March 23, 2001
FLORIDA STATE’S HOME TURF IS HALLOWED GROUND, BUT THE TIGERS HAVE RIPPED IT UP BEFORE
From the Press Box
By: Rob Wilson
Of all the teams that come into Doak Campbell Stadium, tonight’s opponent is the one which should have reason to feel most confident. Although they have not scored a touchdown in Tallahassee since FSU joined the ACC in 1992, Clemson is the last team to really whip the Seminoles right here in Tallahassee. In fact, the loss to the Tigers in 1989 and the 17-16 loss to Miami in 1991 are the only home losses for FSU since 1987. The difference between the two losses is striking however. Clemson beat FSU in just about every facet of the game en route to their impressive win, while the battle with the Hurricanes ended when they watched a field goal slide just wide.
When one looks at the great dynasties of college football, the great programs, the great periods in the history of the game, the schools that race to memory first generally hold one thing in common – home field dominance. So it is with Florida State University. While much has been written about the Seminoles’ unprecedented streak of 13 straight 10-win seasons and the same number of years of finishing among the Associated Press Top Four, and the statistic that may be most telling, and perhaps most important, is the fact that Doak S. Campbell Stadium has become the best home field advantage in all of college football.
Why is it harder to win in Tallahassee than anywhere else? Naturally, the main reason is that FSU has had the best football program in the country over that span. The Seminoles also enjoy the finest road record of any team in the country over the last 10 years, but there is more to it than that. Perhaps there was magic in those countless bricks molded from Georgia clay which have almost completely encircled the structure once sarcastically described as the “erector set.” Maybe the tradition of Chief Osceola riding Renegade and planting a flaming lance at midfield has become even more exciting – if that’s possible. Or could the now regular crowds of 80,000 fans provide an atmosphere that simply will not allow the other team to succeed?
I suspect it’s the fact that Florida State has learned how to win better than anybody else in the country right now. The Seminoles have had a taste of it every way you can imagine. They’ve been at the top of the heap getting everybody’s best shot, and they’ve been down in the pack trying to scratch and claw their way back to the top. FSU has been in the unenviable position of trying to preserve a perfect record late in six seasons, and have been in the even worse position of trying to bounce back from upsets. Certainly, FSU has seen it all and they know they are not invincible.
Tonight the Seminoles will meet the Tigers in a showdown of historic proportion within the ACC. This is a pressure cooker of a game and the type that everyone had in mind when FSU began to look around in the early `90s for a conference that would fit the academic and athletic missions of our university so well. Still today, we hear fans who suggest that other conferences might have been a better fit for Florida State. While an argument can be made for several conferences as a worthy home for the Seminoles athletically, none could match the academic integrity and stature that the schools making up the ACC offered.
Now, back to the Clemson game. The year was 1989. Florida State was coming off an 11-1 season in 1988 and a win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. Spirits were high in Tallahassee as they seem to have been ever since. Gone were Deion Sanders, Sammie Smith, Steve Gabbard, and Pat Tomberlin, along with a great deal of the bravado that drove the Tribe to become one of the nation’s most popular teams. But back to lead the Seminoles were Peter Tom Willis, Dexter Carter, Odell Haggins and the Fab Four. A preseason ranking of sixth had the Seminoles in the national championship picture, but that did not appear to last long. FSU traveled to Jacksonville and lost to Southern Mississippi quarterbacked by a young, rocket-armed player named Brett Favre.
The Seminoles had little time to regroup after the season-opening loss. Clemson was headed to town bent on revenge for the Puntrooskie play that cost them the game in Tiger stadium the previous year. In fact, the 24-21 win by FSU was one of only two losses for the Tigers who finished 10-2 on the year with a win over 10th ranked Oklahoma in the Citrus Bowl.
And revenge is exactly what Clemson got. Tiger tailback Terry Allen ran like a man possessed, scoring three times in the first half alone, including a 73-yard romp down the sideline just inches in front of a stunned FSU bench. Clemson took a 28-10 lead into halftime, while the Seminoles tried to regroup.
Peter Tom Willis led FSU down the field on a 77-yard drive to open the second half, cutting the lead to 28-16 and reassuring garnet and gold clad fans that all would be well. The Tigers were forced to punt on their next possession and FSU’s drive moved 47 yards with little effort before a fumble killed the possession and permanently shifted the momentum to the other side of the field. Clemson eventually won 34-23 in perhaps the most impressive performance by a visiting team in Doak Campbell in 15 years.
The Tigers are back tonight and the stakes are huge. While revenge fueled their effort in the win 11 years ago, the ultimate carrot of a possible national championship dangles in front of the Tiger’s jaws tonight. The winner of tonight’s game is certainly the odds on favorite to win the ACC Championship and, with that, the leagues spot in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).
The magnitude of the game on a national level is so big that it almost overshadows the fact that it is father vs. son or Bowden Bowl II as so many like to call it. To our Bobby and their Tommy this is more than a game between the two of them. And for everyone around the country and particularly in the ACC, this is one of the four or five games that will decide who plays for the national championship. This game will be all football for all the players and coaches dressed out tonight. Forget that Clemson’s staff includes former FSU football stars Rick Stockstill and Reggie Herring, or Bobby’s son-in-law Jack Hines, or former FSU assistant head coach Brad Scott. This game will be bigger than all the layers of ties that have developed between these two schools. This game is for the ACC championship, a shot at the national championship and a leg up in the always difficult recruiting battles.
With all the intrigue and drama that tonight’s game offers, the whole contest may boil down to one clear command for the Seminoles – defend your home turf. And no one has done that better than FSU for a long time.
Commemorative Bobby Bowden Poster (1996-Present)
Any question as to whether Bobby Bowden would go down in history as one of the greatest coaches in college football history was answered over the last five years. The Seminoles second national title, not to mention a berth in the first-ever BCS national title game, seemed to cement in everyone’s mind his position as one of the game’s all-time greats. This week’s commemorative poster features stars from this era.
The 1996 season was one of the most successful and ultimately most frustrating of the Bobby Bowden era. The Seminoles won all 11 regular season games including a dramatic 24-21 win over rival Florida that assured FSU of a chance to win it’s second national championship. Through a twist of fate, the Tribe found themselves in a rematch with Florida for the second time in three seasons in the Sugar Bowl. FSU’s fortunes turned even worse when an upset of Nebraska the night before the game gave UF hopes of their first-ever national title with a win in the rematch the next night. They did and FSU had to settle for an 11-1 campaign.
A cross country road game at USC started the Seminole’s 1997 season and FSU emerged the winner by a narrow 14-7 score. FSU won it’s next nine straight before a loss at Florida sent them to the Sugar Bowl for the second straight year and a date with Big 10 champion Ohio State. The Tribe proved too much for the Buckeyes with a 31-14 win and the Seminoles finished the year ranked third.
Fate had been cruel to FSU over the last two seasons, but smiled on them in 1998. After suffering only their second loss in ACC history at NC State on September 12, FSU won nine straight to set up a show down in Doak Campbell against Florida. However, quarterback Chris Weinke had been lost for the year with neck injury against Virginia and FSU’s slim national title hopes rested with sophomore backup Marcus Outzen. In one of the greatest wins ever in the series, Outzen and his teammates had Coach Bowden singing in the locker room following a shocking 23-12 win. Then FSU fans everywhere watched a domino-like day of upsets just before the bowl bids were issued that ushered the Seminoles in the BCS’s first-ever national title game against Tennessee. A late onside kick didn’t bounce FSU’s way, however, and the Volunteers won 23-16 at the Fiesta Bowl.
Perfection would follow however as the Seminole’s 1999 campaign would be the only undefeated season ever for Bobby Bowden. Wins on the road against Clemson, Virginia and Florida over the last month of the season toughened FSU’s resolve and the chance to become the only team in the history of college football to go wire-to-wire as the Associated Press No.1 team provided the motivation. The `Noles took on upstart Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and matched the Hokies big play for big play. Sugar Bowl MVP Peter Warrick, one of a record four first-team AP All-Americans for FSU, made an unbelievable juggling touchdown catch that iced the game, and the 46-29 win gave the Seminoles their second national championship in seven years, and elevated the program to the best in the decade of the `90s.
The Florida game program will feature a poster that reflects over the entire 25-year span of Coach Bowden at FSU.