Date: November 26th, 1994
Location: Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Opponent: No. 7 Florida Gators
It’s a game that requires little background information. No reason to tell a story that everyone has their own version of...and has marinated in its delicious glory for nearly 24 years now. Instead, there’s a few questions that must be answered:
A: Were you there?
2: Did you stay the entire game?
D: Are you telling the truth?
*This may or may not be the only play from a game universally deemed “The Choke at Doak”
*Hint: It’s Not
Let’s fast forward the action, shall we?
First Half = Very Bad.
Danny Wuerffel & Insanely Deep UF Receivers = Very Good
3rd Quarter = Not Good, Bob
4th Quarter = Backs Against Wall, Embarrassment Closing In Fast
Everybody up to speed now?
Trailing 31-3 at home, the #4 Florida State Seminoles had less than a quarter of football remaining to try and save face. Winning the game was an improbable goal at this point. Everything would have to go FSU’s way on an afternoon where the Gators toyed with their rival from the opening drive. It was like being in a 3-point shooting contest where you needed to drain 9 straight shots after bricking the first 16. No margin for error.
Then the shots starting falling.
Every Danny Wuerffel deep pass that found its target in the first 3 quarters began missing by inches and finding the Doak grass...or a Seminole defender’s outstretched arms.
Every 3rd down play that moved the chains earlier was stopped short in dramatic fashion.
Every slamming door within the Gator defense began to swing slightly ajar in the 4th quarter, or Warrick Dunn would invent his own holes along the sideline.
Shot, after shot, after shot, after shot.
With each subsequent play the delirious crowd was whipped into a higher level of joyful derangement, into an emotion thought too wild to top just one moment before.
Danny Kanell’s first career rushing touchdown? Sure.
4th-string receiver Aaron Dely(coming into the game with 1 catch for 4 yards in 1994) accidentally finding himself on the field and making a sideline catch...Why not? Nothing had to make sense anymore. It was full-on bananas time.
In the spirit of comebacks, FSU freshman running back Rock Preston was given the chance to atone his 1st quarter lost fumble inside the Gator 10 yard line.
Down 31-24, 3rd and goal from the UF 4.
I-Formation. Future NFL fullback Zack Crockett leading the way. The Gator linebacker might as well be standing on the CSX tracks. Rock Preston runs into the hole towards the block/felony battery, side steps right, and then jets into the white painted endzone.
In the final year before the NCAA outlawed removing your helmet in celebration, Preston takes full advantage of the lax rules and pours his raw emotions into Doak’s scintillated north end zone. His subsequent dance is best described as 2 parts Deion Sanders, 1 part Michael Flatley Riverdance.
Bobby Bowden is now faced with a monumental decision on the point after touchdown: Go for 2 and the outright win, or kick the extra point and guarantee you didn’t come all this way just to lose by 1?
In the author’s humble opinion, history has proven Bobby’s choice wise 24 years later. The added benefit of sending Steve Spurrier home with an actual loss was not worth the risk of squandering a then NCAA-record comeback. And many Nole fans that experienced first-hand a surreal 45 minutes of Florida State football will tell you that at that moment, denying UF a win was a victory in itself that day.
You stayed until the end. Or at least that’s what you tell people.