Date: December 1, 1990
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Opponent: No. 6 Florida Gators
Months before this game Mike Tyson was knocked out by Buster Douglas in one of the greatest upsets in boxing history. One day the Florida State program would face a fall of its own, but in the late 1980s and 1990s FSU was like the invincible Iron Mike of old. If Tyson had been de-throned it was only because Florida State had risen and become worthy of filling his gloves, a new heavyweight contender just as proficient at leveling quick devastating hay-makers that destroyed mouths and the best-laid plans.
FSU was only too proud to carry that torch and the 1990s would cement Florida State’s legacy as the most dominant decade any program has ever enjoyed. Tyson went back to his hotel room after the fight and wondered if God was punishing him for being too great. Months later when Florida and Florida State would face each other in Tallahassee with both ranked in the top ten for the first time ever the Seminoles would hold no such fears, nor would they for the rest of the decade.
The 1990 Seminole team had opened the season ranked third in the Associated Press poll before dropping back-to-back October road games against No. 9 Miami (FL) and No. 5 Auburn by a combined twelve points. They regrouped, crushing LSU and South Carolina and found themselves ranked eighth on December 1st.
The day before, the Sun Sentinel had published an article with an interview from Florida cornerback Richard Fain. Florida State’s Fab Four of Terry Anthony, Ronald Lewis, Lawrence Dawsey, and Bruce LaSane had become the Fab One with All-American wide receiver Lawrence Dawsey as the last man left, but Fain was all too familiar with Dawsey:
Two years ago, Dawsey caught a short pass in front of Fain, then plowed through Fain and about a half-dozen other UF defenders for a touchdown in the Seminoles’ 52-17 rout. In last season’s 24-17 FSU victory, Fain ran into Dawsey again after a short pass, and again Fain bounced off while Dawsey continued steaming downfield.
Fain, Florida’s best cornerback, had an understandably tremendous amount of respect for Dawsey, and was determined to not let Dawsey repeat his performance:
“We’ve got to keep Dawsey out of the end zone. Our job is not to shut him down, because I don’t think anyone can do that. We’ve got to try and dictate what kind of catches he does make.”
“A lot of the FSU players were talking trash last season, but I don’t think Dawsey said a word the whole game,” Fain said. “He just went out there and got the job done. He plays hard and clean. I enjoy going against someone like that.”
UF’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jim Bates also had this to say:
“He hasn’t been beaten deep in his area this season. People have been staying away from his side of the field all season, but he’ll have a lot of responsibility Saturday night.”
Déjà vu and hay-makers.
(The full clip is linked at the bottom of the article.)
FSU quarterback Casey Weldon, on FSU’s second play from scrimmage after a four-yard run by Amp Lee, took the snap and rolled to his right. Weldon pump-faked once and launched the ball deep to Dawsey, whose stop-and-go route fooled both Fain and All-American Florida safety Will White so badly Dawsey could have read the newspaper (people did that back then, right?) and still scored.
Dawsey’s 76-yard touchdown sent the Spirit Spear and the then-record 63,190 fans in Doak Campbell Stadium into electric insanity.
And just like that, Florida would join South Carolina and Miami as teams that had felt FSU’s opening hay-maker, and Fain would collect another cherished memory. The Gators would fumble on their offense’s first play from scrimmage and FSU would take a 10-0 lead. Florida’s offense came into the game leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense, but it was FSU that lit up the night, and the Seminoles rolled to a 45-30 victory. It was the second time in school history FSU had beaten the Gators four straight times. Dawsey finished the game with four catches for 172 yards and a new son.
Full clip: Second and 7, Weldon to Dawsey.