Nov. 26, 2008 – Scott Kotick, Seminoles.com Columnist
Growing up in Tallahassee, Thanksgiving always meant two things: a gluttonous feast with my family and two days until the Florida game. It was the best three days of the year and the memories of those historic games in Florida State football history will last a lifetime.
My entire family was born and raised in Tallahassee. So as a young kid, I would sit around the dinner table with my uncles and listen to stories from the 1966 game about the famous Lane Fenner touchdown catch from Gary Pajcic that was called off, the Orange Bowls against Oklahoma in the early 1980’s, and the Warrick Dunn touchdown catch in 1993 to set up our first national championship–immortalized by Gene Deckerhoff and Vic Prinzi.
“Ward takes the snap, play action, drops, looks, popped out of the pocket, runs to his left, throws it downfield. It’s caught by Dunn, he’s got the first down to the 40, Dunn to the 50, Dunn down the sideline to the 40, Dunn to the 30, he separates, he’s to the 20, the 10, the 5…Touchdown Florida State! Warrick Dunn on 3rd down!”
That 1993 game was certainly the best game to experience as an eight year-old kid, yet nothing can compare to the fireworks in Tallahassee the next Thanksgiving when the Gators traveled up to Doak Campbell Stadium.
The picture hangs on my wall still to this day: “The Comeback.”
November 26, 1994. Ten of my family members piled in my grandmother’s van and headed down Pensacola Street (still intact at that time) to our spot outside the old yellow Moore Athletics Center to tailgate prior to kickoff.
Walking up to Gate C that day, I realized that there is truly no other atmosphere in college football like Doak Campbell when the Gators come to town and Chief Osceola slides off Renegade, raising the flaming spear high in the air for the world to see. This year was certainly no different.
Florida State took an early 3-0 lead on a Dan Mowrey field goal and then the Gators caught fire and scored 31 unanswered points by the end of the 3rd quarter behind quarterback Danny Wuerffel.
I couldn’t stand it.
“Let’s just go home, we’re going to the Cotton Bowl and I don’t want to see us lose to the Gators,” I said to my uncles who had their heads in their hands and stood aghast at the score.
Now I have one uncle who played baseball at Florida State in the late 1960’s and usually comes to Tallahassee for one football game per year. That year it was the Florida game.
“I’m not leaving until the end of the game, we can still win,” he said.
Aggravation might be the best word to describe our emotion at the time, because only one person out of my ten family members at the game wanted to stay.
Wow, was he right.
Danny Kanell led a flurry of 28 straight points in the 4th quarter to tie the game 31-31 in one of the defining moments in Florida State football history.
The electric atmosphere made Doak Campbell Stadium shake with excitement. The crowd had risen from its quiet slumber into a state of utter disbelief and admiration for the comeback the `Noles had made in less than 15 minutes.
And I almost missed it because I wanted to leave.
Looking back on all the memories from those games 14 years later, the Warrick Dunn touchdown catch, the Comeback, and the Chris Rix hail mary pass to PK Sam in 2003 are just a few of the moments that make this rivalry so special. And they are all symbolic of what it means to be a Florida State fan.
When you’re sitting around the table this Thanksgiving, those moments are sure to come up in your conversations with friends and family over a big plate of turkey–they’ll remind you why this time of year is just so special.
So go ahead and get full on some pumpkin pie or your dessert of choice, and regain your appetite for the best rivalry in college football.
It promises to be yet another great game in the history between the Seminoles and the Gators.
Who knows, this could be the game that you could look back on and say, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t miss that 2008 game.”
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Florida State University or the Florida State University Department of Athletics.