Date: October 19, 1985
Location: Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Opponent: Tulsa Golden Hurricane
There are few players who transcend eras of college football, but Deion Sanders was without a doubt one of them. His presence at Florida State was felt long after he left the program. Few cornerbacks could so brashly and completely shut down an opponent’s top receiver as Primetime did. Few athletes were as electrifying. Current Florida State fans who weren’t born until after he left Tallahassee (or even retired the NFL) still know the stories and the swagger behind Neon Deion. He was one of the greatest cover corners to ever play the game, and he had the bona fide smack talk and charisma to back it all up.
But back on October 19, 1985, Deion Sanders was just an emerging 5’11, 169 pound freshman defensive back from North Fort Myers, Florida.
The ‘Noles started the 1985 campaign with four wins to open the season, including road victories at Tulane and Nebraska, along with two home wins against Memphis State and Kansas. FSU had climbed to No. 4 in the country before taking a tough loss on the Plains against No. 12 Auburn in week 5.
Deion started every game of his freshman year at cornerback, and also returned punts for FSU. However, he had not yet recorded an interception or a touchdown for the Seminoles.
A week six home matchup against Tulsa changed both of those stats and helped jumpstart the Seminole legend that is Deion Sanders.
It was clear that the Seminoles were out for vengeance against Tulsa. After suffering a disappointing 59-27 loss to Auburn the week before and falling nine spots in the AP poll to No. 13, the ‘Noles were not messing around with the overmatched visitors from Oklahoma, even despite the rain-soaked field conditions.
From the echo of the opening whistle, Florida State dominated Tulsa in every facet of the game. Even after pulling starting QB Eric Thomas at halftime (FSU led 41-7), Florida State scored a record ten touchdowns in the game and notched the most lopsided victory in program history at that time, defeating the Golden Hurricane 76-14.
Yet despite that reign of terror, the 1985 Tulsa game may be better known for another reason. With just under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and the ‘Noles up 69-7, Tulsa had driven down to the FSU 1-yard line. On first and goal, Tulsa RB Gordon Brown lost three yards while trying to turn the corner on a toss sweep. On second and goal from the FSU 4, Tulsa QB Steve Gage attempted a pass to the left side of the endzone. He thought he saw his intended receiver standing by himself. He didn’t see freshman cornerback Deion Sanders.
Deion easily stepped in front of the Gage pass and proceeded to return the interception 100 yards for a FSU touchdown. It was the first interception and touchdown of his young collegiate career and set the record for longest interception in FSU history, surpassing Fred Biletnikoff’s 99-yard interception return against Miami in 1963.
On a night of historic record output, Deion Sanders would first stake his place in FSU football lore. Although he would go on to record 14 interceptions in his time at FSU (three of which were returned for touchdowns) and record three more touchdowns on punt returns during his time in Tallahassee, his first interception and touchdown in the Garnet and Gold offered the Seminole faithful an initial glimpse of the greatness that was on the horizon. Even as a freshman, the future consensus back-to-back First Team All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner was already cementing his place in the FSU record books and working toward fortifying his Seminole legacy.