The 10th anniversary of Florida State's 1999 national championship season is reason to celebrate. The Seminoles were the first team to go wire-to-wire ranked No. 1 and remain the only undefeated team in program history. On the day the champions return to Doak Campbell Stadium to be honored, here is the third of six feature stories appearing in Game Time this season, recapping the most memorable moments in a game-by-game look at the 12-0 campaign.
Seminoles' stars had a way of making everyone on the roster better
From Peter Warrick to Chris Weinke, and Sebastian Janikowski to Corey Simon, Florida State's 1999 squad had more than enough fire-power on the roster to overwhelm virtually every opponent.
That's not surprising when you consider the roster included 31 players who would one day play in the NFL.
But what set Bobby Bowden's only unbeaten team apart was its sense of purpose and focus; qualities strengthened in the aftermath of the 1998 national championship game loss to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
"When we came in as freshmen we had one of the top classes, as Florida State always did," said special teams captain Todd Frier, a senior on the '99 team. "We thought we'd win two or three national championships.
"By the time we were seniors, it was kind of like it slapped us in the face. ... It was our last opportunity. Ever since we lost to Tennessee, it carried us through the offseason. There was a sense of urgency and the seniors helped the underclassmen understand that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Seizing on that opportunity would not be easy. The Seminoles were a marked team, ordained as No. 1 in the preseason. Along the way they would encounter a handful of challenges on the field, and be dealt adversity off it. A less resolute team may not have been able to cope with the week-to-week pressure to perform.
Yet this team was different, even before setting itself apart with wire-to-wire perfection.
That single-mindedness enabled the Seminoles to overcome the midseason suspension of Warrick - arguably the nation's top player - and the dismissal of fellow wide receiver Laveranues Coles.
Players in supporting roles, like rock-solid punter Keith Cottrell, tight end Ryan Sprague, do-it-all tailback Jeff Chaney and Frier, found ways to contribute to the championship cause.
"The thing that I remember about that ballclub and those (star) players was, as good as they were on the field, they were that good as leaders as well, if not better," said Cottrell. "We were never in a panic. I can never remember thinking at any point in that season that we were not going to pull a game out.
"You totally believed in the guys around you, not only that they were going to make the plays, but because of the way that they carried themselves. That team functioned as one unit."
Today, a majority of those '99 Seminoles return; some for the first time in many years - as husbands, fathers and professionals in other fields. They come back with a source of pride.
"This is the first time we've ever been all together back for a football game," said Frier, who will be accompanied by his wife Carmon, a former FSU cheerleader, and their 6-year-old daughter Carson. "I'm just so excited to be a part of it. I can't wait for my little girl to see what we've been talking about."
There is an overwhelming sense of pride and achievement among the group, and deservedly so.
"We took everybody's best shot, but we had great talent, a great coaching staff and worked so hard," Cottrell said. "We were not going to be denied."
Florida State 51, Duke 23
It was hard to argue Bobby Bowden's assertion that his Seminoles were seemingly improving with each quarter, especially after they followed a 21-point first quarter against Duke with 23 in the second, building a 44-0 halftime lead.
Quarterback Chris Weinke tossed five touchdown passes, four in the first half, as the Seminoles scored on each of their first eight possessions. Peter Warrick collected three TD receptions and pitched in a 35-yard scoring pass to Laveranues Coles.
"The thing I remember about that game was Peter Warrick threw a (touchdown) pass to Coles," said Bowden." We put Peter back in the shotgun and he sprinted out to his right and hit Coles down about the 10-yard line. That was the first time we'd ever done that. Usually when Pete was in the shotgun it was run, so we changed it up."
Duke, which sold its home game to Jacksonville for $800,000, was intercepted three times as the Seminoles pushed their season theft total to 12 through five games.
"Usually blowouts are when your defense is intercepting passes, you're returning punts or picking up fumbles and returning them for touchdowns," Bowden said. "That's what blows a game open. That's what we were doing those days."
Ron Dugans collected a career-high 141 receiving yards, highlighted by his 84-yard scoring grab from Weinke after the Blue Devils had rattled off 13 unanswered points. Sebastian Janikowski tacked on three field goals.
Cornerback Tay Cody, safety Chris Hope and linebacker Brian Allen each collected errant Duke passes. Many also remember the game because it was the last for Coles, who was dismissed from the team two days later for his part in an illegal shopping spree, which also led Warrick to a multiple game suspension
Florida State 31, Miami 21
The Seminoles continued their recent mastery of the Hurricanes, scoring their fifth consecutive victory in the storied series. Still, it wasn't easy.
Capitalizing on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Weinke to tight end Ryan Sprague, FSU erased a 21-14, second quarter deficit to forge a 21-21 halftime deadlock.
"We hit the old tight end down the middle," said Bowden, who was constantly questioned about the lack of production from the tight end position. "You remember old Ryan Sprague. 'Why don't you ever throw to the tight end?' We finally did, for a touchdown and we got ahead of them. They were matching us touchdown-for-touchdown that day."
Sprague's scored came on a play-action pass from Weinke, who "faked the off-tackle play and (Sprague) was all alone."
The halftime tie would not have been possible had Tommy Polley not blocked a first quarter field goal attempt by Andy Crossland; one of many big special teams plays over the course of a perfect season. Janikowski broke the tie with a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter before tailback Travis Minor salted the victory away with a 2-yard run. Minor finished the day with 146 rushing yards, capped by his score which was set up when Weinke and Dugans connected on a 54-yard pass play.
FSU's defense pitched a second half shutout, limiting Miami and sizzling quarterback Ken Dorsey to 166 total yards in the second half as the 'Noles won their 27th consecutive game at Doak Campbell Stadium.