Date: October 7th, 1989
Location: The Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
Opponent: Syracuse (formerly) Orangemen
The Top 100 Countdown takes us back to 1989 for the second time this week.
As Tomahawk Nation’s Matt Minnick described in detail, the transition from 1988’s talent laden senior class to 1989 started out with 2 losses and falling out of the AP polls.
The greatest that ever was, Deion Sanders, was gone.
Senior Leroy Butler was a stud in his own right, but Bobby Bowden needed one more play maker. He needed another ball hawk, someone with unwavering confidence bordering on cockiness. Enter Terrell Buckley, the true freshman cornerback from Pascagoula, Mississippi. Like Sanders, Buckley was also a 2-sport standout in football and baseball. Now let’s set our minds right for the week of October 1989, when the #9 Billboard song was perfect for Play #33 in the countdown.
The Seminoles traveled to Syracuse looking to continue their arduous climb back up the rankings, landing at #22 as they squared off against Don McPherson’s overmatched Orange(men) squad. Don’t let the box score stats like time of possession or total play count in Syracuse’s favor confuse you: This was a slaughter. Not even a shanked 6-yard punt by freshman punter Charlie Ward could help.
FSU’s team speed and ferocity was overwhelming on the Carrier Dome artificial turf, snapping Syracuse’s 16 game home winning streak. 10 defensive sacks and an 87-yard Pick 6 by starting cornerback Leroy Butler paved the way to a dominating 41-10 Seminole victory. Afterwards, coach McPherson told the media, “I appreciate Bobby laying off us at the end”
But the most indelible play of the afternoon came courtesy of the aforementioned #27 Terrell Buckley, 2nd string cornerback and starting punt returner. Midway through the 3rd quarter, FSU forced yet another Syracuse punt while leading 20-3. Buckley fielded the punt at his own 31 yard line’s right hash mark, held the football at his side motionless for a full second while baiting the return team to sleep, then busted a move.
(Top 100 Spoiler Alert: Buckley wove through defenders in a play eerily similar to a future countdown play in mirrored fashion, where a previously mentioned cornerback knifed through an orange-based coverage unit the year prior)
Great audio from Sunshine Sports’ play-by-play announcer Paul Kennedy, who during the live return quipped, “He feigned everyone!”
How surprising was the unorthodox play? He fooled his own head coach. “Funny thing, I looked up, and I just assumed he had called the fair catch. Next thing, I looked up and there he was running for a touchdown” remarked Bowden after the game. Unbeknownst to Bobby, Buckley had successfully pulled off the possum touchdown play multiple times in high school.
But the best quote of the game came from the Syracuse head coach:
“FSU has the best speed in the country,” said McPherson. “When they get prancing, they prance – they can strut, they have pizzazz!”
Wait a minute. Was he taking a veiled shot at Terrell Buckley? Probably not. However, it’s a little known fact that Buckley’s major at the time was....Theater. Although Buckley returned to earn his degree in Criminology after a storied NFL career, he did in fact major in theater during his first stint in Tallahassee. And the acting classes paid off against Syracuse.
Buckley joined the Florida State coaching staff in various roles from 2007 to 2011, and has worked his way into an excellent safeties coach at Mississippi State. Though he ultimately remained in Starkville, many Nole fans clamored for a 2nd Buckley homecoming this offseason when Willie Taggart overhauled the FSU staff. That’s because the affectionately nicknamed T-Buck is a beloved Seminole legend, and his #27 is among the only 10 jerseys/numbers retired at Doak Campbell Stadium prior to the 2018 season(where Peter Warrick becomes the 11th). Make no mistake, Terrell Buckley was the best of the best, regardless of his prime time predecessor.
Buckley’s 3-year statistics and accolades are mind blowing, but those numbers will have to wait, as we haven’t heard the last of T-Buck in the countdown.
Bonus Audio: Gene Deckerhoff’s call of The Foolah from Pascagoula