Date: October 26, 1991
Location: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Opponent: Louisiana State Fighting Tigers
The 1991 Florida State Seminoles showed a lot of promise in their quest to deliver Coach Bobby Bowden the program’s first national championship. FSU began the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. They quickly dispatched No. 19 BYU in the season opener in Anaheim, California, and proceeded to roll through unranked Tulane and Western Michigan. In week four, the Seminoles beat Michigan 51-31 in the Big House in one of the most important games in program history to that point. The ‘Noles then returned home to trounce No. 10 Syracuse, followed up with wins over Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee State.
Heading into their week eight, the No. 1 Seminoles were 7-0—having won 13 straight in a winning streak that dated back to the prior season—with three wins over ranked opponents and their narrowest margin of victory standing at 13 points. The team’s next test would be a road trip to Death Valley to face the LSU Tigers, a team the Seminoles demoralized 42-3 in Tallahassee the previous season. In their last trip to Baton Rouge in 1989, the Seminoles pulled out a 10-point win.
This game would test the Seminoles as none had to this point in the season. A hard, steady rain fell throughout the entire game, which lead to injuries across FSU’s starting offensive line and worked against the ‘Noles’ speed advantage. Although LSU was 3-3 and unranked, and Florida State was a four-touchdown favorite, the ‘Noles got off to a sluggish start, falling behind 13-0 early. They trailed 16-7 at half.
Coming out of halftime, FSU’s stifling defense took charge and held LSU’s offense in check for the remainder of the game. The ‘Noles scored on their first possession in the third quarter to cut LSU’s lead to two points. In the first minute of the fourth quarter, William Floyd capped off a nine-play drive with a 1-yard TD dive to give Florida State their first lead of the game, 21-16.
After a fumble recovery by LB Kirk Carruthers deep in LSU’s own territory, Florida State’s offense would cap off a five-play, 20-yard drive with a 1-yard TD dive from Amp Lee to give FSU a commanding 27-16 lead with 10 minutes left in the game.
Or so they thought.
The soggy field conditions caused a botched snap and hold on the extra point. Backup quarterback/placeholder Brad Johnson was forced to abort the kick attempt, rolling out to his right but fading away from the line of scrimmage. He attempts an ill-advised pass off his back foot out to Felix Harris, but LSU’s Ivory Hilliard easily jumps in front of the weak lob and intercepts the pass. Hilliard begins streaking toward the opposite endzone with blockers in front and only one Seminole—kicker Gerry Thomas—in his path. There is nothing but green grass standing in his way of two points and a huge momentum swing late in the game that easily could’ve sparked a LSU comeback.
Or so he thought.
Gerry Thomas does a commendable job slowing Hilliard enough on his return to keep the play alive. Out of nowhere—and I mean nowhere—William Floyd comes flying in like a speeding bullet to tackle Hilliard 90 yards downfield, stopping him less than 10 yards short of the goal line.
The incredible play would bolster the ‘Noles’ resolve, as they held on to beat LSU 27-16. Bobby Bowden would later relay to a reporter post-game that, “I told our team at halftime that it was probably the most important 30 minutes of their lives.” It certainly seems that his message struck a chord with William Floyd.
Although the 1991 season would not end with a national title as the Seminole faithful had hoped, this tremendous play and jawdropping effort by Seminole legend William Floyd would be remembered as iconic and vital to the season. After conquering LSU for a fourth straight time, the Seminoles have never been invited back to Baton Rouge. The all-time series between FSU and LSU still stands at 7-2 in favor of Florida State, including 6-1 in favor of the ‘Noles in Death Valley. This 1991 game remains the last time these two programs faced each other.
Meanwhile, William Floyd and his fellow Seminoles would finally get that national title just two seasons later, and Floyd would go on to have a successful career in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers—winning Super Bowl XXIX as a rookie—and later with the Carolina Panthers.