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The top 100 FSU football plays: No. 84— Derrick Brooks pick-six against UNC put game away, kept scoring streak alive

Brooks outscored FSU’s first five opponents in 1993 by himself.

Date: September 18, 1993

Location: Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Opponent: No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels

The 1993 Florida State Seminoles were, in a word, dominant. They opened the season with three wins over Kansas, Duke, and Clemson, winning by a combined score of 144-7. The fast-break offense, lead by eventual Heisman Trophy winning QB Charlie Ward, produced points at break-neck speed. Florida State’s defense surrendered scant points. And yet, the Seminole defense was more than just an immovable force. Lead by junior linebacker Derrick Brooks, the defense shut out both Kansas and Clemson, and Brooks himself recorded touchdowns against both Duke and Clemson.

After dismantling No. 17 Clemson 57-0 in Doak the week prior, No. 1 Florida State prepared for its toughest road test of the season to date: a trip to Chapel Hill to face the No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tobacco Road media dubbed the game “the biggest in North Carolina history.”

Despite FSU’s dominance of its first three opponents, the game against Carolina did not start out in similar fashion. Ward threw his first interception of the season on the Seminoles’ opening drive, and Florida State quickly found itself trailing for the first time all season.

FSU would answer later in the quarter when freshman RB Warrick Dunn caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, capping an 80-yard drive in which Ward went 7-7 for 69 yards and rushed for 11 more. The ’Noles would add a field goal in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead at half.

The third quarter saw the fast-break offense blow the game open. Kevin Knox caught a touchdown pass from Ward on FSU’s opening drive of the half to take a 17-7 lead.

Things turned drastically for the Tar Heels. UNC replaced its starting quarterback with a backup, who was intercepted on his first pass attempt by FSU safety Richard Coes. This turnover would lead to another Scott Bentley field goal, increasing the Seminoles’ lead to 20-7.

The wheels would come off on the next Tar Heel drive. Facing third-and-10 on his own 44, QB Mike Thomas dropped back, faked play-action to his left, and quickly faced pressure off the edge from DE Derrick Alexander. In a hasty decision, Thomas looked across the middle for RB Curtis Johnson. As Thomas released the ball, Derrick Brooks broke on the pass and easily jumped in front of it. He intercepted the pass and raced 49 yards the other way—untouched—for a Florida State touchdown.

Brooks’ interception return gave FSU an insurmountable 20 point lead after three quarters, and the Seminoles strolled to a 33-7 win. In a bygone era that allowed for mascot-taunting, it was also a treat to see Derrick Brooks jog into the endzone and proceed to nearly decapitate Rameses with the ball he returned as a tribute. The wine-and-cheese Carolina fans, apparently upset at the sudden realization that they were not attending a horse race or basketball game, did not approve.

The Seminole defense held UNC to 279 yards of total offense while producing three turnovers. Brooks’ third-straight game recording a defensive touchdown produced an insane stat likely never to be repeated: four games into the 1993 season, the linebacker had single-handedly outscored FSU’s four opponents 18-14. Two of those opponents were ranked. The Seminoles’ next opponent, Georgia Tech, would be shutout 51-0, increasing Brooks’ record to five games. It would take three more opponents for FSU to surrender more than one touchdown in a game.