Seminoles Sidelines - VIII
 The Turning Point - Florida 1977
Florida State football hit rock bottom in the mid-1970s.
  • The '73 Seminoles finished 0-11.
  • They weren't much better the next year under new coach Darrell Mudra: 1-10.
  • When Mudra improved the team to only 3-8 in '75, Florida State's administration looked for another new coach.
    There was serious talk around Tallahassee of dropping football - a radical con­cept for a Deep South school.

The school leaders locked in on Robert Cleckler Bowden, a native of Birmingham who had been the receivers coach at Florida State under Bill Peterson from 1963 through 1965.

  • Bobby had compiled a good but not great 42-26 record in six seasons at West Virginia in his first head coaching stint at a major college.
  • His first Florida State team won their last three games to finish 5-6 - two games better than the '75 record but still disappointing.
  • Included was a 47-0 shellacking at the hands of #2 rival Miami in the second game and a 33-26 home loss to the top rival, #12 Florida, in Week 6 before a season-high home crowd of 42,803.
  • Only 16,148 came to Doak Campbell Stadium to watch the final game, a 28-21 victory over Virginia Tech.
  • The football program still hung in the balance.

The '77 season began with road victories over Southern Mississippi (35-6) and Kansas State (18-10).

  • Then came a hard-fought 23-17 home loss to Miami.
  • The Noles then reeled off six straight victories, including a 24-3 thumping of Auburn in Tallahassee.
  • The result was a #13 ranking in the AP poll that didn't last long as FSU suffered a dispiriting 41-16 loss at San Diego State to drop to #19.
  • Fortunately, the Seminoles enjoyed a week off to put the loss behind them and prepare for the trip to Gainesville.
    DT Walter Carter recalled, "We learned from the San Diego State game that you had to bring your 'A' game every night. We had been building up and building up and someone let the air out of the balloon. On the plane home to Tallahassee, there we were, and we could have crawled into a hole."
  • Even though FSU had won eight games and accepted a bid to the Tangerine Bowl, Bowden stressed the importance of the Florida game. "If we beat 'em, it will be an outstanding year for Florida State University If we don't, it's the same old Florida State."

The FSU-Florida had been played as the last game of the season off and on since the series began in 1958. But 1977 marked the beginning of the streak that continues to this day of playing the game on the final Saturday of the regular season.

  • Doug Dickey's 8th Gator team entered the December 3 contest with a 6-3-1 record.
  • Florida's last game did not bode well for the Seminoles. The Gators trounced Miami 31-14 on the road at November 26.
  • The Noles hoped to end their ten-game losing streak to UF. They also had the opportunity to win nine games in a regular season for the first time in school history.
  • The Gators' top receiver, Wes Chandler, would be sidelined with "a touch of viral pneumonia."
On a pleasant, absolutely cloudless afternoon, Florida State began on defense before a crowd of 63,563 (including 10,500 from FSU) and a regional television audience.
The Seminoles recalled the noise from the biggest crowd of the '77 season as the loudest of any place they had played.
  • First Quarter
    After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Seminole offense came out throw­ing against the injury-riddle Florida secondary. Wally Woodham hit three straight passes to move into UF territory at the 37. On 3rd-and-8, the sopho­more quarterback from Tallahassee sailed a bomb into the outstretched hands of fellow Leon High product, sophomore WR Kurt Unglaub, as he stumbled into the end zone at the left pylon. Sophomore Dave Cappelen kicked the PAT. Florida State 7 Florida 0
    Before departing for Florida Field, the FSU offensive staff scripted the first three series. When the first drive worked to perfection, the offense gained confidence. "Bing, bing, bing, they worked perfectly," recalled WR Roger Overby. "Are you kidding me? We had a great game plan, and we executed it perfectly. We didn't believe they could cover us."
    Whe FSU began their next drive at the Florida 48 and quickly moved into enemy territory until an interception ended the threat.
    The Noles' next possession ended with Cappelen's longest field goal of the season, a 47-yarder. Florida State 10 Florida 0
    The teams exchanged punts, and the period ended with the Gators on the FSU 22 thanks to a 39y run by Willie Wilder.
    End Q1: Florida State 10 Florida 0

  • Second Quarter
    The drive bogged down on the 14. So Berj Yepremian (Garo's younger bro­ther) booted a 32y field goal. Florida State 10 Florida 3
    After the kickoff, Jimmy Jordan, another Leon High grad who alternated with Woodham throughout the season as part of FSU's "Two-headed Monster" at QB, entered the game. In the huddle, 6'4" 230lb FB Mark Lyles told Jordan he must lead the team to a touchdown on this drive so the Seminoles could win. "And when somebody that big tells you to do something, you've got to," recalled Jordan.
    The Seminoles began an 82y touchdown drive withn another long pass, this one from Jordan to senior WR Roger Overby for 46y to the UF 36. Then another senior WR, Mike Shumann, snagged a 10y pass. A sack made it 3rd-and-18 at the 31. No problem. Shumann made a sensational catch, outwrestling a defender for the ball at the four. Several snaps later, Jordan tossed 4y to Over­by wide open in the end zone. Florida State 17 Florida 3
    On the drive, Shumann showed his confidence that he could get beat the Flo­rida secondary. After an incompletion, Mike returned to the huddle and told Jordan, "Let's run it again. Just throw it up." So they did. "I jumped up between two defenders and made the catch in my lap be­tween two guys. I held up the ball and said, 'Are you guys looking for this?'"

    L-R: Roger Overby after TD catch; Mike Shumann; Willie Jones
    As penalties and poor field position stymied the FSU attack the rest of the half, the Gators nibbled away at the lead. Yepremian kicked three-pointers from the 40 and the 41, the latter set up by a partially blocked punt.
    End Q2: Florida State 17 Florida 9
    Woodham (6-for-10) and Jordan (5-for-6) ended the half a combined 11-for-16 for 161y.
  • Third Quarter
    FSU's opening possession started poorly when a holding call and a sack set them back to the 12. But on third down, Larry Key took a draw play handoff 38y to midfield. Jordan hit Unglaub for 15. Then, after a 10y sack, Key ripped off 15 on the Statue of Liberty play. So Cappellen tried a 47y field goal that fell short.
    The Noles were soon back in business at their 34 after consecutive sacks by DE Willie Jones and MG Ron Simmons. On 3rd-and-10, Shumann sped 18y on a reverse to the Florida 48. A pass to Jackie Flowers for 17, a Key dash for 9, and a 2y plunge by 6'4" 230lb FB Mark Lyles moved to chains to the 20. It took only one more play to reach the end zone. overby snared a pass over the middle, almost fell at the 10, putting his hand down for balance, then continued to pay dirt. Florida State 24 Florida 9
    Jordan recalled, "In the middle of the third quarter, we began thinking, 'We can do this deal. Maybe they're not going to come back.'"
    Another Simmons sack forced a punt, but Unglaub slipped on the artificial turf as he tried to field the ball, and Florida recovered at the FSU 30. The Gators moved to the five, but on fourth-and-goal from the five, QB Terry LeCount was stopped a foot short of the goal line.
    Jordan then led as long as touchdown drive as you can have on a football field. He hit Overby on third down to the 13 before Key rambled to the 25 as the period ended.
    End Q3: Florida State 24 Florida 9

    Terry LeCount tries to get loose from the Seminoles.

  • Fourth Quarter
    Shumann hauled in a 34y strike to the 46. Then Overby caught a 28-yarder to the 18. A few plays later, a holding penalty moved the Noles back to the 26. Undaunted, Jordan connected with Shumann to the one. Two plays later, Lyle plunged over. Florida State 31 Florida 9
    Florida fumbled the kickoff, and Mike Kincaid pounced on the ball at the UF 31. Lyles and Key carried to the 20. From there, Jordan lofted a pass to Overby for the touchdown. Florida State 37 Florida 9
    "Silence," recalled FSU DB Bobby Butler. "That's the greatest sound you want to hear when you're on the road. What a great day for us. It was special. And the game wasn't even close."
    The 37 points were the most FSU had ever scored on the Gators.
    Coach Jack Stanton's defense kept their second half shutout intact. The game ended with RB Ernie Sims being stopped six inches short of the UF goal.

Bowden carried off after the victory

The Seminoles led in first downs 27-10 and in total yards 578-200.


  • Bobby Bowden: "I thought we had it after the first touchdown of the second half." He praised his defense, singling out Jones. "Other than Ross Browner (Notre Dame) and Art Still (Kentucky), he is the finest defensive end I've seen this year." The FSU coach acknowledged the positive effect of the game on recruiting. "This means we can look some kids in the eye and say, 'Come to Florida State, son. We're not second-rate anymore.'"
    Jimmy Jordan: "This is the best I have ever felt. I'm so happy. I just can't describe how I feel."
  • Doug Dickey: "We're just not able to compete against that style of play. The things they do best (the passing game) are the things we do worst."
    RB Tony Green was philosophical. "You can only beat a team for so long."
    NG Scott Hutchinson: "They came out with their big guns firing. They got on top of us quick and kept the pressure on all day. We couldn't stop them. It was totally demoralizing."
    Hutchinson was one of a school record ten players on the 1977 Gators who were taken in a single NFL draft.
Larry Key had lost to Florida his first three years of eligibility. Beating the Gators was his number one career goal. He recalled, "When we won, it was 'OK, we're on now.' Florida did not think it could lose to us. That was their attitude. You can tell when you have somebody on the run. That has to be one of the best games for Florida State for years after that."
Jimmy Jordan related his favorite memory of the game. On 3rd-and-11, he threw an out pattern to a receiver on the Florida sideline who caught the ball and step­ped out of bounds past the first down marker right in front of Coach Doug Dickey. "He threw his head set," said Jordan. "He pulled his hair. He could not believe what he saw. He really got pissed. We knew we had it, and we went on from there."

The Seminoles completed the finest season in school history to that point with a 40-17 thumping of Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl.

Reference: The Rise of the Seminoles: FSU Football under Bobby Bowden, Lew Freedman (2015)

Bobby Bowden

Walter Carter

Wally Woodham

Kurt Unglaub

Dave Cappelen

Berj Yepremian

Jimmy Jordan

Mark Lyles

Jackie Flowers

Ron Simmons

Mike Kincaid

Ernie Sims

Two Straight Top Four Teams Fall - Part I: Nebraska
Bobby Bowden's fifth Florida State team started the 1980 season with three straight wins.
  • The Seminoles defeated LSU 16-0, Louisville 52-0, and East Carolina 63-7.
  • After starting the season ranked #13, the Noles rose to #9 in the AP poll.
  • But the annual game with Miami produced a 10-9 defeat in the Orange Bowl to drop FSU to #16.
Next up was a trip to Lincoln NE to meet #3 ranked Nebraska.
  • The morning of the game, Bill McGrotha's article from Lincoln began this way. "It has been a long while since Florida State seemed not to have much of a chance in a football game." He explained that "the Seminoles have scraped the bottom of the barrel in search of a center." And he quoted Bowden as saying, "Until we get this problem solved, we are not going to beat anybody." The Noles entered the fray as 13-point underdogs.
  • With starter John Madden (no relation to the Oakland Raiders head coach) and backup Bob Merson both sidelined, faulty exchanges from center were a factor in the loss at Miami.

The Cornhuskers had no problems at center or anywhere else on their offensive team.

  • Nebraska ranked #1 in total offense, rushing yards, and scoring (44ppg). TB Jarvis Redwine was the nation's leading runner, averaging 8.3ypc. The offensive line was anchored by 250lb sophomore C Dave Rimington.
  • Fortunately, defense was FSU's strong suit. All-America NG Ron Simmons, who would take on Rimington on every snap, was almost back to top form since hurting his ankle in the opener at LSU. Top LB Paul Piurowski had played an extraordinary game against Miami despite having a troublesome knee injury.
  • FSU defensive coordinator Jack Stanton had worked hard all week to prepare his charges. "They love gimmickry and trick plays - halfback passes, tight end reverses, a double wing with the tailback out wide."
  • To move the ball, the Seminoles had to go to the air early and often. Junior QB Rick Stockstill threw for a good percentage but was not a top-notch long-ball threat.
  • Offensive coordinator George Henshaw said the Cornhuskers played defense "with a whole lot of variations. Exactly the opposite philosophy from Miam, which played it straight. There's lots of twisting, crossing and stunting ... They are aggressive and substitute often - especially in the line."
  • Nebraska coach Tom Osborne praised FSU. "I wouldn't be surprised if Florida State is the best defensive team we play all year. There are some observers who will tell you that Florida State is better than Penn State," whom UN had beaten the week before.
  • "It is going to be a rough one," said FSU PK Bill Capece. "We've put the pressure on ourselves. This is a great Nebraska team. We can't make the mistakes we did against Miami." Bill would do his part flawlessly.

76,152, Nebraska's 108th consecutive sellout in Memorial Stadium, including about 1500 FSU fans, gathered on a heavenly fall Saturday to watch a game that would spotlight a feature of almost all of Bowden's teams - outstanding special teams.

  • First Quarter
    Sophomore walk-on Jerry Coleman played all the way at center for FSU and had nary a bad exchange with the quarterback. But he and his offensive line mates had difficulty blocking the Nebraska front with the result that the Noles did little offensively in the first 15 minutes.
    The Huskers drove to the FSU 35 before Jarvis Redwin fumbled on a fourth down try.
    The Cornhuskers finally cranked up a drive from their 20 for the first score of the game, which came on an 8y pass from QB Jeff Quinn to SE Todd Brown. Nebraska 7 Florida State 0 (1:54)
    The Noles finally got a first down and made it into Big Red territory as the period ended.  

    Rick Stockstill calls signals in the first half.
  • Second Quarter
    The Seminoles got their first break but couldn't capitalize. DB Monk Bonasorte snagged a pass and returned it 14y to the UN 33. A penalty for piling on moved the ball to the 18. It's was Monk's 13th career pick, an FSU record. But two sacks of QB Rick Stockstill lost 28y. So Rohn Stark punted out on the Nebraska four, but for some reason an official brought the ball out to the 20. At halftime, a writer heard that official tell another, "I just blew that one."
    So the Huskers staged their second picture-perfect 80y touchdown drive. The highlights were two runs by Redwine for 30 and 23y. From the 12, the Quinn-Brown combination teamed up for their second touchdown of the afternoon. Nebraska 14 Florida State 0 (6:30)
    With Nebraska's pass rush eating up the Seminole line, the FSU staff made a change that ignited their offense. As Bowden explained after the game, "We finally found a play that worked - the sprint-out pass ... They had trouble handling it. If the defense pulls up, he passes. If the defense falls back, he runs. If we had kept Stockstill in the pocket, they would have killed us." The Noles finally sustained a drive, going from its 28 into UN territory that culminated with Bill Capece's 32y field goal. Nebraska 14 Florida State 3 (0:54)

    Rick Stockstill recalled years later: "When we got the field goal right before the half, it gave us a little life. We went in the locker room, and we had hope. You could see in everybody's eyes and see the way everyone was talking, that we could beat these guys."
  • Third Quarter
    No one would have imagined that the Seminole defense would hold the mighty Cornhusker offense scoreless in the second half. But that's what happened, thanks in large measure to three turnovers, all of which led to points, and a fourth one that stopped the final desperate drive. "In the third quarter, we lost our concentration," said Coach Osborne afterward.
    UN punter Scott Gernar fielded a low snap, then fumbled it. DB Bobby Butler jumped on the ball at the 17. But the Noles gained only 7y in three tries and had to settle for another Caprece field goal, this one a 27-yarder. Nebraska 14 Florida State 6 (10:49)
    Moments later, senior DB Keith Jones intercepted a Quinn pass to give the Noles possession at the UN 47. Mixing the running of Sam Platt with the passing of Stockstill, FSU moved to the six. Platt then took a pitchout and tore up the middle into the end zone. Going for the two points, Stockstill's pass overshot Phil Williams. Nebraska 14 Florida State 12 (5:17)
    Another turnover soon put the Noles back in business again. RB "Marvelous Jarvis" Redwine fumbled when smashed by DT Mark Macek, and freshman DE Alphonso Carreker recovered at the UN 34. But FSU could go no further than the 24. So Capece kicked a 41y FG to give the Noles their first lead. Florida State 15 Nebraska 14 (1:16)

  • Fourth Quarter
    Nebraska caught a break on the first play when a punt was mishandled to give them possession at midfield. But with the defense putting pressure on him, Quinn threw two interceptions, and the Huskers had to punt. Bowden said, "We had great control until we dropped that punt. We nearly nullified the whole thing on one dropped punt."
    Neither team threatened until the 6:55 mark when the Seminoles started a drive from their 20 to get a crucial Capece three-pointer from 41y out. It was set up by a perfect 40y pass from Stockstill that Phil Williams caught between two defenders on the sideline at the UN 32. It was the first time Rick had looked upfield all day. "We had been throwing outs," said the junior quarterback. "Their cornerback started to break on those, so this time Phil gave him a move and took off. I just put the pass over his outside shoulder. I didn't want to get it intercepted." The four-point lead meant that Nebraska needed a touchdown to win. Bill's kick also tied the FSU record for field goals in a game. Florida State 18 Nebraska 14 (2:37)
    Their backs to the wall, Nebraska responded with its only drive of the second half. Starting from the 20, the Huskers benefitted from two pass interference calls and a 23y completion from Quinn to E John Noonan on 4th-and-12. They also overcame a 15y holding penalty along the way and the loss of leading rusher Redwine, who left with injured ribs and kidneys after a crushing tackle by LB Reggie Herring. Eventually, the Big Red machine had a first down at the FSU three with 0:21 on the clock. With Coach Bowden praying on the sideline, Quinn threw an incompletion. Then LB Paul Piurowski turned a mistake into the biggest play of the game. "I was supposed to cover the fullback, wherever he was going," said Paul. "I don't know, I guess I just got caught up in the game. I saw a big gap. I knew I had the fullback, but I guess I just reacted to the ball." What he saw was Quinn moving to his left to pass, but he didn't get it off because Piurowski reached out and grabbed him by the right shoulder pad and pulled him back, causing a fumble that DT Garry Futch dove on at the three to seal the upset victory. It was Paul's 12th unassisted tackle to go along with six assists. FINAL SCORE: FLORIDA STATE 18 NEBRASKA 14

Watch the game ...

Nebraska outgained Florida State 368-166. The preponderance of FSU's yardage came via passing - 154 to a net of -12 on the ground thanks to 87y in losses credited to the running game. But the Huskers committed four costly turnovers to only one for FSU.


  • Coach Bowden called it perhaps Florida State's biggest victory ever. "When we kicked that field goal to go ahead by four, I thought we'd win. But I really thought they were gonna get us in the end. What a play Piurowski made! Our kicking game killed them. Stark kept pushing their fannies back." Rohn finished with a 48.4y average on seven punts, including two of 59 and 58y.
    Bobby continued, "You know it's funny. It's all fate. We thought we should have beaten Miami. Then it looked like Nebraska was going to beat us after we played our hearts out."
    Concerning C Coleman, Bowden said, "He doesn't have a scholarship. I've got a feeling he earned one today."
  • Coleman received the news gladly. "They were going to redshirt me this year, but I hung tough and gave it everything I had." Jerry said that going against Ron Simmons all week in practice prepared him for any challenge Nebraska could throw at him.
  • Referring to his game-saving tackle, Piurowski said, "Coach Bowden always stresses, if you make a mistake, go full speed and make something happen. That's what I did."
  • Coach Osborne went back to something he said during preparation for the game. "The strongest part, we thought, was Florida State's defense, and it was." Tom added, "They beat us up pretty bad."

Ron Simmons

Paul Piurowski

Rick Stockstill

Bill Capece

Jerry Coleman

Monk Bonasorte

Rohn Stark

Bobby Butler

Keith Jones

Sam Platt

Mark Macek

Alphonso Carreker

Phil Williams

Reggie Herring

Garry Futch
Two Straight Top Four Teams Fall - Part II: Pittsburgh
Fresh off what was called the greatest victory in FSU history, the upset at #3 Nebraska, the Seminoles hosted Jackie Sherrill's 4-0 Pittsburgh Panthers, ranked #4 in the AP poll.
  • Pitt boasted an outstanding offense led by QB Dan Marino, who threw for 1,680y as a freshman in 1979, and an awesome defense that featured the best pair of DE/LBs in the country: "All World" Hugh Green and Rickey Jackson. Green might line up on either side of the defense and blitz from any angle. "You can't block that danged guy," said Bobby Bowden. The Panthers were second in the nation in rushing defense and third in scoring defense, having allowed only 20 points in four games.
  • The Seminoles would compete without their leading tackler, MLB Paul Piurowski, who was voted Lineman of the Week after registering 13 tackles and causing a fumble against Nebraska. The senior from Sarasota was out with appendicitis. Also MG Ron Simmons was hobbled by an ankle injury and might not be able to play every snap.
  • FSU Offensive Coordinator George Henshaw laid out the task for his unit. "They are extremely aggressive, and their linemen really attack you. They're not only big, strong but also quick. I think the key for us will be if we can control the defensive front to keep them from making big play after big play. Green can totally dominate a game."

L-R: Dan Marino, Hugh Green, Rickey Jackson
The record Doak Campbell Stadium crowd of 52,894 gathered for the 7 PM game that was aired on a two-year-old cable network called ESPN.
  • First Quarter
    To form the name of the FSU star of the period add a "k" to "star" to get STARK. Punter Rohn Stark launched kicks of 58 and 72y to keep the potent Panther offense back deep.
    Pitt scored on their first possession when QB Dan Marino threw to Dwight Collins who snagged the ball between two defenders at the goal line for a 39y TD. Pittsburgh 7 Florida State 0 (11:11)
    After a succession of punts, the Seminoles got a break when TE Mike Dombrowski took a pass and was hit immediately, causing a fumble that DE Jarvis Coursey recovered at the 22. RB Michael Whiting broke several tackles off the right side to the 7 for FSU's initial first down of the game. But on third-and-goal from the four, All-American LB Hugh Green blitzed and forced junior QB Rick Stockstill to misfire on a pass. So Bill Capece, who had the most FGs in the nation with nine, booted the 24-yarder. Pittsburgh 7 Florida State 3 (5:45)
    Two Marino completions moved the Panthers into FSU territory. But a batted down pass at the line of scrimmage and a Marino throwaway while avoiding heavy pressure forced Dan to drop back and pooch kick into the end zone.
    Stockstill connected with WR Phil Williams to move the chains to the 32. But FSU's third procedure penalty of the quarter and a sack and fumble that was inexplicably ruled an incomplete pass by the officials brought on Stark who boomed his 72-yarder to 15. END OF Q1: Pittsburgh 7 Florida State 3

  • Second Quarter
    The Seminoles dominated the period, outscoring the visitors 20-0. Pitt continued the drive from the previous period when Marino connected with Collins who caught the ball while falling down at the FSU 25. But two plays later, FB Randy McMillan was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, fumbled, and LB Arthur Scott pounced on the ball.
    When a third-and-four pass fell incomplete, Stark came in to punt. FSU got two breaks on the same play. First, a rusher banged into Rohn just after he got the kick away and, on the other end, returner Troy Hill fumbled the ball, and Ron Hester recovered at the 29.
    The Noles were hit with a 15y for a crackback block. But RB Sam Platt zipped past several blitzers into the secondary to the 23. After Platt lost two, Stockstill flipped to WR Hardis Johnson in the end zone. Florida State 10 Pittsburgh 7 (10:33)
    Pitt's special teams messed up again when the return man fumbled the kickoff at the goal line, picked it up, and was swarmed under at the six. Marino threw three passes but completed only one for 6y.
    Taking over at the Panther 46 after a short kick, the Noles drove for their second TD. Platt carried three straight times for 15y. Then he roared through a hole at RT all the way to the one. LB Sal Sunseri burst through and dropped Stockstill for a 4y loss before Platt got the yardage back. On third down, Rick flipped to TE Sam Childers for the 4y TD. Florida State 17 Pittsburgh 7 (5:31)
    With the crowd roaring, the Seminole D forced a three and out to take over at the FSU 46. Platt broke loose on a third down draw to the Pitt 43 to keep possessions. Two plays later, Stockstill found TE Zeke Mowatt running across the middle to the 25. But the Panthers bowed their backs and forced a field goal try, which Capece converted from the 33. Florida State 20 Pittsburgh 7 (0:37)
    The Noles' 20 points in the first half equalled the total Pitt had given up in their first four games.
    Marino tried to run out the clock, starting with a halfback pass by Collins to Dombrowski for 14y to the 34. But after two misfires, Keith Jones intercepted an aerial and returned it to the Pitt 44 with 0:03 on the clock. That was enough time for Capece to bang a 51-yarder over the crossbar with ease. END Q2: Florida State 23 Pittsburgh 7

While FSU led in first downs 7-6, Pitt lead in total yardage 193-140. But the Panthers also led in turnovers, 3-0. Stark averaged 53y per punt to Pitt's 31ypp.

  • Third Quarter
    Pittsburgh took the kickoff and drove 80y to cut the 16-point deficit in half. The key plays were a 9y run by McMillan with a 15y late hit penalty added on, a quick throw to Collins with the CB laying back for 17, and the 36y TD pass to Collins. Marino then tossed to TE Benjie Pryor for two more points. Florida State 23 Pittsburgh 15 (13:09)
    FSU moved from their 18 to the Pitt 23 to extend the lead by three points. The Noles first moved the chains to their 42 on a third down pass to "slow but sure-handed" WR Kurt Unglaub for 19y. A sack by Green followed by another by Jackson put FSU in a 3rd-and-24 hole. No problem. Stockstill flipped a screen pass to Platt who shot upfield to the Pitt 46 to keep the drive alive. A personal foul on the Panthers on an errant pitchout play helped the Noles get 1st-and-10 on the 34. But the defense stiffened and forced Capece to come out for his fourth field goal, this one a 30-yarder. Florida State 26 Pittsburgh 15 (6:27)
    An illegal procedure penalty cancelled a first down on the Panthers' next drive, and the Panthers soon had the ball back at the Pitt 32 following Gary Henry's 17y return of a low punt. When three plays gained only 6y, Capece boomed his fifth three-pointer through the uprights. Florida State 29 Pittsburgh 15 (4:24)
    Once again starting from their 20 following a touchback, the intrepid Panthers cut the lead in half again. Pryor took a bullet from Marino over the middle to the 34. Two snaps later, Dan hit Jeff Casper to the FSU 41. Joe McCall zipped 15 to the 26. After an incompletion, Marino rolled right and tossed to Pryor to the 13. After a run for two, pass interference made it 1st-and-goal at the 3. McMillan plunged to the one before McCall leaped over the pile to the goal line. Florida State 29 Pittsburgh 22 (0:16)

  • Fourth Quarter
    Both defenses had perfect fourth quarters, not giving up a single point so far in the season. The Seminoles' record held up, but Pittburgh's did not.
    The Panthers got the three-and-out they needed, but Stark punted them into a deep hole again aided by a clipping penalty on the return. So Marino & Company started 92y from pay dirt. Pitt quickly moved out to the 33 on a TE screen to Pryor for eight and McMillan's 17y run. But disaster struck again when McMillan fumbled the handoff and Hester recovered for FSU on the 28.
    After Platt gained two, Whiting got eight for a first down. Two more runs by the junior FB from Largo FL put the ball on the 14. From there, Stockstill threw to Unglaub in the end zone. Florida State 36 Pittsburgh 22 (10:24)
    Unglaub said afterward, "Before the game, I told Rick that late in the game, if we went to corner outs, throw it to me in the corner, and I'd be there. That's just what he did."
    Marino was more than capable of leading two touchdown drives in the remaining time. So the Seminole D could not let up. When Henry knocked away a third down pass, Pitt had to punt. Henry took the line drive kick on his 43 and returned to the Pitt 38.
    Three runs made it 4th-and-1. Ignoring the fans' chant of "Go! Go! Go!," Bowden sent in Capece, but his 46y field goal try fell short.
    On third-and-three, Marino threw a pass that bounced off the receiver into the hands of DB Monk Bonasorte at the Pitt 45. The visitors' sixth turnover was a great gift for the senior from Pittsburgh who had played with and against many of the Panther players in high school.
    Pittsburgh soon had the ball back after Green raced across the field and tackled Stockstill on a third down rollout to bring Stark onto the field. Rahn's punt went out of bonds on the 12.
    Green ended the evening with an incredible 19 tackles including three for losses and two passes batted down.
    A holding penalty that nullified a completed pass immediately moved the Panthers back to the 4. With FSU in a prevent defense with two deep safeties, Marino moved the chains twice on passes to Pryor and Dombroskie. But on the next third down, Dan threw long into the hands of CB Bobby Butler just before the senior from Delray Beach stepped out of bounds for Pitt's seventh turnover.
    The Noles stayed on the ground, including two end arounds to WR Dennis McKinnon, to run out the clock.

L-R: Monk Bonasarte, Bobby Butler, Gary Henry

Watch the first three quarters of the game ... | Watch the fourth quarter ...


  • Bobby Bowden: "This game makes me feel good. And maybe we deserve some national attention now. ... The kicking game was probably our strength. I couldn't believe Rahn's punting tonight. He must have set a national record. And Capece continued to do his best." Asked about FSU's position in the next national poll, Bobby said, "We're a lot better than what they got us."
  • Coach Jackie Sherrill: "You don't win by making as many mistakes and turning the ball over as many times as we did."
The 1980 Seminoles won all their remaining regular season games to earn another trip to the Orange Bowl to meet Oklahoma in a rematch from the previous season. The Sooners squeaked out an 18-17 victory.

Ron Simmons

Rohn Stark

Jarvis Coursey

Michael Whiting

Rick Stockstill

Bill Capece

Phil Williams

Arthur Scott

Ron Hester

Sam Platt

Sam Childers

Zeke Mowatt

Keith Jones

Kurt Unglaub

Dennis McKinnon

  Auburn Fires the Last Shot

Pat Dye

Pat Washington

Brent Fullwood scores the game's first TD.

Derek Schmidt

Eric Thomas

Louis Berry

Lenny Chavers

Pete Panton

Collis Campbell

Brent Fullwood

Jessie Hester

Darrin Holloman

Hassan Jones

Kyle Collins

Jeff Parks

"Offensive Showcase," "Shootout," "Fireworks Show."
  • These were terms headline writers and reporters used to describe Florida State's clash with Auburn Saturday night, October 13, 1984.
  • Tigers coach Pat Dye labeled it "unbelievable" and "unexpected."
  • Birmingham News writer Charles Hollis called it "the best tennis match in town." You score, I score, you score, I score. And, for the team with the last serve, it was game, set, match.

Two Deep South football teams proud of their defenses combined to score 83 points.

  • 58,671, the largest crowd ever to watch a game in Doak Campbell Stadium, saw 1,063y of offense.
  • The lead changed hands three times in the last 11 minutes.

The Seminoles came into the game undefeated.

  • After rising to #6 in the AP poll with five wins to start the season, FSU dropped to 9th after a 17-17 tie at Memphis State in a game in which the Noles may have been looking past those Tigers toward the next set of Tigers to come to town.
  • Auburn started the season ranked #1 but dropped fast after losing their first two games, 20-18 to defending national champion Miami and 35-27 to Texas. But victories over Southern Miss, Tennessee, and Ole Miss moved the Plainsmen up to #16.
  • In his 1992 autobiography, Dye wrote this: Tallahassee is the toughest place we've been to play. The noise is unbelievable. And you are going to be up against a great team and a great coach.
  • Dye would be without RB Bo Jackson - out for the season following shoulder surgery.
  • Bowden: Auburn is as good as any team in the country. Despite losing Jackson, I think they have adjusted well and are back in the race.

The visitors started the scoring.

  • Q1: Auburn's junior QB Pat Washington, a day after his 21st birthday, picked up a bobbled snap and threw 51y to Freddie Weygand on the Tigers' second play from scrimmage. That placed the ball on the 3. The Nole D made it difficult, but Brent Fullwood leaped into the EZ from the 1 three plays later. Auburn 7 FSU 0 (13:01 left in Q1).

    Freddie Weygand rejoices after catching one over Eric Riley.
    The Seminoles responded with a drive capped by Derek Schmidt's 40y FG. Auburn 7 FSU 3 (7:59)
    Auburn LB Jim Bone recovered Greg Allen's fumble at the Noles' 39 to set up a 36y FG by Robert McGinty. Auburn 10 FSU 3 (2:41)

  • Q2: The Tiger D stopped a potential scoring drive by sacking QB Eric Thomas twice for losses totaling 15y after the Noles had moved to the Auburn 25. Instead of getting points, FSU punted on 4th down from the 40. Louis Berry hit a good one that rolled out on the 6.
    That indirectly led to a TD. Lenny Chavers blocked Lewis Colbert's punt. The ball rolled out of bounds at the 3.
    The Noles scored two plays later on a 7y pass from Thomas to Pete Panton. Auburn 10 FSU 10 (9:24)
    But the tie didn't last long. Following the kickoff, Collis Campbell took a pitchout around the right side, slowed to let the blocking develop, then bolted down the sidelines for a 69y TD. Four Noles got a hand on him but hardly slowed him. McGinty missed the extra point, his first miss of the season after 13 in a row. Auburn 16 FSU 10 (9:04)
    Florida State tried a dipsy-do on the kickoff, but a long run was called back because of an illegal forward pass. That put them in a hole from which they didn't escape. Soon after, Trey Gainous returned Berry's punt 7y to the FSU 39.
    From there, the Tigers rolled into the EZ in seven plays. Washington's passes sparked the drive, and Fullwood did the honors on a 5y run. A pass for the two-point conversion failed. Auburn 22 FSU 10 (5:43)
    The Noles came right back with a 73y TD bomb from Thomas to Jessie Hestor, who had beaten the secondary and was racing in the clear when he caught the perfect throw. Auburn 22 FSU 17 (5:03)
    Shortly before halftime, FSU tried a 57y FG that was blocked.
    Total offense for the first half: FSU 242 Auburn 240

The second half started with a bang.

  • Q3: Fullwood took the kickoff at the goal line and roared out to the 25 where he was hit by two Seminoles and fumbled forward. Three Garnet-shirted defenders and two white-shirted War Eagles converged on the ball but succeeded only in popping it up to Auburn's Ed Graham who ran 60y untouched to the EZ. Auburn 29 FSU 17 (14:43)
    FSU embarked on a 66y drive that culminated in a 10y run by Darrin Holloman on a reverse. Auburn 29 FSU 24 (11:22)
    Later in the period, Thomas passed 13y to Hassan Jones to put the Seminoles ahead for the first time all evening. A pass from Thomas to Jones added two points. FSU 32 Auburn 29 (5:51)
    Coach Dye cost his team a chance for at least three points. After completing a long pass to Weygand to the FSU 18, Washington ran into the EZ, but the War Eagles were nailed for clipping. When Dye argued the call, the officials flagged him not once but twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.
    Dye in his autobiography: We used a split officiating crew, half SEC, half All-South independents ... There were always problems between the two crews. ... Anyway, the score is raging back and forth and, finally, we get in the third quarter. They run a reverse. The Florida State QB clips our defensive end. The official on our sideline was standing right on top of the play. And I'm close enough to talk to him. He said he saw the hit was a clip, but it wasn't his call to make. It was the referee's. And the referee - both these two officials were Independent officials - the referee said it was a clean block. I mean the QB hit our end, dead center, right in the back. They scored, and they went ahead.
    So we took the ball, and we came right back down the field and scored. But the last 12 yards, Pat Washington ran a bootleg, or waggle, where we fake one way and pull both guards the other way, and Pat got outside. The strong safety came up and played the run, and our guard actually hit him right in the numbers on his chest, knocking him out of bounds; as he fell, the kid turned his back and might have ended up being pushed from behind.
    Now the same official who wouldn't call clipping on the other side of the ball, throws his flag: 15 yards. No touchdown.
    I'm trying to get this official to explain to me why he could call clipping on our run and couldn't call it on Florida State's run. I get a 15-yard penalty. Well, that's 15 yards for the clip, and 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct on me. I'm still trying to get him to explain, and he calls the referee over there, and I'm trying to get
    him to explain, and he drops his flag, so that's another 15 yards. I look up at the scoreboard, and it reads: first down and 55 yards to go. I turned to (offensive coordinator) Jack Crowe, and I said: "You got a good first-and-55 call?"
    The Tigers' possession ended with a punt from their own 41.
  • Q4: Early in the quarter, Florida State extended its lead on a 34y FG by Schmidt. FSU 35 Auburn 29 (13:43)
    The Tigers put together a 77y, nine-play drive to go ahead again. Kyle Collins ran the final 10y around LE, diving at the pylon. Auburn 36 FSU 35 (
    Undaunted, the Seminoles responded with a 76y march of their own in eight plays. A 15y pass from Thomas to Jones regained the lead. Bowden ordered a two-point conversion, a move that proved costly when Thomas was sacked. FSU 41 Auburn 36 (7:44)
    The defenses finally restored some order to the proceedings, each side forcing a punt.
    Finally, Auburn took over at its 24 with 3:20 remaining. Washington completed clutch passes for a total of 53y to Weygand to the 29 and TE Jeff Parks to the 13. In between, Pat ran 6y on a bootleg on 4th-and-3 from the 30 to keep the drive alive. Fullwood then got loose around RE from the 13 to the 5. From there, Brent took a quick pitch and, finding no room at RT, broke it outside and, with two Seminoles converging, hurled his body at the flag. An errant pass kept Auburn one-point up. Auburn 42 FSU 41 (0:48)
    Dye: The Independent officials made one too many rulings, and it ... might have cost FSU the game. We got the ball, behind, with two minutes to go. ... We completed a 35-yard pass, but the officials didn't stop the clock while they moved the chains, the way they are supposed to. I called the referee over. I said, "You need to put about 10 or 12 seconds back on the clock." I was wanting all the time we could have to get the ball in the end zone. The referee shook his head; he wouldn't do it ... We scored with 48 seconds left to play.
    We kicked off. Gerald Robinson sacked their quarterback, Eric Thomas, two times for minus 27 yards. ... And the last play of the game, he completed a long pass to about our 25 or 30 yard lne. It put them in field goal range, and they were only one point behind, 42-41. But they had
    no time left. If the referee had put those 12 seconds back on the clock in the last two minutes, like he was supposed to, FSU might have beaten us.
    I don't know if I could live through another game like it.


Florida State

  • Bowden recalled the previous year's 27-24 loss. This was a tough loss to take. We had our chances, but I'll tell you, this Auburn football team never quit. Just like last year, they just came back and snatched that victory. It was not a broken play this year or broken coverages, they just did it. ... I hated to lose this game, especially for our kids. They played their everlasting hearts out.
    Bowden three years later: The thing I remember most about that game was their quarterback had not been an effective passer anytime before. But he was against us. On the first play he threw that ball way downfield and we had perfect position, but Freddy Weygand took the ball away from our guy ... I had felt we would beat Auburn in Tallahassee.


  • Dye: This game was unbelievable. We've never ever been in one like this one. Florida State's probably used to these ... we're not. I didn't expect it at all ... Lord, have mercy. This was the all-timer. ... This game tonight, considering how our players fought back, may be as satisfying as any game I've ever been associated with. I don't know enough words to describe how happy I am for this football team. I saw this team come up with big play after big play in the second half to win this game.
    Dye recalled: Collis Campbell played the game of his life at halfback. And Pat Washington played good, I mean, good. You got to picture it down there at night: the crowd's on top of you in that steel stadium. A wild Indian, painted all over, rares up on a horse and throws a flaming spear in the ground. Drums are beatin'. That damn chant is goin' in the stands. They got a huge flaming feather on the scoreboard that measures the noise level, and it's lit up like a world war. Now all you go to do is go out there and whip one of the best football teams in America.
  • Fullwood on the game winner: That's probably the biggest touchdown I've ever scored in my life. This is the greatest feeling in the world. We beat a damn good football team tonight. But then we're a damn good football team too.
  • Washington completed only 8 of 23 passes but for 199y without an INT. We really needed it bad on that last drive. We united as an offense, and there was no way they were going to stop us.

Watch Auburn highlights of the game

Auburn fans celebrate victory.
References: In the Arena, Pat Dye with John Logue (1992)
Seminoles!: The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha
Where Tradition Began: The Centennial History of Auburn Football, Wayne Hester (1991)
Profile: Warrick Dunn - I
Future Seminole RB Warrick Dunn was born in New Orleans in 1975 but grew up in Baton Rouge from infancy.
  • He was the oldest child of Betty Smothers, who would have six children by three different fathers, none of whom were involved in the rearing of the children.
  • Warrick wrote in his autobiography, Mom met the man who would become my father while running track at Scotlandville (High School). Apparently he was also an incredible athlete ... Mom was just eighteen when she had me, and obviously that put an end to her athletic career.
  • He also recalled his mother's dedication to her family. It wasn't uncommon for my mother ... to work fourteen- to sixteen-hour days. As a Baton Rouge police officer, Mom often took on off-hours security work at department stores, convenience stores, and football games to make ends meet ...
  • As the oldest child, Warrick took on much of the responsibility of looking after his siblings while his mother worked long hours.
  • Because he was the "man of the house," Warrick became his mother's best friend and vice-versa.

Warrick showed exceptional athletic ability from an early age.

  • Whether it was foot races, bicycle races, baseball, football, or basketball, Dunn excelled.
  • His career in organized football started at age nine. His coach didn't want to give Warrick a uniform because he thought he was too small. Naturally, I was the smallest player on the football field and weighed all of fifty pounds soaking wet ...This marked the first time in a journey that has continued until today, where I had to prove myself because of my size.
  • Size was no problem with the K-Y Track Club at Southern University.
  • Warrick attended various public and private schools in Baton Rouge through eighth grade.

Dunn's life changed dramatically when he moved to Catholic High School as a freshman in 1989.

  • I was zoned for Istrouma Senior High School, but the best education and best athletic teams were at Catholic High. It was an easy decision for Mom. She wanted me to be a Catholic High School Bear.
  • But attending CHS brought a culture shock - dress code, nightly homework, requirements for community service, a yearly retreat.
  • The yearly tuition was just under $6,000, which my mom couldn't afford, but she paid as much as she could when she could.
  • It took him some time to adjust academically. To be eligible to play sports, each student needed at least a C average. My average hovered around a D, if not below, my first nine weeks as a freshman. Now, D wasn't for dummy in my case. D was for doggone lazy with a capital D.
  • He started at QB for the JV team and the team was undefeated until Dunn was ruled ineligible for the final few football games because of poor grades. Also, he didn't run track that spring.
  • Betty challenged her son: Was he going to show everyone at Catholic High that he could make good grades or did he want to return to public school and save her the tuition money?
  • Warrick buckled down and slowly dug himself out of trouble. By the end of his freshman year, he had pulled his GPA up to 2.4.

Warrick played varsity football for three years starting in tenth grade.

  • As a sophomore, he was beaten out for the TB position by his good friend Kevin Franklin.
  • Warrick: I admit that didn't sit too well with me. I was a jack-of-all-trades my sophomore and junior years and played primarily QB my senior year. Coach (Dale) Weiner wanted my versatility at QB because we ran the option offense ... I didn't have a great arm, but I guess I had enough overall talent to make the offense work and throw the football when I needed to. But I wasn't a happy camper. My first love was to play at tailback ...
  • Dunn started at CB his junior year before switching to QB as a senior. He also put in time at FB and receiver and even returned kicks his final year.
  • The Bears reached the 1990 Class 4A state championship game but were clobbered by Ruston High 52-10 in the Superdome. Warrick ended the year with 1,541 rushing yards on 155 carries and 21 TDs. He also passed for 701y and four TDs. He averaged 27.7y per kickoff return and had 27 tackles and three INTs on defense. He made All-State in the highest classification (5A). He also earned a Honorable Mention All-USA by USA Today. However, Kevin was named to the first Parade All-American team.
  • He also helped CHS win state track titles his sophomore year (indoor and outdoor) and senior year (outdoor). Legendary coach Pete Boudreaux used Warrick for the lead leg on the 4 x 100 relay team that set a school record. Individually, he finished third in state as a junior with a 10.5 in the 100m and second in the 55 m indoor (6.40).

Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming rated Dunn the ninth-best TB and the third-best "athlete" in the nation.

  • Plenty of college coaches visited the school to recruit Kevin and Warrick. That number included LSU, Texas, Alabama, Florida State, Southern Cal, and Tennessee.
  • He and his mother planned his recruiting visits to determine where he would fulfill his childhood dream. They scheduled a drive to Tuscaloosa for the first Saturday in the new year.

But a catastrophe January 7, 1993, two days after Warrick's 18th birthday, changed his life forever.

  • 36-year-old Betty Smothers, acting as an off-duty officer escorting a businesswoman to a bank to make a night deposit, was killed by three armed robbers. Suddenly, Warrick became the head of his family.
  • He told a family friend, Greg Brown, that I planned to stay home and take care of my family, that college football was no longer an option. Greg told me my mother wouldn't be happy with that decision.
  • The Catholic High community rallied around him. Coach Weiner was struck by Warrick's maturity. He called it remarkable, saying he would have though I was a forty-five-year-old man in charge. I was businesslike, absorbed in the details that needed to be done for our family.
  • Pete Boudreaux encouraged Warrick to go to college and play football. Betty's mother would look after his sisters and brothers.

Dunn decided to continue with the plan he and his mother had crafted.

  • Greg Brown accompanied him on his official visit to Florida State two weeks after Betty's death.
  • I had a genuine connection with Coach Bowden when we met in his office, and I immediately knew I wanted to be a Seminole. Coach said he would try to take care of me, and I believed him. I also knew Mom wanted me to be a Seminole, too. There were many people who believed I needed to stay at home and attend Louisiana State, and I admit the thought crossesd my mind, too. But as I sat in Coach Bowden's office and looked around, I knew. FSU felt like the perfect fit.
  • On National Signing Day, less than a month after his mother's murder, Dunn became part of Florida State's recruiting class that was voted #1 in the country.
  • Warrick was criticized by some in Louisiana who said he owed the community for the help and support it showed following his mother's death. The implication was that he should have taken LSU's offer as Kevin Franklin did.

Continued below ...

References: Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond, Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger (2008)

Young Warrick Dunn

Betty Smothers and her son,
Warrick Dunn

Dunn at Catholic High

Dale Weiner

Pete Boudreaux

Warrick's grandmother

Kevin Franklin

Profile: Warrick Dunn - II

Warrick Dunn

Bobby Bowden and Charlie Ward

Doug Williams in Super Bowl

Sean Jackson

Derrick Brooks

Dunn vs Georgia Tech

Ward throws vs Miami

Ward tries to fend off Notre Dame tackler

Dunn scores clinching TD vs Florida

Ward Under Duress in Orange Bowl

Drenched Bowden after Orange Bowl win

When Warrick Dunn arrived at Florida State for his freshman year in 1993, the football staff assigned him to room with senior QB Charlie Ward in the athletic dorm.
  • Warrick recalled: It's amazing that a forty-minute telephone call can forge an immediate bond between two guys who had never met face to face. But that's what happened when Charlie Ward and I talked to each other for the first time on the telephone. I had signed with Florida State a few months earlier, in February, and I was headed to Tallahassee from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take the first step of my freshman season with the Seminoles.
    A mutual acquaintance of Dunn and Ward facilitated their friendship. Doug Williams, the Grambling graduate who became the first black starting QB in a Super Bowl, had known Warrick's mother since they were teenagers growing up outside Baton Rouge. Williams had met Charlie two years earlier in an airport and struck up a friendship. When Doug learned that Warrick had signed with FSU, he called Charlie and asked him to keep an eye on Dunn. What better way to keep an eye on him than to have him as your roommate?
  • Dunn on his special relationship with Ward: We had that connection between us. I really can't explain it other than to say it was special. We were a lot alike. We were more interested in hanging around our place in Burt Reynolds Hall than going out and socializing. That first telephone call between us would have stunned people who thought we were two reserved, soft-spoken guys who didn't say peep to anyone. We had grown so close so quickly that we knew each other's thoughts and actions on and off the field.

Although recruited as a cornerback, Dunn had been promised by Coach Bobby Bowden that he would get a look at TB despite the fact that the Seminoles were loaded at that position..

  • Senior Sean Jackson from New Orleans was the returning starter, although junior Tiger McMillon had led the team in rushing in 1992 with 579y to Jackson's 489.
  • Also in the mix was Marquette Smith, a prep All-American from Winter Park FL who was named the 1990 High School Football Player of the Year by Gatorade and Offensive Player of the Year by USA Today after averaging 8.4 ypc and gaining 7,629 all-purpose yards in his high school career with 62 TDs in his last two seasons. After carrying the ball just 22 times as a freshman, Smith had redshirted his second year.
  • Joining Warrick in the freshman class was Rock Preston, who was Dunn's twin sizewise. Warrick: 5-8 172; Rock 5-8 176. Rock and I had to learn the offense as quickly as possible if we wanted to contribute. And I wanted to contribute.
  • Dunn caught a break because of his competitors' bad fortunes. Jackson and Smith were sidelined with sprained ankles while McMillon suffered a kneecap injury leaping to catch a pass in a receiving drill and was ruled out for the season. So only a week into preseason practice, Warrick ran with the first team offense. Jackson would resume that spot by the time the season started.
  • In the first scrimmage, he demonstrated he would be a weapon in the passing game when he took a screen pass and zipped into the EZ past All-American LB Derrick Brooks, who ripped off his helmet and took a knee in frustration.
  • That ended any thoughts that Bowden had of moving Dunn to the secondary even though that unit had lost two potential starters to season-ending knee injuries.
    Warrick: I wasn't intimidated on the field or by the surroundings. I just wanted to contribute.

The Seminoles began the 1993 season ranked #1 in the country.

  • They romped over Kansas 42-0 in the opener as the Baton Rouge sensation went 18y on his first collegiate carry after breaking a tackle in the backfield. He ended with 45y on seven carries.
    Dunn: It was so cool to finally be playing at Florida State. It's something that I always wanted to do, and here I was, fulfilling a dream that my mother and I shared.
  • The defending ACC champion Noles began their second year in the conference with a 45-7 pounding of Duke in rainy Durham NC. Warrick gained nothing on two runs but gathered in two passes for 66y with one a 57-yarder.
  • The home opener brought another rout, 57-0 over Clemson, the Tigers' worst loss in 62 years. Dunn scored the first TD of his college career on a 16y pass from Ward, his only reception of the day. He added 46y on seven carries.
  • The rampage through the conference continued with a 33-7 pasting of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Warrick scored on another 16y pass from his roommate and added 28 more yards on three rushes and two more catches.
  • The Seminoles had needed a Q4 rally in 1992 to defeat Georgia Tech in Atlanta but had no trouble with the Jackets the following year in Tallahassee, 51-0. Dunn's stat line read: 7 carries for 32y plus two receptions for 28 with three TDs - 14 and 4y runs and a 7y pass completion.

Next came the contest that had become the biggest game on the schedule every year, with bearing on the national championship as well as settling supremacy in the state of Florida.

  • The Miami Hurricanes came to Tallahassee ranked #3 after two straight undefeated regular seasons that included wins over Florida State decided by a made or missed FG in the last minute.
  • Before the record crowd of 77,813 settled into their seats, Jackson swept RE and race 69y to give FSU the lead just 3:43 into the game.
  • The Hurricanes answered with an 9-play, 80y drive to tie the score
  • But the Seminoles unleashed their Fast Break Offense and retook the lead in just three plays. Ward scrambled out of the pocket and lofted a pass over two UM defenders to a streaking Matt Frier, who took the ball in stride for a 72y TD.
  • Charlie put FSU 14 points ahead in Q2 when he scrambled in from the 2. The key play in the drive came on 3rd-and-7 from the FSU 43 when Dunn lined up next to Charlie in the shotgun. Instead of snapping the ball to Ward, C Clay Shiver hiked it straight to Dunn, who raced 27y through the surprised defense for the 1st down.
  • After a scoreless Q3, Miami narrowed the gap to 21-10 with a FG less than a minute into the final period.
  • After the defenses prevailed on the next three possessions, FSU SS Devin Bush, a Miami native, salted the game away with a 40y INT return.
  • The victory was just the Noles' second in the last nine tries against the Canes.

After jumping over the Miami snake, the Seminoles returned to beating up their ACC foes.

  • FSU 40 Virginia 14; Dunn: 5-30 rushing, 1-28 receiving
  • FSU 54 Wake Forest 0; Dunn's biggest game thus far- 8-162 rushing, including TDs of 63 and 5y.
  • FSU 49 Maryland 20; Dunn: 10-46 rushing, 3-14 receiving

That set the stage for the clash the nation had been waiting for since the beginning of the season: #1 Florida State @ #2 Notre Dame

  • The game lived up to its billing. Unfortunately, the Fighting Irish prevailed 31-24, ending FSU's school-record 16-game winning streak.
  • Notre Dame broke a 7-7 tie with 14 Q2 points and a FG early in Q3 to take a 24-7 lead.
  • Warrick scored on a 6y swing pass from Ward to narrow the gap to 10. Then a FG cut it to 7.
  • But the Irish scored what proved to be the winning TD with 6:53 left.
  • That allowed them to survive another Ward TD pass with 2:26 left.
  • The game ended with a defender batting down Charlie's pass into the EZ.
  • Warrick contributed only 18y to the FSU offense.
  • The AP voters reversed the places of the Irish and Noles with undefeated Nebraska lurking at #3. Writers talked about the possibility of a rematch in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.

The Noles took out their frustration on North Carolina State.

  • Dunn, one of seven ball carriers and ten receivers who entered the stat column, gained just 31 of the Noles' 553y of offense. He did score a Q4 TD on a 10y pass from third-string QB Jon Stark.
  • But the good news of the day was Notre Dame shocking loss to Boston College at home. That opened the door for FSU to move back to #1 with undefeated Nebraska #2 and Notre Dame third..
    Dunn: We made easy work of North Carolina State ... but who would have thunk it? Boston College upset Notre Dame, which put us back in the driver's seat in the national-title race. But we knew we couldn't really celebrate, not with rival Florida up next in our regular-season finale ...

Warrick made his biggest play of the year in the annual season-ender at Florida.

  • The Noles quieted the Gainesville crowd by jumping out to a 13-0 lead and then a 27-7 margin.
  • But two straight TDs brought UF to within 27-21 with 5:58 remaining.
  • With momentum of the Gators' side and the home crowd deafening, Ward hooked up with Warrick for the play of the game.
  • Facing 3rd and 10 from his own 21, Charlie made a play action fake, then eluded a pair of defenders as he rolled to his left and lofted a soft toss toward Dunn on the left side. The freshman caught the ball in stride, picked up a key block from WR Tamarick Vanover, and raced down the sidelines for a 79y score and an insurmountable 33-21 lead.
  • Dunn finished with 140y on 8 catches and 33 more on six runs.
    Warrick remembered the big play in his autobiography. Because of our connection as friends and roommates, Charlie and I connected on that 79-yard touchdown pass that helped us quiet Florida Field and beat the Gators.

Florida tackler horse-collars Dunn.

The Orange Bowl paired Nebraska and Florida State for the national championship.

  • In the meantime, Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy for 1993.
  • Florida State AD announced that Charlie's number 17 jersey (the same number that Doug Williams wore for the Redskins) would be retired.

The Noles were tabbed as 17-point favorites to defeat the Cornhuskers for the second straight season in the Orange Bowl.

  • The talk beforehand was that one of the two great coaches, Bobby Bowden or Tom Osborne, would win his first national championship.
  • The Noles prevailed but it wasn't easy as the Nebraska defense did a great job of containing Bowden's high-powered O.
  • Trailing 15-7 heading into Q4, the Huskers ralled with a TD on the first play of the period. A two-point conversion run failed - an outcome that would prove fatal to the Big 12 school.
  • Then a FG with only 1:16 remaining put Nebraska in front 18-16.
  • Ward got the opportunity to prove that he deserved the Heisman. Starting at the 35 after the kickoff went out of bounds, Charlie went to work. A key play was another Ward-to-Dunn connection that gained 21y to the NU 33. As Warrick went out of bounds, a defender pushed him, drawing a 15y roughness penalty.
  • Two plays later, an interference call put the ball on the 3. After a loss of 2, Bowden decided to take no further chances and sent out K Scott Bentley, who boomed the 22y game-winner with 21 seconds left.
    Dunn: While I only rushed one time for 3 yards and had two receptions for 30 yards - Nebraska did a great job in its coverage schemes - it was an incredible feeling to win a national title. As we poured into the locker room, it was great to share the moment with your teammates.
    And, of course, I knew exactly where to look for Charlie.
    We had that connection.

Dunn's statistics for the 1993 season:
68 rushes for 511y (7.5pc) 4 TD, 25 receptions for 357y (14.3) and 6 TD.
Warrick finished second behind Jackson in rushing yards.
His 10 TDs led the Noles.

Continued below ...

References: Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond,
Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger (2008)
Profile: Warrick Dunn - III

The 1994 Florida State Seminoles defended their ACC championship but not their national championship.

  • With TB Sean Jackson having graduated, sophomore Warrick Dunn nearly doubled his yardage from his freshman season.

    Bold = team leader
      Rushing Receiving
    Year Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
    1993 68 511 7.5 4 25 357 14.3 6
    1994 152 1026 6.8 8 34 308 9.1 1

  • The Noles started the season ranked #4 and rose to #3 as they traveled to the Orange Bowl for their annual game with Miami of the Big East Conference. Once again the Hurricanes knocked off an unbeaten FSU squad. There was no "wide right" this time but instead five turnovers that led to a 34-20 defeat. Warrick gained only 32y on eight carries and caught just a single pass for 2y.
  • But five straight victories clinched the ACC title before a 31-31 tie with Florida that FSU fans considered a victory since QB Danny Kanell sparked a furious 28-point Q4 comeback in Doak Campbell Stadium.
  • Since the annual rivalry wasn't decided on the field, the Sugar Bowl invited the Gators and Noles to play the "Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter." Playing in his home state, Dunn earned MVP honors by rushing 14 times for 58y, catching nine passes for 51, and throwing a 73y TD pass in the 23-17 triumph.
  • The 10-1-1 Noles finished #4 in the final AP poll, their eighth straight top four finish.

Warrick's 1995 season is remembered for one carry in Game #8 at Virginia.

  • The Seminoles started atop the AP poll and stayed there through the first seven games.
  • FSU extended its record in ACC games to 29-0, leading pundits to label the conference as "Florida State and the Eight Dwarfs."
  • The Noles were 18-point favorites on a Thursday evening in beautiful Charlottesville. Let Warrick describe what happened.

We knew Virginia was ready; they were jacked to play us. Virginia had dropped two games earlier in the season on the game's final play, and George Welsh, in his twenty-third season as a Division I coach, had a team with plenty of star power in Tiki and Ronde Barber and Anthony Poindexter.
It was a cool autumn night, and the overflow crowd of 44,300 at Scott Stadium was excited. ... it was a battle from start to finish. We led 7-0 and 14-7 early, but trailed 33-21 late. We couldn't stop Tiki, who finished with 311 all-purpose yards, and our offense, which averaged 56.1 points per game, was slowed by our own mistakes. But we never stopped working.
I scored on a 7-yard sweep to cap a four-play, 88-yard drive with 6:13 to play. Down 33-28 with possession at our own 20-yard line and 1:37 remaining, QB Danny Kanell moved us across midfield to the Virginia 11-yard line with 13 seconds left. Kanell spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock, but the Cavaliers were whistled for having too many men on the field. That gave us possession at the 6-yard line. Kanell threw out of the end zone on the next play.
With four seconds left, we had time to run one last play. I stood next to Kanell in the shotgun formation, and center Clay Shriver, on a designed play called a direct snap, snapped the ball to me instead of Danny. I was surprised when the play wa called in the huddle, but I thought it could work. It looked like we had Virginia's defense sealed off. I sprinted off right tackle toward the end zone. I thought I scored the winning touchdown on the play, but officials ruled that I was stopped inches shy of the goal line by Poindexter and safety Adrian Burnim. Virginia cornerback Ronde Barber trailed the play and was told by an official near the play that the ball had touched the ground before I crossed the goal line.
My upper body was actually in the end zone, but the ball, knocked loose as I was tripped at the last second and lunged forward, was near my waist. Virginia's crowd erupted, and it seemed like everyone rushed the field. We just wanted to get off the field as fast we could so nobody got hurt. Fans tore down the goalposts and carried them above their heads and out of the stadium. Our locker room was so quiet you could hear a tear drop. And there were plenty of tears.

  • But Warrick didn't have time to cry. He had to fly to Baton Rouge to testify in the sentencing phase of the trial of one of the men who killed his mother. He told the Assistant District Attorney that he didn't want to testify because he didn't want his fame as an athlete to be exploited. She said I was Betty's son, and that I would represent my mother as her son - and not as an athlete - on the witness stand. Impressed by what Warrick and his younger brother told them about losing their mother, the jury took less than an hour to return the death penalty. Warrick: In a few days I returned to Tallahassee, where football fans were still dissecting our defeat at Virginia and calling it a heartbreaking loss. My heart had been broken two years earlier and all I felt was emptiness.

The Seminoles bounced back to win their remaining two conference games and tie Virginia for first place in the conference.

  • Florida beat the Noles 35-24 in Gainesville to get revenge for the Sugar Bowl defeat.
  • The Noles got an Orange Bowl bid, their 14th post-season appearance in a row, and defeated Notre Dame 31-26. They continued their amazing streak of Top Four finishes in the AP poll.
  • Warrick ended the season with 1242y rushing, a school record, and 294 receiving. He scored 16 TDs, his best performance of his three-year career.
  • He was now within 991y of the FSU career rushing record of 3,760 held by Greg Allen (1981-84).

Dunn now faced a major decision: Should he return for his senior year or depart early for the NFL?

  • He was projected as a first- or second-round selection in the April draft, the highest of any FSU TB since Sammie Smith left FSU following his junior season in 1988.
  • Warrick recalled: After the Orange Bowl, I flew home to Baton Rouge to be with my family and discuss my future. Actually, it was to reinforce a decision I had already made prior to our bowl game. I understood the importance of education. It was a value that I had preached to my brothers and sisters following my mom's murder three years earlier. Plus, during my senior year at Catholic High, I promised Mom that I would attend college and graduate. I was about to break that promise. Education was my top priority. ... I also saw what type of team we had coming back and I thought we had a better chance of winning a national championship. Plus, I had thirty-five credit hours left after the spring semester and was on course to get my degree in Information Technologies. I believed another year in school wouldn't hurt anything. The money? I hadn't had money for twenty-one years, so what was another year?
  • Dunn had told Coach Bobby Bowden that he was leaning toward returning for another season but asked him to keep it a secret.
  • After returning from Baton Rouge, Dunn announced his decision to stay at a press conference. The crowd erupted in applause.

To be continued ...

References: Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond,
Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger (2008)

Warrick Dunn 1995

Danny Kanell

1996 Sugar Bowl program

Tiki and Ronde Barber and their mom

Lewis Tyre (66) celebrates what he thinks is a Dunn TD at Virginia.

Profile: Warrick Dunn - IV

Billy Sexton

Dunn vs Miami 1996

Dunn vs Virginia 1996

1996 FSU-Florida Program
Warrick on cover of program for his final home game

Dunn vs Florida 1996
Warrick Dunn on cover of Sports Illustrated

Dunn with Tampa Bay

Warrick with Atlanta

Warrick Dunn thrilled Seminole fans, not to mention Coach Bobby Bowden and his staff, by returning to Florida State for his senior season of 1996.

  • It would be a fateful season that would see FSU finish the regular season undefeated and #1 after knocking archrival Florida off the top perch in the final game.
  • But the pre-BCS fates conspired against the Noles to spoil their hopes for another national championship.

Warrick felt good about his decision to remain in Tallahassee for another year.

There wasn't any family or financial pressure to turn professional. I talked with several players, including Charlie Ward and Derrick Brooks. At that time, Charlie was a point guard with the New York Knicks ... Charlie told me to follow my heart, as he did. Derrick also contemplated leaving FSU early for the NFL but returned for his senior season in 1994.

  • At the suggestion of RB coach Billy Sexton, Warrick petitioned the NFL for an evaluation of his draft status.
  • The NFL informed Sexton that Warrick was a potential second-round seslection if he entered the draft following his junior season.
  • Billy believed that another year of competition and further work in the weight room would only improve Dunn's draft potential.
  • When Warrick made his decision to return, Sexton told O-coordinator Mark Richt that FSU had just signed its first prospect of the year. It was only a one-year deal, but at least I knew the plays.

Meanwhile, Warrick, with plenty of advice from Coach Bowden, continued to deal with his family situation.

  • After Warrick's mother was killed in the line of duty as a policewoman during his senior year in high school, he had been the head of the family.
  • Dring his time at Florida State, his brothers and sisters lived with their grandmother in Baton Rouge.
  • Warrick expected Derrick, the second oldest, to handle the day-to-day tasks of disciplining the younger siblings. Derrick also played football at Catholic High.
  • His grandmother drove the family to every Florida State home game and proudly wore her #28 jersey in the stands.

The season began with the Seminoles ranked #3 in the AP poll.

  • Duke fell 44-7 and North Carolina State lost 51-17 in Raleigh.
  • Then came a lackluster 13-0 victory over North Carolina in the rain at home that led to a players-only meeting for the offense. Dunn was one of the speakers.
    I told my teammates that I returned for my senior season to win. I didn't come back for the coaches. I didn't come back for myself. I didn't come back to position myself in the NFL draft so I could make more money. Ultimately, I came back to win and be with my teammates. It was time for me to step up and become a leader. I knew I wasn't going to win the Heisman Trophy because we simply didn't run the football enough. But that wasn't a concern of mine.

The Noles stayed in the top three of the AP poll through October and early November.

  • Clemson 34-3
  • @Miami 34-16 - Warrick had 163y rushing
  • Virginia 31-24 - Dunn had 143 all-purpose yards
  • @Georgia Tech 49-3 - Warrick broke the century mark on the ground again (121)
  • @Wake Forest 44-7
  • Southern Miss 54-14
  • Maryland in Miami Gardens FL 48-10 - Dunn became FSU's all-time leading rusher with 3,774y and the first back in school history to gain 1,000y three straight seasons

That cleared the decks for a 1-versus-2 showdown with the Gators in Tallahassee.

  • The Seminoles harassed Florida QB Danny Wuerfel enough to pull out a 24-21 victory. Read about the game ...
  • Warrick carried 24 times for 185y and caught 4 passes for another 24y. In a throwback to his days as a high school QB, he even completed a pass for 10y. In the final minutes, he made a crucial run to help seal the victory.
    We had possession at the 50-yard line with 1:14 to play. We needed one more first down to run out the clock and secure the victory. I spoke up in the huddle and told my teammates to give whatever they had left in their hearts. They gave me the ball and I went 14 yards around the right end. Game over.
    Dunn recalled the end of the game: It was wild as our fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts. I really didn't get a chance to join the celebration because I caught a whiff of pepper spray as police tried to unsuccessfully shoo fans from the field. ... I had the chance to quickly talk to UF QB Danny Wuerffel at midfield before the place seemed to explode around us. I wished Danny good luck in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, and he whispered that I had his vote. Of course, we didn't have a vote, but it didn't matter. To beat Florida in my last game at Doak Campbell Stadium and earn the chance to return to my home state of Louisiana and play for the national title seemed like a fairy tale.

The win put FSU into the Bowl Alliance championship game in the Sugar Bowl, just 90 miles from Dunn's home in Baton Rouge.

  • Unfortunately, the #2 team in the AP poll, undefeated Arizona State, was committed to the Rose Bowl.
  • So the Seminoles figured they'd play #3 Nebraska, expected to be the Big 12 champion.
  • But Texas upset the Cornhuskers in the Big 12 Championship Game.
  • That opened the door for the Gators to take the other spot in the Bowl Alliance title game in New Orleans.
    Warrick: A few days before the game, I took my offensive teammates to my house in Baton Rouge for dinner. My grandma did the cooking, and we had all of my favorites - crawfish, gumbo, etouffe, ribs, candied yams, and macaroni and cheese. The big eaters ... pushed themselves away from the table with full bellies and big grins.

Coach Bowden dreaded playing the Gators a second time, and his fears proved to be well-founded.

  • Facing an outstanding team with the revenge factor on their side was difficult enough, but a virus that went through a good portion of the squad in the last days before the game helped make the game a disaster for Florida State.
  • Operating out of the shotgun and throwing quickly to negate the FSU rush, Wuerffel celebrated his Heisman Trophy award by completing 18-of-34 for 474y to lead the 52-20 romp.
  • Dunn, who finished 5th in the Heisman voting, was one of the players affected by the virus. It was a frustrating game for me ... since I battled cramps and dehydration for the first half and saw limited action in the second half. ... I argued with our training staff to let me back on the field in the second half. I cried as I laid on the training table, my entire body tight and cramped. ... I couldn't believe it. I was in my home state in the biggest game of my life, and I was unable to help my teammates.
  • He gained just 28y on nine carries and caught one pass for 12y.

It was a frustrating way to end Warrick's college career but couldn't negate the outstanding record he compiled at Florida State.

  • Rushing: 575 attempts, 3959y
  • Receiving: 132 receptions, 1314y
  • Total yards from scrimmage: 5273

What the impressive totals don't reveal is how many clutch runs and clutch receptions he contributed to Seminole victories and the leadership he provided on and off the field.

FSU sports information director Rob Wilson wrote a letter to Warrick's family the day of the first Florida game in which he expressed his admiration.

Your brother has progressed from timid freshman, to quiet leader, to the finest running back in Florida State history. And he's done it with an awful lot on his mind.
I know he has missed all of you. ...
His eyes tell a lot about this brother of yours. He carries a lot of sorrow in them. But when he smiles it is ... ear-to-ear and so joyous that I choose to believe they can see it in heaven.
He would trade it all for one thing though. He'd trade all the magnificant plays in his career. He'd trade the good friends he's made here and even the great education of which he's taken advantage. He would trade the fame, the potential wealth that teases on the horizon, the records, everything.
But he can't bring her back. "Every day," sighed Warrick when asked how often he thinks of your mom.
Your brother has taught us a lot in his four years. He has taught us about courage and dedication. He has taught us about determination, desire and pride. He has taught us about taking the right way and not necessarily the easy way. He has given us examples of patient and contentment. ...
You know, he has always pointed to the sky after scoring a touchdown. At that moment of greatest joy, he points up as if to say, "did you see that Mom." I choose to believe she does.

Dunn was chosen in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He fashioned a 12-year pro career with the Bucs and the Atlanta Falcons.

In his first year as a pro, Warrick started Homes for the Holidays, a foundation that, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, provides homes for single-parent families. By the end of 2016, Homes for the Holidays had built over 150 houses.

References: Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond,
Warrick Dunn and Don Yaeger (2008)
2006 Orange Bowl - Battle of Septuagenarians

Bobby Bowden's 2005 Seminoles won the first-ever ACC Championship Game over Virginia Tech to earn the right to represent the conference in the Orange Bowl

  • The team suffered three conference losses to Virginia, North Carolina State, and Clemson.
  • But the Atlantic Division was so weak that the Noles tied with Boston College for first place and went to the championship game by virtue of their victory over the Eagles.
  • Virginia Tech won the Coastal Division outright when Miami, which handed the Hokies their only conference loss, was upset late in the season by Georgia Tech in a game that had been postponed by Hurricane Wilma.
  • Tech came into the ACC Championship Game in Jacksonville ranked #5 with a 10-1 mark. Florida State limped into the contest at #23 in both the AP and Coaches polls after getting belted by Florida in Gainesville 34-7 for their third straight loss to end the regular season.
  • The Seminoles entered the title game with a chip on their shoulder after withering criticism from the press, especially centered on offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, Bobby's son. And Bobby himself, once sacrosanct, endured censure because of 19 losses in the last five seasons.
  • But critics didn't take into account the fact that the most important unit on any team, the O-line, was riddled with injuries, leaving the Noles with only six healthy "big uglies."
  • After a 3-3 tie at halftime, FSU exploded for 24 unanswered points in Q3 starting with an 89y punt return TD by Willie Reid. Then an INT set up another six-pointer. A punt downed on the VTU 1 led to a 41y FG by Gary Cismesia. Finally, a fumble recovery deep inside Tech territory started a drive to the third TD of the period.
  • Trailing 27-3, Frank Beamer's squad rallied in the final period but fell five points short. Watch the complete game ...

#22 Florida State earned the ACC's guaranteed bid to the Orange Bowl despite the fact that the Noles' record was inferior to all the other seven teams in BCS bowls.

  • When told right after the victory over Virginia Tech that his Noles would probably face Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden said, That old man? Is that likely to happen? Well, dadgummit. That's my luck. ... If we play them, it will be a great matchup: two old men out there trying to see who has life left in them.
  • 76-year-old Bowden was calling 79-year-old Paterno an "old man"!
  • The two old men ranked 1 and 2 in career coaching victories. The ACC title game was Bowden's 359th win, six more than Paterno.

Penn State had lost only one game, to Michigan, in 2005.

  • But that loss cost them a berth in the BCS Championship Game in the Rose Bowl.
  • So the Nittany Lions settled for the Orange Bowl.
  • Unranked to start the season, PSU, with 18 returning starters, finished the regular season ranked #3, just behind undefeated Texas and USC.
  • The offense was led by the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, QB Michael Robinson, who had played WR, TB, and punt returner in his first three years in Happy Valley. He accounted for 62% of the PSU offense.

The Seminoles, from Bowden down, hoped to ride the momentum from the Virginia Tech win to a victory over the Big Ten champs as a major stepping stone to returning FSU to Top 5 prominence.

  • Penn State struck Florida State coaches as a team that makes few mistakes on either side of the ball.
  • However, the Lions had given up some yards through the air - 207 per game.
  • But the flip side of that stat was that PSU had 38 sacks and 15 INTs.
  • FSU freshman QB Drew Weatherford had thrown as many INTs (17) as TDs.
  • The Seminole attack lacked balance - 1st in the ACC in passing, last in rushing.
  • So the beleaguered Jeff Bowden predicted a long night for his offense if it couldn't protect Weatherford.
  • The Nole defense would be missing senior LB A.J. Nicholson, who was dismissed from the team five days before the bowl game for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman at the team's hotel.
    WR Willie Reid explained why the Noles had to win the Orange Bowl. People won't remember the small little losing streak that we had. They wouldn't think that the game we had against Virginia Tech was a fluke. I think it would put an exclamation point on the whole season and be a good way to start the new one.

The Nittany Lions had not played since November 19.

  • Paterno: We haven't played a football team in six, seven weeks. I'm worried about that. I really am concerned about that.
  • As usual, the Lions ran the ball well behind an experienced O-line (five seniors and one junior) with four weighing 290 or more.
  • The veteran defense, one of the best in the nation, started seven seniors, three juniors, and a sophomore. PSU was 10th in the nation in run defense.
  • And it wouldn't be a Penn State defense without an All-American LB - in this case, Paul Posluszny, the Butkus Award Winner.

The last meeting between the two legendary coaches would be a classic witnessed by 77,773 on a warm evening.

Quarter 1

Florida State took the ball first. Drew Weatherford read the blitz on 3rd and 11 and hit WR Willie Reid for 22y and a first down. Then RB Joe Washington burst for 10y to move the chains again. But two incompletions and a stu ffed screen pass brought on the punt unit. Pushed back by a personal foul penalty, the Noles gave the ball to Penn State on their 34 after a poor 30y punt by Chris Hall.
But the strong FSU line pressured QB Michael Robinson and forced a 3-and-out. Reid took the punt on the 9 and raced out to the 38.
The Noles could not overcome a chop block penalty on 1st down. This time Hall boomed a 52-yarder.
With 1,000y rusher Tony Hall out with an ankle injury sustained during the opening drive, Austin Scott took his place at TB. Starting from the 15, Penn State marched smartly to a TD thanks to the running of Scott. After rushing for only 167y all season, Austin gained 25, 11, 17, and 9y before taking the pigskin in from the 2. Kevin Kelly booted the EP. Penn State 7 Florida State 0 (4:59)

Scott scores from the 2.
Needing to answer, FSU instead went 3-and-out. Hall boomed a 53y punt which, coupled with a penalty, set PSU back to its 4. After Scott gained a quick 13, Robinson took to the air. But Tony Carter intercepted on the FSU 46 and returned the ball to the PSU 47.

Carter returns his INT.
Weatherford tried what Robinson just did, but Reid was called for offensive interference - still another penalty for an FSU team that ranked 101st in penalty yardage. So three plays later, Hall punted.
Starting from the 21, PSU stayed on the ground. On 3rd down, Robinson ran the option for 7y and a 1st down at the 35 as Q1 ended.
PSU outgained FSU 121-48 in the period.
Penn State 7 Florida State 0

LB Ernie Sims tackles Robinson.
Quarter 2

The Lions moved for two more 1st downs. But a 3rd-and-14 blitz forced Robinson into intentional grounding.
Starting from the 15, the Noles broke their 3-and-out streak when Washington raced for 15y on the first play. But another flag on the next snap snuffed out the momentum. FSU was fortunate that an O-lineman fell on Weatherford's fumble as he tried to pass.

Drew Weatherford fumbles but FSU recovers.
Blitzing on all three snaps on Penn State's next possession, Mickey Andrews's defense forced a punt that Reid returned 18y to the 35.
With only 65y so far, partly because of penalties on three 1st downs, Weatherford went under C for a change and connected with WR Chris Davis for 14y to the 49. Two snaps later, Fred Rouse snagged a pass for a 1st down at the PSU 49. But the march ended when miscommunication between QB and receiver on a pass down the middle resulted in an INT by CB Alan Zemaitis.

RV Kyler Hall chases Scott.
After an 11y run by Scott, Penn State got bit by the penalty bug - a personal foul that made it 3rd-and-24. Reid took the seventh punt of the half on the 13, find an opening up the middle, and roared all the way to pay dirt - 87y, a new Orange Bowl record against a team that had given up only 107 punt return yards all season. Penn State 7 Florida State 7 (4:09)
The fired up FSU special teams stuffed the kickoff return at the 13, and the defense continued the momentum with a 3-and-out.
LB Sam McGrew, who replaced A.J. Nicholson, sported the suspended LB's initials and number on his wrist tape. Sam said after the game: The boys rallied together for A.J. A.J. called me, talked to me, and he gave us words of motivation. Even though he wasn't there with us, we fought for him.
On FSU's first play from their 43, Lorenzo Booker took a swing pass in the right flat and eluded tacklers until he bolted into the clear to the end zone. But Cismesia missed the PAT. Florida State 13 Penn State 7 (2:49)

Booker breaks free for TD.
The Lions still had time to get points. But after a 21y completion, they had to kick for the fifth straight time, the ball going out on the 3. On the 1st play, FB James Coleman was hit as he got the handoff at the 1 and was pushed back into the EZ. The replay system, in effect for bowl games, upheld the call of no safety. After a QB sneak, Paterno called another timeout. Then the same sneak-timeout sequence forced a punt from the EZ. Hall booted it cleanly to the FSU 40 with 0:17 on the clock.
PSU would have been happy to get a FG but instead got a TD. First, Robinson hit WR Jordan Norwood who went out of bounds on the 25. Then Robinson lofted a pass into the EZ to Ethan Kilmer, who was closely covered by Carter. But the defender didn't see the ball in time, and the receiver came down with it for the third TD in less than five minutes of action. Kelly's PAT put PSU ahead. Penn State 14 Florida State 13 (0:06)
Carter said afterwards, I feel like I had great position but just didn't fight hard enough to get the ball out.
Kenny O'Neill caused excitement by breaking free on the return but he was run out on the 40 as time expired.
On the way off the field, Bowden said he was happy to be only one point down. I was afraid they would get away from us.
HALTIME SCORE: Penn State 14 Florida State 13

Quarter 3

Saying the defenses were dominant in this period is an understatement. The first seven possessions were three-and-out. Then the eighth was a four-and-out when the Seminoles failed to convert a 4th-and-2 at the PSU 32.
The initial first down of the quarter came with 1:12 left as a result of an interference penalty on FSU. Then Penn State converted its first 3rd down in ten tries on the same possession to their 49. The last play of the quarter was a punt to the FSU 6.
Penn State 14 Florida State 13

Quarter 4

PSU flipping the field led to a score. On 3rd-and-8 from the 8, Weatherford was chased back into the EZ as he tried to find a receiver. With several white shirts bearing down on him, he threw wildly to his left. That brought an intentional grounding flag and a safety. Penn State 16 Florida State 13 (13:36)
To make matters worse, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the FSU sideline put the ball on the 10 for the free kick. That led to Penn State starting their possession 4y into FSU territory with a good chance to add to their lead. The Lions mounted the first sustained drive of the half, gaining four first downs to make it 1st-and-Goal from the 5. But Robinson didn't handle the snap, and Neefy Moffett fell on the ball to keep FSU within three with 9:05 to go.
Would the Noles ever make a first down in the second half? The answer is yes. On 2nd down Washington took a swing pass and wiggled to the 17 to break a streak of 23 minutes of possession time without moving the chains. Then on the 3rd-and-8 came the play the Noles were waiting for. Flushed from the pocket, Weatherford rolled right and hit Davis running beyond the defense to the PSU 41. Three snaps later, Reid caught a low pass on the sideline for another 1st down at the 25. LB Posluszny hurt his knee on a chop block while blitzing and left the game, never to return. A holding penalty bogged down the drive, and Cismesia came in for a 47y FG, the longest by 4y of his career. The ball hooked just inside the left upright to tie the game. Penn State 16 Florida State 16 (4:08)
A roughing the passer infraction, FSU's 13th penalty, immediately gave the Nittany Lions 15y to the 35. After a sack, PSU faced 3rd-and-14. But confusion in the secondary as FSU substituted led to TE Isaac Smolko taking a pass to the FSU 49. On the next play, Robinson found Norwood open to the 11. With a winning FG in their back pocket, the Lions played it safe as FSU used its final two timeouts. Finally, left-footed kicker freshman Kevin Kelly came on for a 29y chip shot. But for once, "wide left" bit FSU's opponent.
Penn State 16 Florida State 16

Overtime 1
Florida State took the ball first. A screen to Reid for 8 and a dive by FB Coleman produced a 1st down on the 14. But FSU went backwards from there. Washington lost 3, then a holding penalty on a QB scramble put the ball at the 27. Two throws to the EZ fell incomplete. So Cismesia tried a 44-yarder and just missed to the right.
Needing just a FG, PSU played conservatively and gained only 4y on three runs. So Kelly came on to redeem himself but pushed the 38y attempt a little wide left again.

Overtime 2
hit Norwood over the middle for 6. Then he overthrew Deon Butler in the EZ. But he converted on 3rd down, finding Kilmer wide open on a drag pattern to the 2. After Scott got nothing on the right side, he took an option pitch to the left into the EZ. Kelley converted. Penn State 23 Florida State 16
Weatherford started with a pass to Reid in the middle to the 14. Then he lobbed to Carr at the left sideline. The 6'5" WR jumped and grabbed the ball at the 5 and fell forward to the 2. After a sneak to the 1, senior FB B. J. Drew jumped into the EZ over RG. Penn State 23 Florida State 23

Overtime 3
Not finding a receiver, Weatherford ran for 4. Then he fired too low to an open Carr at the left sideline. On 3rd-and-6, he again threw errantly. So Cismesia tried a 38-yarder that hit the right upright.
Once again, Penn State could win with a FG. Scott lost a yard before Justin King took a swing pass to the 17. After sending his kicker out on 3rd down, Paterno called a timeout and decided to run another play. But FSU took its timeout. When play resumed, Robinson rolled right to a 1st down on the 13. Scott carried for the 26th time to the 12. Now Joe Pa sent in Kelly. The third time's the charm as he hooked the ball inside the right upright.


When they met at midfield at 1 AM, Paterno told Bowden, We're too old for this. It's almost past my bedtime. Joe added: Both teams played so hard. Bobby agreed: Both teams played as well as they could play.
Bowden finished 8-5, his worst record since 1981.
Paterno improved to 7-1 against Bobby, including 6-0 while Bowden coached West Virginia.

FSU Locker Room
Bowden: Like I told my kids, what a great to build (upon) going into next year. I thought our kids played about as hard and about as good as we could. If we could have eliminated penalties, I think we might have won the game.
On the missed kicks: Sometimes you miss at the wrong time. Joe was having that problem for a while. ... I played in a lot of bizarre games, especially when it comes to missing field goals. I think when they pick the all-time missed-field goals coach, I'll probably win that award. That is weird, but we're masters at that.
They were a much more mature football team than we were. The thing that concerned me most was their maturity. I thought that could be the difference in the ballgame, and the way we were making mistakes and getting penalties early in the ballgame. I thought that was exactly the difference.

PSU Locker Room
Paterno: One play here or one play there, and they could have had it, but we got it. It was a great football game with two teams playing as hard as they can play, and it came down to one play.
I was thinking, "When are we going to get this thing over?" I looked at my watch at one point, and it was three hours past my bedtime, and we were still playing.
Robinson: This game signified what our senior class has been through. We've been up, we've been down, but we finished out right.

Jeff Bowden

Willie Reid returns punt vs Virginia Tech

Gary Cismesia

Paul Posluszny

Bowden and Paterno before kickoff

Drew Weatherford

Willie Reid in Orange Bowl

Joe Washington runs.

Michael Robinson

Pat Watkins tackles Austin Scott.

Tony Carter intercepts in Q1.

Deon Butler upends Carter after his INT.

Washington tackled.

Lorenzo Booker runs to EZ.

Ethan Kilmer catches TD pass over Carter right before the 1st half ends.

Kevin Kelly

Alan Zemaitis after his Q2 INT.

TE Matt Henshaw stiffarms Posluszny after catching Q3 pass.

Cismesia misses FG in OT.

Kelly misses FG in OT.

Willie Reid with MVP Trophy.

Profile: Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds

Tom Nugent

Lee Corso

Harry Massey

Johnny Unitas

Vince Gibson

Burt in "Gunsmoke" 1962

Burt as "The Bandit"

Burt Reynolds in recent years

Future Hollyword star Burt Reynolds was a freshman recruit on the Florida State football team for the 1954 season.
  • The 6-0 170-pounder from West Palm Beach played LH for Tom Nugent's second FSU squad.
  • Burt was one of 19 freshmen who played in the opening game before a record crowd of 19,401 at Doak Campbell Stadium against the Georgia Bulldogs.
  • The Dogs scored in the first and last periods to escape Tallahassee with a 14-0 victory.
  • Buddy Reynolds, as he was called in newspaper accounts, didn't start, but he did spell sophomore LH Lee Corso long enough in those limited substitution days to catch a 33y pass in the last minute to the Georgia 34.
  • Burt was mentioned in the game report as part of an all-freshman backfield with QB Ted Rodrigue, RH Bill Weaver, and FB Tommy Thompson.

The Seminoles lost their next game before finally cracking the win column.

  • Reynolds is listed as participating in the 13-0 home loss to Abilene Christian but may have been limited to defense because he is not included in the offensive statistics.
  • He made the trip to Louisville the following week to face the Cardinals in the first game FSU played against a team with Negroes in its lineup, including three starters at C, LH, and RH.
  • Reynolds caught a 22y pass from QB Harry Massey to the 5 to set up the game's first TD.
  • Louisville's "gallant, lame" QB, Johnny Unitas, led a TD drive that made the score 7-6 FSU after Q1.
  • But the Seminoles dominated the rest of the game for a 47-6 victory.
  • Burt started the second TD drive with an 11y dash. He also caught another pass, this one for 14y, as part of the Noles' fourth scoring march.
  • He scored the first TD of his college career in the second half with a 1y scamper around RE to make the score 34-6.

FSU enjoyed another romp, this one at home, before hitting the road again.

  • Using "an unbelievable aerial barrage," the Seminoles blasted Villanova 52-13.
  • Listed as a starter on both offense and defense, Reynolds got the Noles off to a "slick beginning" by returning the first Wildcats' punt 17y to the 45. FSU marched from there for the game's first TD, although he's not mentioned as contributing to the drive.
  • Early in the second half, he recovered a fumble at the enemy 20, but the offense was unable to turn he miscue into points.
  • In the final period, Buddy struck again, intercepting a pass and returning it 7y to midfield. He stayed in and raced 9y to the 41. A pass from there made the score 39-13.
  • Final score: 52-13.

The Noles took their 2-2 record to Raleigh NC to face North Carolina State, which had just joined the new Atlantic Coast Conference after 32 years in the Southern Conference.

  • Reynolds didn't start but played on defense as the Seminoles scored 13 points in the second half to upset the Wolfpack 13-7.
  • FSU limited the home team to just six first downs and 223y of total offense.

The next road trip didn't end as well.

  • The Auburn Tigers pounded the Noles 33-0 to end the Garnet and Gold's three-game winning streak.
  • One of the few bright spots for the FSU offense was Buddy's 54y run off LT from "a winged formation" to the 8. But the threat ended with a fumble on the 1.
  • Reynolds' fumble at the FSU 38 set the stage for Auburn's fourth TD early in Q4.
  • Buddy finished with 62y on three carries.

The third consecutive road game ended with a 33-19 victory over VMI in Lynchburg VA. Burt played but was not mentioned in the game summary.

The same was true in the Noles' 33-14 romp over Furman in Tallahassee the following week.

But he got his second TD of the season against Stetson in Deland FL.

  • G Vince Gibson, future head coach at Kansas State and Tulane, blocked a punt in Q3. However, FSU was offside on the play. No problem. Vince did it again on the next play to set up the Noles at the 5.
  • From there Reynolds pounded over on the first play to make it 33-0 on their way to a 47-6 triumph.

Presumably hurt since he is not listed as participating, Reynolds had no significant impact on the 19-18 squeaker over Mississippi Southern in Tallahassee.

However, he is mentioned in the story of the 13-0 win over Tampa that allowed the 8-3 Seminoles to qualify for a bowl game.

  • All scoring took place in the first half.
  • In Q3, Reynolds gained 15y on a sweep to the Tampa 19. However, an INT ended the threat at the 4.

Florida State accepted a bid to play Texas Western in the Sun Bowl in El Paso TX.

  • It was FSU's second bowl game, the other being the 1950 Cigar Bowl in Tampa - a 19-6 victory over Wofford.
  • But this experience would not end happily, as Western (now UTEP), playing on their home field, triumphed 47-20.
  • Reynolds carried seven times for 35y and ran a kickoff back 15y.

Unfortunately, Reynolds' dream of becoming an All-American and playing pro football suffered a major setback the following season.

  • He suffered a severe knee injury prior to the 1955 season. "It tore me apart," Burt recalled. "My dad probably took it harder than I did. He was crushed."
    In later years, Burt recalled the injury as occuring on a punt return in the first game of the season. But the box score makes no mention of his participation in the game.
  • He had surgery on his injured knee and missed the entire 1955 season.
  • To make matters worse, a serious automobile accident injured his other knee.

He is listed on the FSU roster again for the 1957 season.

  • He played in four games, carrying the ball three times for 12y. He also caught two passes for a net gain of 0 and returned a kickoff 17y.
  • Buddy also played defense and recalled a key play against North Carolina State that made him realize that he just couldn't cut it on the gridiron any more. With ten seconds remaining in the first half and the Wolfpack on the FSU 46, TB Dick Christy launched a pass that the receiver caught between Burt and another defender at the 25 and ran in for a TD.
  • He never played in another game.

Football's loss was Hollywood's gain.

  • His football dreams dashed, Burt found his niche in acting.
  • With the help of another FSU grad, Joanne Woodward, he appeared in Broadway plays and made it to Hollywood.
  • He made good impressions in roles he played on TV shows. That led to a highly successful movie career best known for his roles in The Longest Yard and the Smokey and the Bandit series. He was voted the top box-office attraction every year from 1977-1981.
  • Despite his celebrity, Reynolds never forgot Florida State and became a big donor to the athletic program, the athletic dorm across the street from Doak Campbell Stadium being named for him.
  • In 1977, Burt was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame. He was often seen on the sidelines at Seminole games during the Bobby Bowden era.