The Daily Nole

FSU’s 1993 National Title Team’s Silver Anniversary — Part XI: Ward and Bentley Deliver FSU

Photo by Bill Frakes /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

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.

As fate would have it, Florida State’s national championship hopes came down to one drive. Trailing 16-15 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1994, Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward trotted onto the field for a final time in an FSU uniform with 1:16 remaining in the contest.

“This was it,” said Clay Shiver, a redshirt sophomore center in 1993. “Your backs are against the wall. Everything is on the line. The Heisman winner is your quarterback.”

“There’s a benefit to being a quiet guy and that’s what Charlie was,” said Kez McCorvey, FSU’s leading receiver in 1993. “You could look over at him and see the confidence. There was no panic. When your leader is calm, the rest of your team responds to that.”

The game would hang in the balance on Florida State’s first set of downs as the Seminoles faced 4th-and-1 from their own 44-yard-line. On a hand-off to fullback William Floyd, the bruiser who had scored FSU’s only touchdown of the night, was hit at the point of attack and squirted beyond the 45-yard-line for a first down.

“You’d rather be on the field as a player, but we were all positive,” said linebacker Todd Rebol, a sophomore at the time. “I would say confidence was high based on what Charlie and the offense had done all year. Your whole season came down to one drive. We certainly had the insight of watching Charlie and the offense practice the 2-minute drill.”

Following Floyd’s fourth down conversion, Ward would find Warrick Dunn out of the backfield for a gain of 21 yards, which was aided by a personal foul penalty to move the ball into the red zone.

“We did two minutes almost every practice,” McCorvey said. “Our own defense was one of the best in the nation. We shredded them in a 2-minute drills. We had done it so many times before.”

After an incomplete pass for McCorvey, a pass interference call on a throw for McCorvey in the end zone put the ball at the Nebraska 3-yard-line. Running back Sean Jackson was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on the ensuing play. Rather than run another the play, the Seminoles sent out Scott Bentley to attempt a 22-yard field goal from the right hash mark.

“It’s a mysterious thing how a team can be down and rise to the occasion when they have to,” Shiver said. “We didn’t want it to come down to a kick, but Scott did a great job.”

Bentley’s kick would be attempted on the same end of the field where Dan Mowrey’s had been pushed wide the year before in FSU’s only loss — a 19-16 defeat at the hand of rival Miami. Bentley had been 3-for-4 on the night when it came to field goals, but none of the prior kicks came with as much pressure.

“I don’t know why, but I thought he would miss,” said Clifton Abraham, a redshirt junior cornerback on the team. “This was a chip shot, but I had seen it too many times. That’s why Scott Bentley was brought there; it was for this moment.”

As Bentley exhaled, the snap was good and so was the hold. More importantly, so was the kick. With 21 seconds remaining, the Seminoles had regained the lead, 18-16.

“Scott Bentley was the No. 1 kicker out of high school,” said Derrick Brooks, an All-American junior linebacker in 1993. “This was why he was brought here; he went out and he executed.”

The Seminoles weren’t out of the woods yet however, although they appeared to be. The Bentley make was followed by an excessive celebration penalty. With what most thought would be the final play of the game on the ensuing Nebraska drive from the Cornhuskers’ 43-yard-line, Tommie Frazier completed a 29-yard pass to Trumane Bell inside the FSU 30-yard-line. Brooks made the tackle in a mob of the Seminoles as the clock expired and players stormed the field.

“Instincts kick in,” Brooks said. “My thought at the time was just to make the stop.”

Officials cleared the field and put one second back on the clock, allowing Nebraska kicker Byron Bennett a chance at a 45-yard field goal to try to steal the first national championship from Florida State and head coach Bobby Bowden.

“One thing about winning is you don’t get used to losing,” McCorvey said. “Losing was never on my mind.”

“I was fortunate to be able to be on the field for the kick,” Rebol said. “We did get some penetration. If you look at the picture from Sports Illustrated, you could see the blood and guts from a lot of guys trying to get through. I remember sitting on the field and looking at the eyes of our team and looking at the eyes of Nebraska. You could tell the magnitude of the situation.”

“I gave all my effort to get through,” Brooks said. “I never saw the kick because I was on the ground.”

Bennett lined up for the try, but from the get-go, the kick had sailed wide to the left.

“You practice and train that when you get into that situation, you don’t fail mentally,” Rebol said. “I had a pretty good look at it. You could see right away, it was pretty well shanked.”

The Seminoles would have to wait for the polls two days later to be released, but a first national championship seemed inevitable.

“The whole game from the delays to putting time back on the clock, I just remember it all just being bananas,” Shiver said. “When he finally shanked it, you remember this feeling as ‘finally’. There was just such a relief.”

The final kick has always been regarded as a bad miss off the foot from Bennett. Abraham however, gives a different account.

“I tipped that ball,” he said. “That’s why it went that way. My hand was still red after the game. Everyone knew I tipped the ball, but it’s something I’ve never really gotten credit for. Now 46 years old, I always thought that could have changed my life.”

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

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