Each week, we’ll be diving into the history between FSU and its opponent that week. First up: the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The 25 contests between Florida State Seminoles football and Georgia Tech include remarkable performances from all three of FSU’s Heisman Trophy winners and memorable close finishes (on both sides) before, during and after legendary head coach Bobby Bowden’s tenure.
A hallmark game in the annals of FSU football, quarterback Charlie Ward came into his own against the Yellow Jackets and his crosstown high school rival Shawn Jones in 1992. In just their sixth-ever ACC game, Ward directed 20 points in the fourth quarter in a 29-24 furious comeback win, sparking an exciting new offense and launching arguably the greatest individual career in Florida State history.
“The great finish that he had…” Bowden later said. “Really it was the game that made Charlie Ward.”
Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, many more of Bowden’s stars would continue to “make” their careers throughout the period of 1992-2003, when the Noles and Ramblin’ Wreck faced off every season.
Florida State not only won all twelve games against Tech during the span, but claimed a remarkable 10 ACC titles.
Their first meeting in Doak Campbell came the next season in 1993, when freshman tailback Warrick Dunn feasted on backup defenders for 3 touchdowns, pacing FSU to 51-0 thrashing. It was more of the same in 1994, a 41-10 win for the Noles.
In fact, if you sat down to watch an exciting, close Florida State game the next few years, it wasn’t against Georgia Tech. FSU topped Tech by 32, 36, 38, and 27 points from 1995-1998.
But then, in 1999, came an instant classic. Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, who won the Davey O’Brien Award that season, had a ‘Jameis-debut-like’ 387 yards and 4 touchdowns on 22 of 25 passing. Hamilton and Tech’s offense, led by play-caller and 1999 Frank Broyles Award winner Ralph Friedgen, toiled one possession behind Seminoles superstars Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick (8 catches for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns) all evening.
The two teams faced off the second week of the season again in 2000, which saw Weinke become Florida State’s all team leading passer (at the time) in a 26-21 battle. As the dynasty years faded away, FSU’s dominance over Georgia Tech remained. The Noles won a rare December regular season contest 28-17 in 2001, Stanford Samuels (2 interceptions) picked off the Yellow Jackets 21-13 in 2002, and in 2003’s miracle 14-13 triumph Bowden earned his 86th career ACC win (passing Virginia’s George Welsch for most all-time).
Times were great in Tallahassee, but the Bowden-era Seminoles were simply tipping the scale back to even after FSU fell way behind in the series’ early history.
Florida State’s infant football program in just its sixth year of existence first faced off with the powerhouse undefeated Tech in 1952. The Yellow Jackets blanked FSU in their first two blowout meetings, but in 1958 the Noles improved to a respectable 17-3 showing.
In 1962, Fred Biletnikoff caught a 66-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to help FSU tie Georgia Tech 14-14. The tie seemed like a win, as Bill McGrotha wrote “Florida State won this football game, just as sure as there’s a cow in Georgia.”
The next three matchups in 1963, 1970, and 1971 saw Florida State lose three close games. Star quarterback Gary Huff contracted an intestinal virus and the pass-happy Seminoles couldn’t muster enough offense in a 12-6 loss in 1971.
After the hapless 3-8 1975 team was drilled by Tech 30-0, FSU fell behind in the series 0-7-1. All eight games were played at Georgia Tech’s home field, Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Flash forward to the 2004 season, when the ACC expanded to 12 teams, and the Florida State- Georgia Tech game moved to a rotation-based series instead of a yearly matchup. While now lacking in quantity compared to the 1990’s, the intra-division showdown has made that up in quality. All five meetings since the expansion of the ACC have been decided by 6 points or fewer.
The 2008 game kicked off the recent madness, with an ending that is a picturesque moment of torture for Florida State fans but jubilation for Yellow Jacket faithful. After fighting back from down multiple scores, Florida State had 2nd and goal from the 3-yard line trailing by just a field goal. Marcus Sims fumbled moments before crossing the goalline, dashing the Noles a chance at a thirteenth straight win in the series (Tech won 31-28).
Quarterback Christian Ponder tossed 359 yards and a career-high 5 touchdowns in the highest-scoring game of the series in 2009. Tech won 49-45, and went 11-3 to win the ACC that season.
In the first of two matchups in conference championship games, Karlos Williams picked off quarterback Tevin Washington in 2012 to seal the 21-15 win in one of the last games he played on defense before switching to running back. It was the Noles first ACC Championship in seven years.
Interestingly, the 2012 and 2014 showdowns have a unique connection: they are the first and final wins of Florida State’s 29-game winning streak, one of the longest in NCAA history.
On December 6, 2014 when FSU defeated Georgia Tech 37-35, it had been 742 days and prior to the Jameis Winston -era since their last defeat. Winston moved to 26-0 as a starter and Rashad Greene caught 7 passes for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, breaking the ACC career receiving yards record and the FSU single-season receptions record in the same game.
Florida State will look to avenge its most recent battle with Georgia Tech, a bizarre loss in 2015 which saw Roberto Aguayo’s 56-yard game-winning field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown as time expired. In a drastic turn of events, FSU went from possibly winning and at-worst heading to overtime, to suddenly losing outright in regulation 21-16.
No matter the outcome this Saturday, there’s no doubt Florida State and Georgia Tech will take the field looking to match the litany of legendary players and classic games that have already occurred in the series.
1952: Georgia Tech 30, Florida State 0
1955: Georgia Tech 34, Florida State 0
1958: Georgia Tech 17, Florida State 3
1962: Florida State 14, Georgia Tech 14
1963: Georgia Tech 15, Florida State 7
1970: Georgia Tech 23, Florida State 13
1971: Georgia Tech 12, Florida State 6
1975: Georgia Tech 30, Florida State 0
1992: Florida State 29, Georgia Tech 24
1993: Florida State 51, Georgia Tech 0
1994: Florida State 41, Georgia Tech 10
1995: Florida State 42, Georgia Tech 10
1996: Florida State 49, Georgia Tech 3
1997: Florida State 38, Georgia Tech 0
1998: Florida State 34, Georgia Tech 7
1999: Florida State 41, Georgia Tech 35
2000: Florida State 26, Georgia Tech 21
2001: Florida State 28, Georgia Tech 17
2002: Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 13
2003: Florida State 14, Georgia Tech 13
2008: Georgia Tech 31, Florida State 28
2009: Georgia Tech 49, Florida State 44
2012: Florida State 21, Georgia Tech 15
2014: Florida State 37, Georgia Tech 35
2015: Georgia Tech 21, Florida State 16