In their most recent game in 2013, FSU traveled to Heinz Field to face the Panthers for the first time in 30 years. Florida State welcomed Pittsburgh to the ACC behind one of the most marvelous debut performances in the history of college football, and one Seminoles fans will remember fondly for an eternity.
After an inauspicious start for FSU that saw Pittsburgh lead a textbook opening drive to take a 7-0 lead, redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston took his first snap on Labor Day night in primetime. Winston slung two completions to wideouts Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, but Benjamin was tackled short on a pop-pass to force a punt.
Needing a spark, true freshman defensive back Jalen Ramsey picked off Pittsburgh and took it back just outside the red zone. On second-and-10, Winston tied the game at 7 when he shuffled to his left and floated a ball to Nick O’Leary before the tight end had even broke off of his route for the very first touchdown of his incredible career.
The 19-year-old quarterback calmly took FSU right down the field on his third drive, still without an incompletion, and hit O’Leary for a second touchdown to secure a 14-7 lead that FSU never relinquished.
Future pros James Connor and Tyler Boyd flashed on a Panther field goal drive, but there was no stopping junior FSU wide receiver Rashad Greene the next possession. Greene abused Pittsburgh’s secondary for 5 catches on just one drive, including a crucial third-and-17 conversion when Winston’s throwing arm was deflected but he somehow still put it right on the mark.
On a designed quarterback run, Winston plowed over teammates and opponents on the goal-line for his third score. It was simply Winston’s night; he needed just two plays for his fourth touchdown to take a 28-10 lead into halftime. A 36-yarder and 23-yard completion in the two-minute drill, both to Greene, had the Panthers shaking their heads heading into the locker room.
Famous Jameis earned his namesake with a near-perfect stat line for the game: 27 attempts, 25 completions, 356 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns and a fifth on the ground. Noles rode the savant-like performance for a 41-13 win.
No one could have predicted preseason #11 Florida State would run the table, outscore their opponents by over 40 points a game, and stake claim on the final BCS National Championship.
When they kicked off the march to their third title against the Panthers, the Noles were capitalizing on the groundwork legendary head coach Bobby Bowden built three decades earlier.
During Florida State’s initial rise to a national power in the late-70’s and early-80’s, FSU scheduled Pittsburgh 5 times in a 6-year span. In all 5 seasons, Pittsburgh won at least 8 games on the year (much more meaningful during that era), and were nationally-ranked heading into 4 of the 5 contests with the Noles.
Bowden actually went just 1-4 versus the then-national power Panthers program. Florida State had an 89-yard touchdown called back and missed a chip-shot field goal early to fall in a defensive struggle 7-3 in 1978.
Two years later, the scoring was aplenty from both sides in a matchup that saw FSU face a very talented squad led by future Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. Already riding high from an undefeated regular season the year prior with and numerous stars returning (lynchpin “big, bad” Ron Simmons included), Florida State faithful were seeing something very special on Saturday nights. Just 7 days after a spirited 18-14 triumph over Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, #11 FSU met up with #4 Pittsburgh for another hallmark upset win.
The energy in Tallahassee in 1980 was palpable when Florida State improbably jumped out to a 23-7 halftime lead. Kicker Bill Capece connected on a stellar 5-of-6 field goals and the Noles took advantage of plus field position off 3 Marino interceptions to seal the deal. Punter Rohn Stark cemented All-American status while quarterback Rick Stockstill passed for 3 touchdowns in the 36-22 showdown.
Marino had his revenge the next two seasons, both wins for the Panthers. In the fourth game of the famed five-game Octoberfest in 1981, FSU fell behind 21-0 and never recovered. Back in Doak in 1982, the Noles hung with Pittsburgh for 3 quarters in a relentless monsoon, but lost 37-17 behind 2 fourth-quarter touchdown passes from the senior Marino.
Bowden finished out his five-game series with the Panthers in 1983. Quarterback Kelly Lowrey tossed a touchdown to Weegie Thompson to go up 13-0, but FSU couldn’t hold on. No Marino, no problem, as Pittsburgh used a 17-0 run to squeak out a 17-16 victory.
Before the 2-time national champion Bowden roamed the sidelines, Florida State first took on the Panthers three times in a four-year span in the early-70’s. Junior quarterback Gary Huff began the FSU-Pitt series with a pick-6 in 1971 but settled down to power the Seminoles to a 24-0 second quarter burst. Huff threw for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 31-13 win in the first meeting.
After facing off in the season finale the year before, Florida State and Pittsburgh tangled in the season opener in 1972. Huff connected on two bombs, the latter to clinch a 19-7 win for the Noles. Another season opener in 1974, in the first game of the Darrell Mudra era, FSU fell 9-6. It was a respectable loss for a team that finished the year 1-10.
For just the second time as ACC opponents, Florida State and Pittsburgh will square off at 4 p.m. this Saturday inside Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU (2-4, 1-4 ACC) looks to grab a win off their bye week, while the Panthers (3-4, 2-4 ACC) try to stop a four-game skid.
Year-by-Year Results (FSU 4 wins, Pitt 5 wins)
1971: Florida State 31, Pittsburgh 13
1972: Florida State 19, Pittsburgh 7
1974: Pittsburgh 9, Florida State 6
1978: Pittsburgh 7, Florida State 3
1980: Florida State 36, Pittsburgh 22
1981: Pittsburgh 42, Florida State 14
1982: Pittsburgh 37, Florida State 17
1983: Pittsburgh 17, Florida State 16
2013: Florida State 41, Pittsburgh 13