The Daily Nole

20-Year Nole Anniversary: FSU Outlasts Georgia Tech in Top-10 Showdown

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Most Florida State fans are aware of what the Seminoles accomplished during the 1999 season. That year, FSU went 12-0, won its second national championship while becoming the first wire-to-wire No. 1 and delivered legendary head coach Bobby Bowden his only perfect season in Tallahassee.

Although the Seminoles went unblemished and never fell from their No. 1 ranking, they were tested that year. The first test came on this day 20 years ago.

After beating Louisiana Tech 41-7 in the season opener, top-ranked FSU remained at Doak Campbell Stadium to face No. 10 Georgia Tech on Sept. 11, 1999. The Yellow Jackets’ high-scoring offense fueled by quarterback Joe Hamilton and wide receiver Dez White gave Florida State all it wanted, but when all was said and done, FSU prevailed, 41-35.

“I recall it feeling a national championship atmosphere in Doak,” said Tarlos Thomas, a starting tackle for FSU in 1999. “It really set the tone for the season.”

Florida State never trailed in the contest, but for the first half, it was punch and counter-punch. The Seminoles got rushing touchdowns of 17 yards from Peter Warrick and 18 yards from Travis Minor sandwiched around a Chris Weinke touchdown pass to Dan Kendra.

Early on, Hamilton and Georgia Tech had an answer. Hamilton threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to White, a 56-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Campbell and rushed for a 19-yard score to knot the game at 21. The Seminoles managed to take a 28-21 lead into the locker room when Weinke found running back Jeff Chaney on a screen pass for a 29-yard touchdown with just over a minute to play in the first half.

“We knew they couldn’t stop us,” Thomas said. “We knew eventually our defense would get with us.”

FSU’s biggest lead of the night came on Warrick’s second touchdown of the evening — a 26-yard reception from Weinke — on the first possession of the second half. Hamilton’s touchdown toss to Kerry Watkins midway through the third quarter cut the lead in half, but the defense would settle in.

FSU kicker Sebastian Janikowski capped the FSU scoring with field goals of 46 yards late in the third quarter and 45 yards early in the fourth. Hamilton would throw a fourth touchdown pass — this time to Campbell, who made a 1-handed catch — with less than two minutes to play, but FSU would recover the ensuing onside kick to cement the victory.

The Yellow Jackets held the total yardage edge, 501-444, in a contest where neither school forced a turnover. Hamilton went 22-for-25 passing for 387 yards and had his hand in every Georgia Tech touchdown, but ultimately, it was not enough.

Weinke passed for 262 yards in the FSU victory and three scores. Warrick finished with eight catches for 142 yards receiving and 167 yards total. Minor eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground with 122 yards on 22 carries.

The 35 points would be a season-high allowed for FSU, but the defense came through when it matted. Tommy Polley led the Seminoles with 11 total tackles. Defensive ends Jamal Reynolds and Roland Seymour combined for three sacks of Hamilton and five tackles for loss.

Winning close games is something that FSU would do throughout the 1999 campaign with three wins being 1-score games. That doesn’t include the Sugar Bowl in which the Seminoles rallied from a point down in the final quarter to beat Virginia Tech 46-29 for the national championship.

“That’s what shows your character,” Thomas said. “It’s how you respond to adversity and with the game on the line.”

The first of those nail-biters came on this day two decades ago.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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