Head Coach Bobby Bowden coaching his 28th season at Florida State
Sept. 20, 2003
By Katy Baker and Kurt Wisenbaugh, FSU Sports Information
A decade ago, the Florida State University football team embarked on a campaign that would be forever remembered in the annuals of the program’s history. It was in 1993, after years of near misses, that legendary head coach Bobby Bowden commandeered his 18th edition of the Seminoles to its first national title in school history.
In Bowden’s hand was a full house of talent in 1993, which included the nation’s most decorated player in quarterback Charlie Ward and all-world linebacker Derrick Brooks, among many others. It was a team that used unity, leadership and a little luck to lay claim to FSU’s first crystal football.
The Seminoles became a national power under Bowden in the 1980’s and FSU had its fair share of teams that came oh-so-close to winning a national title. Many FSU faithful wondered when the title crown would land in Tallahassee. Prior to 1993, Bowden coached eight teams that finished in the top four nationally, including his 1987 and 1992 squads that finished second in the nation.
It was widely believed that any chance of a title for FSU in 1993 would have to go through South Bend, Ind., in a match-up featuring the top two teams in the country. Florida State’s game at Notre Dame was dubbed the “Game of the Century,” and it lived up to the hype. Despite a strong effort, Ward and the Seminoles fell just short of a comeback win over the Irish. Once again, fans thought the Seminoles would “just miss” another title. However, just a week later, the luck left the Irish when they lost to Boston College, which propelled the Seminoles to a No. 2 ranking. A 62-3 thrashing of NC State and a thrilling 33-21 win at Florida to end the regular season set up a climatic gridiron classic against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl with the national title on the line.
The 1994 Orange Bowl would be a replay of the 1993 bowl game in which FSU defeated the Cornhuskers, 27-14. A victory this time around, however, would not come as easily for Bowden and his Seminoles, with the title coming down to a shootout between the kickers. In a game dominated by superb defense on both ends, the game would see three field goals attempted in the final 1:16, each with lead-changing implications. After a successful three-pointer, Nebraska took a 16-15 lead with 1:16 on the clock. Ward drove the Tribe down to the Cornhuskers’ five-yard line to set up Scott Bentley’s game-winning 22-yard field goal with just 21 ticks left in the game. It seemed as if the game was won, but Nebraska was not ready to call it a day and managed to position itself for yet another field goal, yet another chance at victory. But it wasn’t to be. With one second left in the game, Nebraska’s field goal attempt sailed wide left and the Seminoles wrapped up their first 12-win season and earned Florida State’s first football national championship.
Bowden has guided the Seminoles to its pinnacle in the past 10 years beginning with his first title run. As FSU celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 1993 season this year, Bowden has seen his share of team and personal accomplishments since hoisting the Sears’ Trophy following the 18-16 Orange Bowl victory over No. 1 Nebraska.
In the past 10 years, Bowden has won his second national title with his first undefeated season in 1999 and guided the first team in NCAA history to begin and end the season as No. 1; surpassed the 300-career win mark and with 335 victories, is now listed second on the all-time coaching victories list; led FSU to Top-five finishes eight straight years (1993-2000); won nine Atlantic Coast Conference titles; led the Seminoles to five national championship games (1993, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 and coached 16 consensus All-Americans and three Academic All-Americans.
Recently, Bowden took time out of his very hectic schedule to talk a little Seminole football…
What were your expectations going into the 1993 season?
It was kind of one of those years where you didn’t expect to win a national championship. We had lost a lot of kids from the year before and we started the year off with three crucial injuries. It just didn’t look like it was going to be the type of year it turned out to be. But because of plays from a couple outstanding players, we were able to win a national championship.
What would you say separated the ’93 team from your other Seminole squads?
Well, a couple of breaks. We had so many 11-win seasons; any of those teams could have won it. You really have to have a big break to win a championship. When Notre Dame lost to Boston College, it moved us to No. 2 and Nebraska to No. 1, which moved us ahead of Notre Dame. If they hadn’t of lost that game to Boston College, then we would never have gotten our chance to play for the national championship. So that team had a break and maybe some of those other teams that went 11-1, if they had gotten a break, they could have won the national championship. So when you say what sets them apart, it’s probably just a break or one play somewhere down the line.
What did you learn or take from the ’93 season?
I didn’t get anymore out of that than any other season, except we did win a national championship. That’s the number one prize in college football and we got that. But you learn more when you lose than when you win.
Which player would you say stood out the most from the ’93 team and why?
Charlie Ward would definitely be number one. He was our top-standing player, probably one of the best quarterbacks ever in college football. He just had everything, run, pass, everything. He was a good, solid leader and that was it, he just had everything.
Do you feel the game of football has changed very much in the past 10 years?
Football continually runs in cycles. Sometimes the option-style teams win and everyone runs the option, then the defense catches up. Then the defense gets ahead of the ops teams and the offense comes up with something new. It just goes round and round. So has it changed? Yes, it changes every 10 years. But the basics never change; the blocking and tackling don’t change.
Where do you see the Seminole program 10 years from now?
Well, we’ll still have the same potential we have now. I don’t know what other people are going to do, but there’s no reason this program should go anywhere but forward. I promise we can’t rise much higher than we already have in the last 15 years. We’ve been at the very pinnacle, we haven’t in the last two years but in the past 15 years we have.
In your 37 years of coaching, what has been the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given?
There are so many good things. My dad gave me some advice years ago that was very much meaningful to me. He used to say, “Bobby, you’re as good as anybody.” That is pretty good advice because you may doubt yourself as you grow up. You think you’re not good enough or you can’t do it and for him to say something like that let me know I am good enough and I can do it. I tell my sons the same thing. You’ve got to feel that way in your own business, that you are as good as the next guy.
Are you looking forward to seeing players from the ’93 team?
Well, it’s always great to see these boys come back. It’s always nice to have them back and being the first national championship team, that makes them something special. Some of those kids have turned into outstanding citizens such as Derrick Brooks who is now a FSU Trustee, Charlie who is playing in the NBA and others have done real well.