The roots of the Florida State-Florida football rivalry sprung from former Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins’ insistence that the state’s two oldest public universities meet on the field – against objections from the Gators and the legislature – beginning in 1958. The first six meetings between the schools were played at the state’s flagship school because Florida State’s facilities were inferior at the time. The bitter beginning has given way to action on the field, which has produced champions, stars and fan-flaming results. Here are the top five games that have stirred the rivalry, which is renewed for a 59th time Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium:
1. 1996 – Florida State 24, Florida 21
In just the fourth regular season finale between unbeaten teams in college football history, the second-ranked Seminoles’ relentless defense knocked the Gators from their perch at No. 1. FSU sacked UF quarterback Danny Wuerffel six times and knocked him down 32 times in all, setting the tone. The Seminoles built a 17-0 first quarter lead, set up by a Shevin Smith interception and Peter Boulware’s blocked punt. Fullback Pooh Bear Williams rumbled for two short scores and Warrick Dunn rushed for a career-high 185 yards. Through a wild turn of events the teams would meet in the Sugar Bowl with a national championship on the line. Florida coach Steve Spurrier fanned the flames before the rematch, alleging the Seminoles played dirty as they battered Wuerffel. The Gators won the rematch for their first national title.
2. 1966 – Florida 22, Florida State 19
Fast approaching 50 years since the match-up at Doak Campbell Stadium, Lane Fenner’s name lives on infamously. The record shows that the Gators won the game behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier’s three touchdown passes, but the debate as to whether Fenner pulled in a 45-yard TD pass from FSU quarterback Gary Pajcic with 17 seconds to play, will rage on forever. The officials said the 6-foot-5 Fenner never had possession of the ball as he slid out of bounds, though photos of the play tell a different story. So did the FSU school newspaper, which proclaimed a Seminoles “victory” as do thousands of fans to this day.
3. 1994 – Florida State 31, Florida 31
Danny Kanell led an NCAA Division I record fourth-quarter rally from a 28-point deficit into the most celebrated tie in Florida State history, most widely referred to by Seminole fans as the “Choke at Doak.” Kanell completed 40 of 53 attempts for 421 yards and a touchdown and the Seminoles erased a 31-3 deficit in the final quarter. Zack Crockett’s 5-yard TD run with 12:59 to play began the onslaught, which included Kanell’s 6-yard TD pass to Andre Cooper and his own 2-yard TD run, which trimmed the deficit to 31-24 with 5:25 remaining. Cornerback James Colzie’s diving interception of a Danny Wuerffel pass at the FSU 40 set up the winning score. A 37-yard swing pass from Kanell to Warrick Dunn led to Rock Preston’s 4-yard touchdown run with 1:45 to play. Dan Mowrey’s extra point tied the game.
4. 2003 – Florida State 38, Florida 34
Chris Rix’s 52-yard touchdown bomb to P.K. Sam with 55 seconds remaining lifted the ninth-ranked Seminoles to a wildly-debated 38-34 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In a game which included four lead changes and a host of hotly disputed calls made by the ACC officiating crew, the afternoon ended with both teams brawling at midfield at the conclusion of the game. The ninth-ranked Seminoles (10-2) celebrated their first 10-win season since 2000, while the 11th-ranked Gators (8-4) saw their SEC title hopes vanish. Ultimately, the great officiating conspiracy led the schools to change their long-standing policy of having officials from the opposing conference oversee the games in the visiting stadium.
5. 1998 – Florida State 23, Florida 12
Things between the No. 5 Seminoles and No. 4 Gators got in the pre-game, when Florida safety Tony George and several FSU were involved in an altercation, resulting in a handful of ejections. In the midst of a melee, UF quarterback Doug Johnson also fired a football across the field in the direction of FSU coach Bobby Bowden. On the field, the Seminoles erased a 12-6 halftime deficit as quarterback Marcus Outzen, in just his second start in place of injured Chris Weinke, threw a 32-yard TD pass to Peter Warrick for a 13-12 lead. Warrick added a 46-yard scoring pass off a reverse handoff to Ron Dugans and Sebastian Janikowski’s third field goal of the game closed the scoring. The Seminole defense pitched a second half shutout and denied the Gators on all 13 third-down attempts. FSU extended its home unbeaten streak to 40 games.