole QB, Charlie Ward, the 1993 Heisman winner.

The Seminoles placed four players - more than any other school - on the Associated Press All-America team.

  • WR Peter Warrick had been a Heisman front-runner before his arrest on theft charges and two-game suspension. Nevertheless, the 6' 190 lb senior from Bradenton still snared 71 passes for 934y and 8 TD. That put him third on FSU's all-time list for receptions in a season behind Ron Sellers (86, 1968) and Kez McCorvey (74, 1993). Peter would finish his career with 207 catches, just five short of Sellers' record. Offensive coordinator Mark Richt said of his star receiver: I don' know if there's anybody in this program since I've been here [1990] that can be as electric as Pete. The only other Seminoles Richt even put in the conversation were Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn.
  • Junior K Sebastian Janikowski from Daytona Beach, a robust 6'2" 255 lb, booted 23 FG and tallied 116 points. His strong leg provided Bowden with a weapon from 50y in. The Sugar Bowl would be Sebastian's last game in Garnet and Gold since he announced December 11 that he would enter the April NFL draft.
  • The other two All-Americans were senior linemen: NG Corey Simon, 6'4" 275 from Pompano Beach and OG Jason Whitaker, 6'5" 300lb, Panama City.

Since the championship game would be in New Orleans thanks to the BCS rotation of sites among the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and Rose Bowls, the unknown factor in the game would be which team would behave better in the city of Bourbon Street.

  • A lifelong student of the Bible, Bowden, whose teams were 3-1 in Sugar Bowls, nicknamed New Orleans "Sodom and Gomorrah." He set a 1 A.M. curfew for the first three days of practice in the Crescent City and moved up the deadline to 11:30 as the game drew nearer. He banned players from going to the casinos and put security guards on every floor of the team hotel. There are so many distractions for adults, let alone kids. We need to keep them focused.
  • The coaches and players didn't want a repeat of the '98 championship game in Tempe AZ, one of the few big games when a Bowden team lost its poise and played sloppily. The staff concluded that there had been too much inactivity leading up to the Tennessee game. So they ran the '99 Seminoles through a series of rugged full-contact practices and scrimmages. When some workouts turned chippy, Bowden knew his team was ready.
  • A group of seniors called a players-only meeting after the team arrived in New Orleans and agreed that all the starters and other vital players would avoid the party scene. We told the guys who weren't going to be playing in the game to have a good time, said S Sean Key, do whatever they wanted to do. We told everybody else to stay in their hotel and sleep.
  • Nevertheless, Janikowski missed curfew on New Year's Eve by two hours. How­ever, Bowden didn't suspend him for the game. When they put that ball out there to kick off, he's going to kick it. Kids make a lot of mistakes, but you don't have to kick them off the team. Asked if his Polish kicker was receiving preferential treat­ment, the coach replied, Does it appear to be? It does to me. He added, We've still got ways of punishing him. We'll get back at him. One of those ways was extra sprints at the next practice with DB Reggie Durden joining him. He missed curfew, but I think this is much ado about nothing.
  • Bobby said all his players dealt with boredom. There's not much we can do any­more. The kids are bored to death. And everybody is trying to make sure they have a good time. We've done everything but play a football game.
  • Word started to spread that Virginia Tech's playboy, Vick, was enjoying the Big Easy nightlife the week of the game. He drank and partied. Teammates would eventually say they were amazed by Michael's performance in the game because he appeared to be severely hungover. He made Sebastian Janikowski look like an AA member, an anonymous player said.

Bowden knew the Hokies were the popular favorite. He told the media:

Y'all are tired of us. We've been around here for a long time. They are the Cinderella team. They ought to be; they're the new kid on the block. People say "Y'all are up there every year. You've had all these chances, but you only won one. Y'all must not be very good." I'm not so spoiled that I can't live with being number three.

But, as he later admitted, In my heart, I really wanted to win a second national championship. I wanted to finish a sesason with an undefeated record. I wanted Florida State to become the first team to go wire to wrie as the number one team in the country. I wanted players such as Weinke and Warrick and Simon to become national champions.

References: Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty, Mike Freeman (2009)
Stadium Stories: Florida State Seminoles Great Moments in Team History, Gary Long (2006)

Continued below ...


Frank Beamer and Bobby Bowden 1999
Frank Beamer and Bobby Bowden

FSU QB Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke

VTU QB Michael Vick
Michael Vick

FSU WR Peter Warrick
Peter Warrick

FSU K Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski

FSU DT Corey Simon
Corey Simon

FSU OG Jason Whitaker
Jason Whitaker

#1 vs #2 - Virginia Tech 1999 - Part II

2000 Sugar Bowl Program

Hokies Defend Warrick
Hokies Defend Warrick

Polley Blocks Punt
Tommy Polley blocks punt.

 

The 2000 BCS Championship Game in New Orleans attracted far more interest than the inaugural game the year before in Tempe AZ.
  • Sugar Bowl officials estimated the crowd outside the Superdome before kickoff at 120,000 even though only 73,000 seats were available inside.
  • Tickets with a face value of $85 were selling for as much as $600 despite the fact that scalping is illegal in New Orleans. Tickets in prime locations cost as much as $1,500 earlier in the week.

After playing scoreless ball for over 11 minutes, the teams packed 21 points into the rest of the initial period.

  • FSU won the toss but deferred. After a penalty and 1y loss, it looked like sound strategy. But on the next three plays, Vick showed why he finished third in the Heisman voting despite being a freshman. First, he took off for 25y and then 9. Then he faked a run on the option and pitched to Shyrone Smith who went 26y to the 24. A few minutes later, Tech Coach Frank Beamer went for it on fourth-and-1 at the 3, but Vick appeared to turn the wrong way and was stripped by Derrick Gibson. The ball bounded into the EZ where DT Corey Simon fell on it for a touchback.
  • Determined to get the ball to WR Peter Warrick after he caught just one pass in the loss to Tennessee in the previous BCS title game, Weinke went to him on the second and third plays. On the first, DB Ike Carlton limited him to 3y. On the second, he beat Anthony Midget deep but dropped a poorly thrown pass.
  • After the Nole D stuffed the Hokies and forced a punt, Warrick zipped past a confused Midget and snagged a Weinke pass in stride for a 64y TD and a 7-0 lead with 3:22 left in Q1.
Warrick on 64y TD jaunt 
Warrick on 64y TD jaunt
  • A little over a minute later, FSU scored again. After a 20y intentional grounding penalty against Vick moved the ball to the 8, LB Tommy Polley blocked a punt, and Jeff Chaney scooped it up at the 6 and ran it in to make it 14-0.
  • But Virginia Tech struck back with 0:30 remaining on Michael Vick's 49y pass to Andre Davis.
Vick Breaks Open 
Vick breaks free.
Each team doubled its points in Q2.
  • Weinke connected for 63y to Ron Dugans at 13:45 to extend the lead back to 14.
  • Warrick struck again two minutes later with a 59y punt return to make it 28-7.
  • But Vick rallied VTU, dodging and ducking away from Garnet defenders. On second-and-9 from his 38, Mike dropped to pass, circled toward his right, then tucked the ball and angled 43y. Four plays later, he ran in from the 3 with only 0:37 left before halftime.
Vick Sets Sail 
Vick sets sail toward goal line.
Whatever Tech coach Frank Beamer said at halftime, it worked as the Hokies dominated the third period.
  • Vick's 26y completion sparked a Tech drive that set up Shayne Graham's 23y FG.
  • The Hokies D came alive and forced a punt, which Carlton returned 46y to the 36. Three plays later, Andre Kendrick raced 29y to the EZ to pull within 28-23. Vick's 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete. Kendrick had replaced 1,000y rusher Stith who was injured returning a kickoff.
  • Midget intercepted a long pass intended for Warrick to give Vick a chance to go to work again. He blunted the rush with a 23y screen pass to Cullen Hawkins, was sacked for a 7y loss, then went on a 22y dash to the 6. Kendrick scored from there to climax the 88y drive and put the Hokies ahead for the first time. Another 2-point conversion pass misfired.
 Dugans Scored Go-ahead TD
Dugans scores go-ahead TD.
The Seminoles finally wore down the Hokies and Vick in the last period.
  • Aided by a foolish late-hit penalty on Jamel Smith, FSU cooly drove 85y to retake the lead, 36-29, on Dugans' second TD catch and Warrick's conversion reception. Bowden had taken a huge chance with a pitchout in FSU territory on fourth-and-inches but Travis Minor scampered 27y.
  • On Tech's next possession, LB Bobby Rhodes' helmet knocked the ball from Vick's grasp and S Sean Key recovered at the 34. That set up a 32y Janikowski FG that provided a 10-point advantage with 10:26 to play.
  • Soon after, following Tech's second failed fake punt of the night, Warrick made a sensational diving, juggling catch of Weinke's 43y aerial in the EZ despite being interfered with.
  • With both teams worn out, neither team added any more points to the 46-29 score in the final seven minutes. The Noles ended up sacking Vick seven times.
  • As the clock wound down, Seminole fans paused from their tomahawk chops long enough to chant "Peter Warrick, Peter Warrick" in honor of the player who set a Sugar Bowl record with 20 points.

The statistics bespoke a game that was closer than the 17-point margin.

  • Tech led in first downs 24-15 thanks to FSU's three quick TD strikes of 43+ yards.
  • Led by Vick's 97y, VTU won the rushing battle 278-30.
  • Weinke amassed 329y on 20-of-34 to Vick's 15-of-29 for 225.
Bowden and Warrick with BCS Trophy 
Peter Warrick on Cover of SI
Post-Game Comments
  • Simon on Warrick, who had been hounded by the media following his arrest and two-game suspension during the middle of the season: He's paid his dues. But all anyone wants to talk about is the troubles he had.
  • Warrick: I wasn't really focused on last year but that's all behind me. I thought all night about what kind of game I was going to have and hoped I would have the game of my life. I was just trying to do what I've done all season - that's make plays. I came back for two reasons: to graduate and to win the national championship. I accomplished both of those goals.
  • Bowden: I told Pete, "You've got to counter Vick's big plays." It was a team win tonight, but I don't know if we could've down it without him." On Vick: That guy is a threat, because he can beat you with either the run or pass. All year long, it seems, he's shown the ability to escape and make the big play. On Tech: When they came back and went ahead, it showed what they were made of. But when we came back and went ahead, it showed what we were made of.

Reference: Called to Coach, Bobby Bowden with Mark Schlabach (2010)

#1 vs #2 - Oklahoma 2000 - Part I
Florida State's #2 finish in the final BCS standings for the 2000 season provoked a great deal of controversy.
  • The Bowl Championship Series' system used two human polls, computer rankings, schedule strength and losses to rank teams.
  • 11-1 FSU finished second behind 12-0 Oklahoma.
  • The problem was that the Seminoles' lone loss was to Miami, which also ended its season 11-1. The Hurricanes won 27-24 in the Orange Bowl on October 7.
  • The Canes, who lost at Washington 34-29 September 9, finished #2 in the AP poll. However, the Noles finished higher in the computer rankings thanks to blowout victories over North Carolina (63-14), Louisville (31-0), Maryland (59-7), Duke (63-14, yes the same score as the UNC game), Virginia (37-3), NC State (58-14), Clemson (54-7), Wake Forest (35-6), and, especially, Florida (30-7).
  • The controversy would cause the BCS committee to require that any compu­ter rankings included in its system for 2001 exclude margin of victory.
  • As soon as the OU-FSU matchup was announced the first Sunday of De­cember, writers raised the possibility of a split national championship should FSU defeat OU and Miami beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl January 2. If that happens, then that will be what it is, said BCS coordinator John Swofford, the ACC commissioner. The BCS doesn't eliminate that possibility. We've known that all along. It does minimize the chances for it happening.
  • Bobby Bowden also acknowledged the possibility of co-champions. Every­thing was run through the computer. We had nothing to do with it. The facts were fed in during the season and it came out ranking us second. We will ac­cept that. It's No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the BCS and if we were to beat Oklahoma, then I think we should be No. 1 in the nation in the BCS. But that probably won't happen in the AP unless Florida beats Miami.
  • In the meantime, the oddsmakers installed FSU as 10 1/2 - 12 point fa­vorites. Perhaps the fact that Bowden was 13-2 in his last 15 bowl games influenced the Las Vegas gurus.

The Seminoles could also boast thirteen straight finishes in the top four of the polls, a feat unrivalled in the history of college football.

  • No one is going to ever, ever match that, said senior QB and Heisman Trophy-winner Chris Weinke. I don't care who you are, who your coach is, or what your program is. I can honestly say it will never happen again.
  • Bowden pointed to his seniors. They don't want to lose. That's part of our heritage. He added, I've never had a team this mature.
  • The '01 class never lost a home game and compiled a 56-5 record. This would be their third straight BCS championship game.

However, something happened in mid-December that considerably weakened FSU's chances of defending their '99 BCS championship.

  • WR Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, was de­clared academically ineligible for the Orange Bowl.
  • It would be difficult to replace someone with 63 receptions, 11 TDs, and 21.3y per catch.
  • Still, 18 different Seminoles caught passes during the season. As Bowden said: One man's adversity leads to another man's opportunity. Somebody gets hurt and can't play. Somebody gets suspended and can't play. And that's a chance for somebody else. This is what they came here for. Some of them are tired of waiting their turn and are going to get their turn.
  • In particular, Anquan Boldin (41 receptions for 664y) and Atrews Bell (37/675) needed to fill the void.

The championship game marked the third time FSU faced Oklahoma in the Orange.

  • Barry Switzer's Sooners beat upstart Florida State, coming off the school's first undefeated season, 24-7 in the 1980 Orange Bowl.
  • The Sooners won again the next year in a much closer game, kicking a FG in the waning moments to eke out an 18-17 victory.
  • The Noles had not played in the Orange Bowl Game since they defeating Notre Dame 31-26 January 1, 1996.

The Sooners' O wore out scoreboard operators out also.

  • O-coordinator Mark Mangino's spread offense led by QB Josh Heupel had tallied more than 40 points six times, including games of 55, 56, and 63, the last against archrival Texas.
  • Still, everyone expected Mangino to come up with some new wrinkles to face Mickey Andrews' crack D. Five or six new trick plays and a few new op­tion plays. There's a few things you can do that they might not have seen, said head coach Bob Stoops about the five-week layout.
  • The Sooner brain trust was particularly wary of FSU's pass rush led by Ja­mal Reynolds and David Warren, who accounted for 21 of the unit's 45 sacks.

Many commentators felt the OU D was underrated, in part because of being overshadowed by the high-powered O.

  • Oklahoma ranked 9th nationwide in pass defense, 8th in total defense, and #7 in scoring defense.
  • We've been underestimated the whole season, said S Roy Williams. We're used to it. We're not worried about it.
  • FSU O coordinator Mark Richt, calling his last game before departing for Georgia, needed to be at his creative best, especially without his leading receiver.

To be continued ...


 

Heisman Trophy Winner Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke

FSU WR Marvin Minnis
Marvin Minnis

OU Coach Bob Stoops and QB Jeff Heupel
OU Coach Bob Stoops with QB Josh Heupel (far left)

FSU D-coordinator Mickey Andrews
Mickey Andrews

FSU O-coordinator Mark Richt
Mark Richt

#1 vs #2 - Oklahoma 2000 - II

Josh Heupel
The 2000 Florida State Seminoles completed a trifecta - three BCS Championship Games, three appearances.
  • In 1998, FSU had to face undefeated Tennessee without starting QB Chris Weinke. Result: A 23-16 Vol victory.
  • 1999 saw the Noles go wire-to-wire, culminating an undefeated season with a Weinke-led 46-29 triumph over previously unbeaten Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
  • Now Bobby Bowden would have no Snoop to face Stoops in the Orange Bowl since his best WR, Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, had been ruled academically ineligible. Minnis's loss would prove to be insurmountable.
The two high-powered offenses showed signs of rustiness after the long layoff.
  • Oklahoma hadn't played in 32 days and Florida State, with no conference championship game, in 45 days.
  • The opening 30 minutes featured three turnovers, a missed 30y FG by Brett Cimorelli of FSU - wide right, naturally - and eight penalties for 33y against the Noles.
  • CB Tay Cody started sensationally for the Garnet and Gold with an INT and a forced fumble. However, he was hurt near the end of the period and was gone for more than two periods having his spleen checked at the hospital.
  • Despite starting with a 35y Weinke-to-Atrews Bell pass on the first play from scrimmage, Mark Richt's final Seminole offense, averaging 42.4 ppg, was shut out in the first half for the second time that season. Miami led 17-0 at halftime en route to a 27-24 win over FSU on October 7.
  • The Sooners didn't do much better themselves, scraping for a FG by Tim Duncan with 7:16 left in Q1 to lead 3-0 at the half. The 3-pointer came seven plays after an exchange of turnovers.
  • OU WR Andre Woolfolk fumbled after a 22y reception, Clevan Thomas recovering for the Seminoles. But on the next play, Torrance Marshall, who would win the Orange Bowl MVP award, intercepted Weinke's pass to start a 44y drive that culminated in the 27y FG. The big play was a 36y completion from Josh Heupel to Josh Norman. But later in the period, Josh threw an INT near the goal line.
Robert Morgan can't hold on Jamal Reynolds rejoices over recovery.
L: Robert Morgan can't hold on. R: Jamal Reynolds rejoices over fumble recovery.
OU's offense came to life somewhat in the second half; FSU's stayed moribund.


Griffith scores.

  • Two years earlier, Heupel, the runner-up to Weinke for the 2000 Heisman Trophy, came to Oklahoma, a school long known for its ability to run the football, not throw it. But the once-mighty Sooners had fallen on hard times, winning only 12 games the previous three seasons before Bob Stoops took over in 1999.
  • I don't know if anybody could have foreseen the level he has played at, said Stoops of Heupel. We figured it would be a winning level, otherwise we would not have gone after him.
  • Josh entered the title game amid speculation that his throwing elbow, which bothered him late in the regular season, was still acting up. But he showed no signs of a problem, ending the evening 25-of-39 for 214y and one INT.
  • He also ran a few option plays, a handful of draws, and generally did whatever was needed on a night when the defenses stood out.
  • The southpaw from Aberdeen SD made perhaps the biggest play of the game in Q3 when he rolled to his right, then threw across his body downfield to Curtis Fagan for a 39y completion. That set up Duncan's second FG, a 37-yarder.
  • With the Noles O unable to get untracked, the Sooners essentially salted away the victory with a Q4 TD on a 10y run up the middle by Quentin Griffin with 8:30 to play.
Florida State avoided its first shutout in 12 seasons but with no thanks to the offense.
  • Stanford Samuels tackled OU punter Jeff Ferguson in the EZ for a safety with 55 seconds left.
  • FSU received the free kick, but Weinke's 29y pass in the EZ was intercepted by Dontel Jones with 0:16 on the clock to start the Crimson and Cream celebration.
Sooners sack Weinke.

Bob Stoops

The Seminole O generated just 301y, 248 under its average.

  • Speculation immediately began that the impotence was due not only to the absence of Minnis but also to Richt's alleged preoccupation with his new job as Georgia Head Coach.
  • The 28-year-old Weinke ended his college career with the poorest performance of his record-setting season: 25-of-51 for 274y and 2 INTs and a fumble. He didn't throw a TD pass for the first time in the season.
  • Oklahoma's ferocious D time and again forced Chris into bad decisions. Sooner defenders had their hands on at least a half-dozen passes that they dropped. The fact that FSU ran for only 27y put all the burden on Chris.

When the game ended, Stoops thrust his fist in the air and hugged players and assistants.

  • Stoops: To be honest with you, we fully expected to play that way. And as a team, we expected to win. Our players recognize that the history of Oklahoma is winning championships. We already had six, now we have seven. We have a great history in the Orange Bowl.
  • Bowden: It was like a nightmare. We simply could not get anything going offensively. They did a great job confusing us. We never got a pattern on what they were doing defensively. I'd say he [Stoops] made all the right moves. It was a good season, but we were lousy nightmare. Nobody would make big catches to get us going. When I look at it now, I think it should have been Miami and Oklahoma. It didn't look like we belonged. They are a lot better than I thought.
  • Richt: I was frustrated; Chris was frustrated. They did a good job frustrating all of us. Asked if his attention was diverted, Mark replied: I'm sure that's going to be said. I did the best I could. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. It's an awful lot to try to get accomplished for one person. I'm sorry that we just didn't finish on a strong note.

Florida State has not come close to the BCS Championship Game since the Oklahoma debacle.