By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
Few plays in a football game can turn momentum like a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown, and through the years, Florida State has had more than its share of memorable ones. Some led to championships, of both the national and conference variety. Still others served as signature plays in stellar careers, while contributing to significant wins. That this list comes as the top-ranked Seminoles return to the Carrier Dome for the first Atlantic Coast Conference road date with the host Orange is no small coincidence. So exactly where does Terrell Buckley’s punt return which prompted FSU’s radio voice Gene Deckerhoff famous tag – “The Foola from Pascagoula” – rank? Read on and enjoy a stroll down memory lane while watching five memorable return moments in Seminole history.
1. Kermit Whitfield’s 100-yard kickoff return vs. Auburn
It took 11 seconds for freshman Kermit Whitfield to change the complexion of the 2013 BCS National Championship game against Auburn in the Rose Bowl. Trailing the Tigers 24-20 with 4:42 remaining, Whitfield fielded a kickoff at the goal line, got a key block from Karlos Williams, and dashed past a stunned Auburn sideline for a momentum-swinging touchdown and a 27-24 lead. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston’s 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin delivered the Noles the title with 13 seconds remaining; the only play of the night that could possibly overshadow Whitfield’s return.
WATCH: Whitfield’s Return
2. Peter Warrick’s Sugar Bowl punt return against Virginia Tech
In what proved to be his final college game, Peter Warrick turned in an MVP performance with a wide range of huge plays, leading the No. 1 Seminoles to a perfect season and the 1999 National Championship with a 46-29 Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech. Warrick helped FSU open up a 28-7 lead in the third quarter when he sprinted past the Hokies’ vaunted special teams with a 59-yard punt return for his second of three touchdowns on the night. The Noles would need every one of Warrick’s points – he scored a bowl record 20 – as the Hokies rallied with 22 unanswered points before the Chris Weinke and Warrick-led Seminoles scored the final 18 on that memorable Jan. 3, 2000 night in New Orleans.
WATCH: Warrick’s National Championship Punt Return
3. Terrell Buckley’s infamous return to beat the Orange in ‘89
The Seminoles arrived at the Carrier Dome on Oct. 7, 1989 ranked No. 22 and an underdog against No. 17 Syracuse, which was working on a school-record 16-game home winning streak. Early in the third quarter, Terrell Buckley helped put that streak to an end. Fielding a punt at his own 31, Buckley stood perfectly still, acting as if he had signaled for a fair catch. He hadn’t, and when the Orange cover unit stopped, he took off, dodging one defender to his left, then cutting through middle. When the 69-yard return was complete, so was the Syracuse win streak as FSU cruised to a 41-10 win.
WATCH: “The Foola from Pascagoula”
4. Willie Reid’s return against Virginia Tech in the first ACC title game
The Seminoles arrived in Jacksonville for the inaugural ACC Championships Game on Dec. 3, 2005, riding a three-game losing streak and squaring off against No. 5 Virginia Tech. The two teams were dead-locked at 3-3 early in the third quarter when Hokie Nic Schmitt punted to FSU’s Willie Reid. Just 83 yards and seconds later – with a host of juked Hokies in his wake – Reid gave the Seminoles the lead and the momentum on the way to a 27-22 win for their 12th ACC title in 14 seasons.
WATCH: Reid’s ACC Championship Return
5. The Bill Moremen/T.K. Wetherell’s collaboration vs. Miami
In a wild, see-saw affair on Sept. 24, 1966 against Miami at the Orange Bowl, Seminoles Bill Moremen and T.K. Wetherell (yes, the former FSU president), teamed up on a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 23-20 victory. With the Noles trailing 13-7 in the second quarter, Moremen collected the kickoff at the six and raced to the 17, where he stopped in his tracks and lateralled the ball backward to Wetherell, who raced untouched down the sideline. At the time, the kickoff return ranked as the second-longest in FSU history. A year earlier, the Moremen/Wetherell combo pulled off the same play – covering 100 yards – in a loss to Kentucky.