The Daily Nole

52 Days Until FSU Football: Rix to Sam for 52-Yard Game-Winner vs. Florida in 2003

Phil Sears/Tallahassee Democrat, provided by Garnet and Great, FSU Archivist

There are 52 days until Florida State football begins the 2018 season. As part of the offseason, we’re doing a countdown that highlights players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Thursday, it was current defensive line coach Odell Haggins, who wore No. 53 during his FSU playing career.

Today, it’s the famous “Rix-to-Sam” touchdown pass in the 2003 FSU-Florida contest that won it for the Seminoles.

The Chris Rix to P.K. Sam touchdown pass is unique among legendary FSU plays for what one might identify as the “sweet spot” between older generation of FSU fans and the younger generation. 2003 was arguably the last successful season in the 2000s for the Seminoles, so both fan groups remember the 2003 game vs. Florida fondly.

No one will deny that the 2003 contest is without controversy. But for all the faults, it was still a very intense game that saw Florida mount a second half comeback and take a 34-31 lead late in the fourth quarter. The high-scoring affair ramped up the drama late in the game when FSU needed to make its way down field in under three minutes.

FSU quarterback Chris Rix turned in two of the most clutch passes in his career. After three unsuccessful plays, the Seminoles faced a 4th-and-14 with the Gainesville crowd shaking the stadium. Rix dropped back in the pocket and found Dominic Robinson near midfield, who stretched out for the completion and saved Florida State’s chances, setting up a 1st-and-10 just shy of midfield with a little over a minute to go.

On the very next play, Rix outdid himself. He scrambled to the right as the pocket began to collapse and he looked downfield for any open man. There he saw P.K. Sam sneaking behind the defense near the endzone. Rix cocked back and put everything he had into the pass.

It went high up in the air, and it looked like Florida safety Guss Scott would be able to bat it down. Instead, Scott lost track of the ball and P.K. Sam hauled it in for a stunning 52-yard touchdown to give FSU a 38-34 lead after the extra point.

Florida State hung on for the thrilling victory. Afterwards, a fight broke out at midfield between the two teams. It’s not hard to see why.

On a 52-yard prayer late in the fourth quarter, Rix and Sam teamed up to deliver a devastating loss to the Gator faithful in their home stadium. Even the most level-headed players let their emotions run high in those moments.

Not as much went right for Florida State after that 2003 season. It would be 2010 before FSU notched another 10-win season and 2012 before it finished in the top 10 again in either poll. But on that night, the Seminoles witnessed an incredible play that brought them another victory over their most-hated rival.

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