The Daily Nole

FSU at Florida: Good Times, Bad Times

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The most heated rivalry in the Sunshine State renews on Saturday as Florida State heads to Gainesville to take on Florida. Both teams come in just 4-6 in a rivalry that in the past has had plenty of match-ups of ranked teams and decided national championships.

The Seminoles come in as a slight favorite and will look to win consecutive games for the first time this season. FSU will also look to set a new school-record by winning five straight over the Gators.

Before the two teams kick things off on Saturday, we remember the good times and the bad for the Seminoles in their history with their most bitter rivals:

All-Time Series: Florida leads 34-25-2
Good Times: After going 0-5-1 in its first six games against Florida, the Seminoles finally broke through against their rivals on Nov. 21, 1964. In a match-up of top 15 teams, FSU was able to draw first blood on a 55-yard scoring strike from Steve Tensi to the legendary Fred Biletnikoff to go up 7-0. That would be the only time that FSU would find the end zone, but that is all it would need. Les Murdock added three field goals in the 16-7 win, including a 40-yard make with six minutes to play after a Steve Spurrier touchdown for Florida had cut the lead to six. FSU held Florida to just 244 yards and forced six turnovers in the victory. Bill McDowell and Winfred Bailey each came with interceptions for the Seminoles while George D’Allesandro and Howard Ehler each scooped up a pair of fumbles.

No. 1 Florida State’s 27-7 lead had been dwindled to six on Nov. 27, 1993 and the rival Gators had all the momentum. Facing a 3rd-and-10 from his own 21-yard-line with less than six minutes to play, FSU quarterback Charlie Ward was forced to his left where he flicked a pass down the sideline to freshman running back Warrick Dunn, who proceeded to race 79 yards for the clinching touchdown in a 33-21 win over the No. 7 Gators. Ward, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, finished the day with 446 yards passing and four touchdowns. Dunn and Matt Frier each went over the 100-yard mark receiving while Toddrick McIntosh finished with 2.5 of FSU’s six sacks in the victory in Gainesville.

Florida State’s 2003 trip to Gainesville would turn out to be one of the more dramatic in series history. The No. 9 Seminoles raced to a 17-6 halftime lead, but fell behind after 18 straight Florida points, capped by a 77-yard fumble return for a score from cornerback Keiwan Ratliff. It didn’t take long for FSU to return the favor as safety Pat Watkins tied the game by scooping up a Ciatrick Fason and racing 25 yards the other way to tie the game. The fourth quarter saw the lead change hands four times. Following a field goal by Florida’s Matt Leach, quarterback Chris Rix put FSU ahead on a 1-yard sneak. With less than three minutes to play, the Gators retook the lead on a scoring strike from Chris Leak to tight end Ben Troupe. With just more than a minute remaining, FSU looked dead in the water as it faced a 4th-and-14 from its own 24-yard-line. Rix was able to keep the Seminoles alive by hitting Dominic Robinson for a 24-yard gain and a first down. On the very next play, Rix rolled right before finding P.K. Sam on a 52-yard heave for the game-winning touchdown with 55 seconds to play in a 38-34 FSU victory.

Bad Times: The Oct. 8, 1966 contest in Tallahassee looked like it would be a Florida State victory. Trailing 22-19 with 17 seconds to go, FSU quarterback Gary Pajcic fired a deep ball for receiver Lane Fenner. Fenner made the catch and slid through the end zone on his knees out of bounds, but officials ruled that Fenner did not come down in bounds despite all visual evidence to the contrary as the Seminoles came up short. Florida quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier passed for 219 yards and the game-winning scoring strike to Larry Smith with 10:41 to play. Ron Sellers led the FSU offense with 117 yards receiving on nine catches.

In a match-up of No. 1 vs. No. 2, Florida State defeated Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee to conclude the 1996 regular season. Unfortunately for FSU, Florida would get a Sugar Bowl rematch on Jan. 2, 1997 with a national championship on the line. FSU never led in the contest, but trailed just 24-17 at the break. Things started good for the Seminoles in the second half as they got a stop and kicked a field goal to cut the lead to four. From there on however, it was all downhill. Florida scored the game’s final 28 points to rout FSU 52-20 and win its first national championship. Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel passed for 306 yards and three scores for the Gators while Terry Jackson rushed for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Seminoles were held to just 42 yards on the ground.

In the ensuing meeting in Gainesville on Nov. 22, 1997, Florida State again had national championship aspirations as it came in ranked No. 2 against the 10th-ranked Gators. FSU jumped to a 17-6 lead, thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown by All-American linebacker Sam Cowart and a touchdown pass from Thad Busby to tight end Melvin Pearsall. The Gators however, were able to take an 18-17 lead to the break thanks to a Doug Johnson touchdown strike to Travis McGriff and a 4-yard scamper by running back Fred Taylor. The lead would change hands four times in the second half and for good with under two minutes to play as Taylor scored from a yard out to make it 32-29. Linebacker Dwayne Thomas intercepted Busby on the final FSU drive of the game to seal the victory. Florida put up 499 yards of offense with 162 of them coming from the legs of Taylor. The defeat would serve as the only blemish of the 1997 season for FSU, but it would cost it a shot at a national championship.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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