TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State will celebrate its newly-minted, unprecedented bowl streak with its first ever appearance in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl.
The Seminoles, in their FBS-record 36th consecutive bowl game, will meet an old friend from the past when they face the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles on Dec. 27 at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La.
Southern Miss was once a mainstay on Florida State’s football schedules. The two met 22 times between 1952 and 1996, and 10 times during the 1970s and 80s.
Florida State is 27-16-2 all-time in bowl games, and 13-8-1 against the Eagles.
Seminoles keep the streak alive!
— NCAA Football (@NCAAFootball) December 2, 2017
“I gotta say, it means the world to me,” said interim coach Odell Haggins, who will be making his 29th FSU bowl appearance as a player or assistant. “But it’s not about me. It’s about our kids. It’s about this university.”
Florida State’s run of bowl games includes three national championship victories, three more appearances in the title game and, more recently, five straight appearances in a BCS/New Year’s Six Bowl Game.
FSU won’t be playing for a major championship in Shreveport, but, given the road they traveled to get there, their visit to the Independence Bowl might be as satisfying as any that this current group of Seminoles has experienced.
As they entered November, the Seminoles were 2-5, coming off a lopsided loss at Boston College and in serious danger of finishing with a losing record for the first time in more than 40 years.
It was then, though, that the Seminoles found a rallying cry: They wanted to protect “35 and 40” – a reference to the Seminoles’ active streaks of 35 straight bowl games and 40 straight winning seasons.
“We don’t want to be the team that ends the streak,” cornerback Levonta Taylor said at the time.
They wouldn’t be. With their place in history in mind, the Seminoles stormed back to win four of their next five games, with their only loss coming after a close, fourth-quarter affair at No. 1 Clemson.
Along the way, the Seminoles turned things around with a close win against Syracuse, throttled Delaware State on homecoming, then beat the Florida Gators for a school-record fifth straight year.
A week later, FSU cleared perhaps the biggest hurdle of all by coming together with Haggins for a 42-10 win over ULM less than 24 hours after coach Jimbo Fisher’s surprise departure.
“It was just a rollercoaster,” junior safety Derwin James said after the game.
“We went through a lot of adversity this year with injuries, hurricanes and different stuff. … Being able to get through it and get this last home win to get to a bowl game was just a great feeling.”
FSU has a somewhat colorful history with Southern Miss. The Brett Favre-led Golden Eagles beat FSU in Jacksonville at the start of the 1989 season, and, the year before, Deion Sanders returned an interception for a touchdown that sparked a 49-13 FSU win.
Victories over USM also highlighted Bobby Bowden’s first season in 1976, as well as undefeated regular seasons in 1979 and 1996.
There are a surprising number of connections between FSU and Southern Miss. They include:
The Seminoles and Golden Eagles have also played 25 times on the hardwood — which includes 18 meetings as members of the old Metro Conference — with another meeting scheduled for Dec. 21 in Tallahassee.
“We are honored to be playing in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl and representing Florida State University in Shreveport,” Haggins said. “We are happy to extend our bowl streak that means so much to everyone associated with the program.”