The Daily Nole

15-Year Nole Anniversary: FSU Obliterates Virginia in Top-10 Match-Up

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Over the years, doubters and a prime time kickoff always seemed like a perfect opportunity for Florida State to rise to the occasion. That was the case on this day 15 years ago as the Seminoles manhandled Virginia in a top-10 match-up, 36-3.

Virginia was 5-0, ranked sixth in the country and had not played a game decided by closer than 20 points when it arrived at Doak Campbell Stadium for a prime time match-up on Oct. 16, 2004. No. 7 FSU was on a 4-game winning streak after dropping the season opener against Miami, but had struggled the week before on the road against a Syracuse team that had been shut out 51-0 by Purdue and blasted by the Cavaliers 31-10 earlier in the season.

“That was an epic night,” recalled Leroy Smith, a senior cornerback for FSU’s 2004 squad. “I remember Derrick Brooks, Burt Reynolds, so many big names on the sideline. Virginia came in undefeated and everyone was talking about them.”

The Cavaliers were propelled by a run-heavy attack fueled by backs Alvin Pearman, Wali Lundy and shifty quarterback Marques Hagans. Defensively, the linebacker tandem of Ahmad Brooks and Darryl Blackstock was one of the best in the ACC and headlined a defense that came in allowing just 11.8 points per contest.

“It was a tradition we were carrying,” Smith said. “We were used to playing talented teams. It was similar to a Miami or a Florida game. The atmosphere was amazing.”

For the first quarter and a half, the defenses dominated the contest. The lone score of the opening quarter was an FSU safety that came on a blocked punt by linebacker Ernie Sims that rolled out the end zone. Kicker Xavier Beitia would add a short field goal early in the second quarter to extend the Seminoles’ lead to 5-0. Shortly after that, the offense started clicking.

“Defensively, we were fired up,” Smith said. “We knew as a defense that we had to set the tone. The offense fed off us. If the offense was clicking, we were tough to beat.”

FSU found the end zone for the first time with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half on a 6-yard run by Lorenzo Booker. Booker would finish the game with 123 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on the night, but it was redshirt sophomore quarterback Wyatt Sexton, making just his third career start, that stole the show.

Despite five drops, Sexton finished 20-for-26 passing for 275 yards and a touchdown. That scoring strike went to Chauncey Stovall from 24 yards out with 2:33 to play in the half after the FSU defense had forced a 3-and-out. Stovall would finish with 70 yards receiving on three catches while Willie Reid, an FSU junior, led the Seminoles with 71 yards.

The Cavaliers would break up the shutout on a short field goal as the first half clock expired to cut it to 19-3 at the break, but momentum would never shift. Virginia reached midfield on the opening drive of the second half, but an interception by safety Jerome Carter thwarted any scoring opportunity.

Carter tallied a team-high 10 tackles for the Seminoles and his pick served as the game’s only turnover. Smith recalls one slipping through his hands.

“The year before, they ran a lot of out routes,” Smith said. “I remember getting a perfect read on one and making a break. I started running before I caught the ball. It hit me right in the face and I dropped it.”

The dropped pick would serve as one of the minor miscues for an FSU defense that sacked Virginia quarterbacks four times and held the Cavaliers to just 20 yards rushing on 29 carries. Sims recorded two of the four sacks to go with nine total tackles and the blocked punt.

Carter’s pick would set up a 32-yard field goal by Beitia to extend the lead back to 19. The Seminoles put the nail in the Virginia coffin with a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter by Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. FSU finished with 192 yards rushing on nearly five yards per carry and 470 yards of total offense.

Coming in, FSU had lost six straight contests to top-10 teams. The win served as FSU’s first over a higher-ranked opponent since 1998 and denied the Cavaliers their first-ever road win over a top-10 team.

“It was one of those games that remind you why you come to Florida State,” Smith said. “I wasn’t surprised. It was just one of those epic nights that I’ll never forget.”

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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