Date: January 1, 1994
Location: Miami Orange Bowl Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Opponent: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Scott Bentley was the most sought-after and high-profile kicking prospect in the history of college football when he decided to enroll at Florida State in 1993. Never before had a kicking prospect been so coveted by the powerhouse programs of college football. For Coach Bobby Bowden, Bentley’s commitment ultimately paid dividends for the Seminoles...to the detriment of Tom Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
As K-Man laid out in our No. 93 play in the countdown, Bentley was one of a kind. Take, for example, his recruitment:
After he had said thanks but no thanks to Nebraska, Cornhusker coach Tom Osborne flew out to Colorado to meet him anyway. Come here, Miami had told Bentley, and you can kick and play receiver. In all, more than 90 schools had offered him scholarships. By January he had narrowed his choices down to Florida State and Notre Dame. The Seminoles had greeted him as if he were a soccer-style kicking messiah, the missing link to the national championship that has so long eluded them. Fighting Irish head coach Lou Holtz, meanwhile, had promised Bentley the starting kicker’s and punter’s jobs for four years. Bentley’s father, Bob—Notre Dame, class of ‘67—had told him to listen to Holtz.
Well, did he think he could kick it out of the end zone?
Bentley’s response to Amato has become part of his growing legend: “Probably. But if I don’t, I’ll make the tackle.”
For the scores of college football recruiters who courted Bentley, Overland coach Tony Manfredi had this advice: “Don’t treat him like a kicker. Treat him like a football player, or you’ll lose him.”
Seminole coach Bobby Bowden grasped that. Holtz did not. “You’ll only have to practice for a half hour,” Holtz told Bentley. “Then you can go and play golf.”
”I don’t want to play golf,” says Bentley. “I want to run 40’s with [Seminole wide receiver] Tamarick Vanover.”
-Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated: August 29th, 1993 “A Sure Three”
Bentley’s decision to enroll at Florida State was an interesting one given FSU’s recent history of kicking woes. FSU fans don’t want to relive the gut-wrenching history of Wide Right I that cost No. 1 Florida State a chance at a title in 1991 or No. 3 Florida State a chance at a title in 1992. Enter the freshman Bentley in 1993.
The 1993 season was a magical one for FSU, and culminated in a berth in the 1994 Federal Express Orange Bowl for a shot at the program’s first national title. Of all the bowl games and all the venues, the national title would be played in the Miami Orange Bowl Stadium, the location of Wide Right II just a season before. Talk about fate.
The Seminoles trailed Nebraska 16-15 with just over a minute remaining in the game when Heisman-winning quarterback Charlie Ward drove the FSU offense all the way down to Nebraska’s 3-yard line. With just over 20 seconds remaining in the game, Scott Bentley lined up for his fifth field goal of the game, and the biggest kick in his career and the history of the Seminoles program.
With so much riding on the swing of his right foot, the confident freshman kicker lined up on the right harsh mark near the 10-yard line, took one final look at the goal posts, nodded to his holder Danny Kanell, and with the collective breath of all Seminole faithful held, he split the uprights. Finally.
Never mind the celebration penalty, or the final heart-stopping 21 seconds that ended with a missed 45-yard field goal by Nebraska kicker Byron Bennett as time expired. After coming so close the last two seasons, freshman phenom Scott Bentley kicked the proverbial monkey off the backs of Coach Bowden and Seminoles everywhere and helped clinch Florida State’s first national title.