Date: October 11, 1980
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Opponent: No. 4 Pittsburgh Panthers
This is one of those plays that may have been bigger for the opponent than it was for Florida State. The Seminoles entered their home matchup with Pitt ranked 11th in the country with a bullet after winning on the road against Nebraska. The Panthers were undefeated and led by Dan Marino, but he wasn’t the Steel City native who would laugh last in this one.
Pittsburgh product Monk Bonasorte and the ’Nole defenders laughed plenty, despite Marino throwing for more than 300 yards. Only Terrell Buckley picked off more passes than Bonasorte as a Seminole, and the former added to his total with an alert interception of Marino late in the fourth quarter. The Panthers were looking to cut into a 36-22 Florida State advantage, and on a third and three from his own 36, Marino threw a quick slant that bounded off his target. But unlike an earlier play in this countdown when Bonasorte initiated a tip-drill pick, on this occasion, he finished things: both the play and Pittsburgh.
Bonasorte, who’s well positioned thanks to his hustle downhill toward the action, makes a diving interception, all but snuffing out the Panthers’ chances and securing the Seminoles’ win. It was one of three Florida State interceptions of Marino; FSU turned Pittsburgh over seven times on the afternoon, without committing a single turnover itself.
Two straight wins over top-five teams is never a small feat, but toppling this Pitt squad left an indelible impression on FSU head coach Bobby Bowden, who said about the competition: “In all my years of coaching, that Pitt team was the best college football team I have ever seen.”
To wit: the Panthers didn’t drop another contest all season and finished the year ranked No. 2. The Seminoles finished 10-2 and ranked fifth.