Date: December 29, 2011
Location: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
Opponent: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
From 2012 through 2016, Florida State made five straight New Years Six bowl games. The Seminoles had one of the most prolific runs in recent college football memory, including a national title in 2013.
But before that, FSU endured some rough times.
In 2011, Jimbo Fisher’s second year as head coach, the Seminoles finished at a disappointing 8-4.
The season was highlighted by a three-game losing streak at the end of September when Florida State fell to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 21 Clemson, and Wake Forest. Injuries ravaged the team and several freshmen were forced into action earlier than anticipated.
Florida State earned a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl versus Notre Dame, a blue-blood program with which the ’Noles have history.
As expected, the game featured stout defenses and underperforming offenses. Florida State entered with the No. 6 defense in the nation with a roster that featured future pros like Lamarcus Joyner and Xavier Rhodes. Meanwhile, Notre Dame could not find any offense despite having players like Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert at receiver.
Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead into halftime, but quickly scored after the break on a juggling catch by Floyd.
It was at this point that FSU’s comeback began.
Dustin Hopkins got Florida State on the board with a 42-yard field goal and EJ Manuel hit Bert Reed for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Despite having several freshmen playing on the offensive line (freshmen who would go on to become the heart of the OL that captured the afromentioned 2013 championship), Florida State’s offense was finally finding its momentum.
Not long afterward, Manuel connected with true freshman Rashad Greene for the go-ahead score.
This touchdown grab would prove to be the dagger, as Florida State closed out with another field goal to take home an 18-14 victory.
While this touchdown catch and bowl victory might seem minuscule in comparison to the rest of the Fisher era at Florida State, it marked a turning point for the Seminoles.
The following year, the Seminoles won the ACC for the first time since 2005 and took home an Orange Bowl victory. And that set up the 2013 run.
That 2013 championship team featured many players who were forced into action in 2011. These players, from Greene to Bobby Hart to Tre’ Jackson, were essential building blocks to FSU’s future success.
Plus, it’s always great to get a win over Notre Dame.