The Daily Nole

FSU’s 1993 National Title Team’s Silver Anniversary — Part IX: Ward to Dunn Does in the Gators

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It’s been 25 years since Florida State claimed its first national championship. The 1993 team delivered FSU college football’s ultimate prize for the first time. In a multi-part series commemorating the silver anniversary of Florida State’s first title team, we’ll be remembering that season with five former players who played a prominent role in the team’s success.

Following a Senior Night thrashing of NC State, Florida State prepared to make a short trip south to take on rival Florida. The Seminoles had regained their No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll after losing to Notre Dame two weeks prior, but Florida was no pushover. The Gators were 9-1 and ranked seventh in the country.

“We never anticipated it being easy,” said Todd Rebol, a sophomore linebacker on the 1993 team. “When you’re a top-ranked team, you’re every team’s national championship game.”

FSU had blasted Florida the year before in Tallahassee, 45-24. In their last trip to Gainesville however, the Seminoles were stifled, 14-9. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, more affectionately known by the Gator faithful as The Swamp, was a place that Florida had yet to lose under fourth-year head coach Steve Spurrier.

Most of the way, it appeared as though the Seminoles might rout Florida again. Behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Charlie Ward, including two to Kez McCorvey, and a pair of Scott Bentley field goals, FSU took a 27-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

After Florida scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Terry Dean to Willie Jackson, it looked as though FSU would put the final nail in the coffin. The Seminoles reached the Florida 9-yard-line on the ensuing possession, but fullback William Floyd fumbled and Florida would recover.

With less than six minutes to go, the Gators cut the lead to six on an improbable 31-yard touchdown grab by Jack Jackson on a throw from Dean that was was juggled multiple times. After consecutive incomplete passes to start the ensuing drive, FSU faced a 3rd-and-10 from its own 21-yard-line and The Swamp was rocking as momentum was with Florida and things seemed to be slipping away.

“At Florida State, we never felt like a game was out of our control,” McCorvey said. “Those thoughts don’t come to your mind. It wasn’t a situation where we were going to lose. My mindset was just to finish these guys off.”

On third down, Ward was flushed to his left where he hit freshman running back Warrick Dunn in stride for first down yardage. With one block from Tamarick Vanover and the speed to outrun defenders, Dunn took the ball 79 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown.

“We were getting ready to go back out on the field,” said Clifton Abraham, a starting cornerback on the 1993 team. “Florida was the loudest stadium I had ever been in and it had never been louder before that play. They had all the momentum. When Charlie threw that ball, it was just a blessing.”

“We never panicked,” said Derrick Brooks, a junior linebacker on the 1993 team. “I think the Notre Dame game two weeks before that helped us to stay calm. Warrick was making plays throughout the year. He was in position to make a play and he did it.”

Rebol and center Clay Shiver, a redshirt sophomore at the time, shared similar memories in listening to the shift in crowd noise.

“It’s certainly a tough place to play,” Shiver said. “One of the things I remember most is when they missed those tackles and everybody could see that he was going to score, our fans behind us suddenly sounded louder than theirs. You knew — because they knew — that it was over.”

The 79-yard touchdown put the finishing touches on a 33-21 victory over Florida. It also likely put the finishes touches on Ward’s Heisman Trophy bid as he finished the day with 446 yards passing and four touchdowns.

“As a player, I don’t know that the emotion ever goes through your head that it’s slipping away,” Rebol said. “In the trenches, you’re trying to figure out how to stop it. With your lead slipping away in a hostile environment, there’s definitely an intensity there. I don’t think it surprised anybody that they were able to get back in the game. It was more surprising that we were up by so much early.”

Dunn finished with 173 yards of offense on just 14 touches while Matt Frier caught 11 passes for 126 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Toddrick McIntosh had 2.5 of FSU’s six sacks. Corey Sawyer and James Colzie each came away with interceptions for an FSU defense that held the Gators to -33 yards rushing. Still, it was Dunn’s catch that will long be the lasting memory from that contest in Gainesville.

“In my mind, the amount of noise from before that play to after we scored, I just heard all that noise just swing to the Florida State section,” Rebol said. “The emotional swing from the third down to the Warrick Dunn play was an absolute back breaker for them. It doesn’t matter that you’re Florida State, you know it’s not going to be easy to win at Florida. It was very much a knockout punch.”

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

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