Date: October 3rd, 1992
Location: Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
Opponent: Miami Hurricanes
#3 Florida State traveled to the old Orange Bowl seeking revenge against the #2 Miami Hurricanes, 46 weeks after the first soul-crushing first Wide Right loss in Tallahassee that dashed Bobby Bowden’s championship dreams and Casey Weldon’s Heisman hopes. This was a different looking Seminole football team, with a flashy but erratic QB from Thomasville named Charlie Ward, and a sensational local freshman phenom named Tamarick Vanover. The 6’1”, equally powerful and explosive Leon High School product was fiercely recruited by the Big 3 Florida schools, and chose FSU in surprising fashion on 1992 Signing Day. Entering his team’s 5th game, Vanover already made giant splashes with a 60-yard TD against NC state, and a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown vs. Wake Forest the previous Saturday.
The Miami game kicked off at high noon in sweltering South Florida conditions, as the sellout Orange Bowl crowd of nearly 78,000 was rocking, and spoiler alert...this was game #47 of Miami’s record 58 game home winning streak. You just didn’t win in Miami from 1985 to 1994. Using 1992 parlance, your only hope was to come out swinging with Mike Tyson uppercuts. That’s exactly what the fearless Vanover did the first time FSU touched the football.
Dane Prewitt’s opening kickoff landed in #80’s arms on 6-yard line between the right hash and sideline. Vanover quickly moved to his left, made one defender miss, then kicked into top gear and exploded down the left sideline 94-yards to pay dirt. The only ‘Cane with a chance was the kicker Prewitt’s highly illegal sliding trip tackle attempt that drew a flag(Keith Jackson asked us to “hold the phone” until we determined the touchdown stands). The Orange Bowl was stunned as the Noles dog-piled in the west endzone.
The first of many uppercut punches of the afternoon found its mark. On the ensuing Miami drive, an explosive Horace Copeland catch ended with a fumble and FSU recovery(though it would have been easily overturned in modern times). Charlie Ward quickly returned the favor with an interception and the heavyweight slugfest continued. Later, FSU’s Marvin Jones and Miami’s Michael Barrow would deliver bone-jarring hits of their own, with the latter hit to Vanover’s chin in literal fashion.
We all know how this rivalry chapter ended, but we also vividly remember how this epic football game began. The Top 100 criteria looks unfavorably upon plays in games Florida State lost, but let’s think back to October 3rd, 1992: Charlie Ward threw 4 interceptions in each of FSU’s first 2 contests, and the birth of the “Fast Break” offense in a comeback win at Georgia Tech was still 14 days away. Following Wide Right part 2, Ward & Vanover would only lose one more game as Seminoles(Notre Dame in 1993). These future national champions would soon learn how to come from behind and win. But on a painful, violent day in Miami, they learned how to lose. And that may have been an equally important program-changing moment.
The #3 Noles and #2 Hurricanes would end their 1992 seasons with those same rankings swapped between them.
Vanover went on to win First Team All-American kicker returner as a freshman, culminating with a 76-yard and 80-yard combo against Steve Spurrier’s Gators in November. Glory or bust, Vanover attacked his opportunities with maximum velocity.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone.