Date: January 1, 1996
Location: Miami Orange Bowl; Miami, Florida
Opponent: No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Less than two weeks ago, we featured Andre Cooper catching the game winning touchdown pass against Notre Dame in the 1996 Orange Bowl. As David noted, that catch was record setting in several ways, most notably by ensuring FSU’s NCAA record bowl winning streak (and unbeaten streak if you want to go back a few years more) stayed intact for one more year.
However, as is the case for many memorable plays, Cooper’s catch would not have been possible if not for another reception earlier in the game. Two plays earlier, to be precise.
The 1995 season featured a prolific Seminole offense. Led by Danny Kanell and Warrick Dunn, the ‘95 squad averaged 46.9 points per game, including three games of scoring 70 or more points—all against ACC opponents. Despite Dunn setting a then school record for rushing yards (1,242), it could very well be argued that the strength of the offense was the receiving corps. Heck, the practice squad featured names like Ron Dugans, Peter Warrick, and Randy Moss. The first team had two different 1,000 yard receivers that season (in just 11 games), Cooper and E.G. Green.
Like another Seminole receiver with the same color for a last name who would set records two decades later, Green always seemed to come up with a big catch when FSU needed one most. Perhaps never more so than the ‘96 Orange Bowl.
Splendid all season, the Seminole offense was stymied for most of the game against the 6th ranked Fighting Irish. In fact, the ‘Noles had just 14 points with less than 11 minutes to go in the game. But Kanell, who led a comeback against UF the prior season that some might recall, finally started slinging darts.
Green caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with 9:47 left in the game to bring FSU within five. FSU’s defense, the weaker unit on the 1995 team, held the Irish to a 3-and-out and Dee Feaster’s fantastic punt return set FSU up with good field position. But the Irish defense stiffened and the Seminoles faced 4th and 5 from the 25, trailing 26-21 with time dwindling. Sensing the value of six instead of three, Coach Bowden, as he so often did, decided to go for it.
Dropping straight back, with pressure bearing down, Kanell went to Mr. Dependable. Despite being double-teamed, Green used his body perfectly to shield the defenders, makes a fantastic grab, and hangs on through the hit.
Two plays later Cooper hauls in his third TD of the night and FSU hangs on for the win. It was the Seminoles’ 3rd Orange Bowl win in 4 years. It kept alive a top 4 finish streak that would go on to reach 14 years. And it added to the legend of one of the greatest bowl game coaches in college football history.
Kanell, a Fort Lauderdale native, was selected in the 4th round of the 1996 NFL draft and would go on to lead the New York Giants to the 1997 NFC East title. His 32 passing TDs during the 1995 season still ranks 3rd all-time on the FSU single-season list, while his 57 career touchdown tosses places him 4th. In 2012, he was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame.
Green, a Fort Walton Beach product, went on to play two more seasons for FSU, carving his name all over the Seminole record book in the process. He left Tallahassee as the all-time leader in TD receptions with 29 (only Peter Warrick has surpassed him) and is still 4th all-time in receiving yards (2,920) and 6th in FSU history in receptions (166). Following his senior year, Green earned 2nd team AP All-American honors and was selected in the 3rd round of the 1998 NFL draft.