By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
The Florida State football program has produced its share of celebratory homecoming game moments through the years, compiling an all-time record of 53-12-1. Still, not all homecoming victories are created equal. Here are five Seminole victories that rank as the most significant and/or memorable in FSU homecoming history.
1. Seminoles Rout No. 5 Kentucky (1964)
The late Bill McGrotha of the Tallahassee Democrat captured Florida State’s first victory over a nationally-ranked opponent on the Oct. 10, 1964 this way: Stop the world! FSU wants it to catch up! The proud Seminoles made Homecoming confetti out of Kentucky’s press clippings…Florida State quarterback Steve Tensi threw three touchdown passes – two to Fred Biletnikoff – and the Seminoles’ “Seven Magnificents” on defense limited Kentucky’s vaunted running attack to 24 yards in a 48-6 victory. The Wildcats’ lone score came with 29 seconds to play, denying coach Bill Peterson’s team a fourth consecutive shutout to begin the season.
2. Busby, Dunn Avenge Loss To Virginia (1996)
Quarterback Thad Busby rallied the No. 3 Seminoles from a halftime deficit with 316 passing yards and a pair of touchdown tosses, as FSU avenged its first and only ACC loss from a year earlier by defeating No. 14 Virginia, 31-24. Busby’s 21-yard TD pass to E.G. Green erased a 17-14 deficit as the Noles ran off 17 unanswered points to start the second half. Rock Preston’s 42-yard touchdown run with 5:54 remaining, after the Seminoles snuffed a fake punt attempt, proved to be the game-winner. Warrick Dunn rushed for 131 yards and Andre Cooper caught seven passes for 102 yards.
3. Noles Down Pack In Double-OT For ACC Title (2003)
Leon Washington’s 12-yard run in the second overtime lifted No. 13 Florida State to a 50-44 victory over the Philip Rivers-led NC State Wolfpack. The Seminoles secured their 11th ACC title and a fourth trip to a BCS bowl game in five years after linebacker Allen Augustin batted down a fourth-down pass from Rivers to Jerricho Cotchery. Washington capped a 121-yard rushing performance by covering 25 yards on two carries, delivering FSU its first overtime win at home. Chris Rix threw three touchdown passes – two to Craphonso Thorpe – as the Seminoles overcame three deficits and a blocked field goal at the end of regulation.
4. Thomas Leads Momentum-Changing Win (1976)
Senior tailback Rudy Thomas scored three touchdowns in a span of 7:23 during the fourth quarter as Florida State rallied from a 17-point deficit with less than 12 minutes remaining to defeat Southern Miss, 30-27 in Coach Bobby Bowden’s first homecoming game. Coming off three consecutive defeats and already assured of a losing season, the Seminoles mounted a furious comeback. Quarterback Jimmy Black’s school-record 95-yard screen pass to Thomas with 4:05 remaining proved to be the game-winner. Thomas had already scored on runs of 10 and 4 yards. It was the first of three consecutive wins to close the season by the Seminoles, who have not had a losing season since.
5. Weatherford Rallies Noles Past Maryland (2005)
Quarterback Drew Weatherford’s 15-yard touchdown run with 8:52 remaining erased a six-point deficit as the 10th-ranked Seminoles dispatched Maryland, 35-27 and moved closer to a spot in the inaugural ACC Championship game. FSU linebacker Ernie Sims’ interception set up fullback James Coleman’s 1-yard TD plunge to seal the win. The Noles squandered a 14-0 first quarter lead, aided by Willie Reid’s 61-yard punt return for a score as the Terrapins countered with 24 unanswered points, to the chagrin of boisterous home crowd. Weatherford’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Greg Carr midway through the third quarter helped stem the tide.