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Hidden History: Florida State at Louisville

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Can any Seminole carry FSU to victory the way Dalvin did in 2014?

Florida State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Basic Facts

All-time series record: FSU leads 14-4

First meeting: 1952; Doak Campbell Stadium; Louisville won 41-14

Most recent meeting: 2017; Doak Campbell Stadium; Louisville won 31-28

Largest margin of victory: 1953; Doak Campbell Stadium; FSU won 59-0

Cardinals’ bookend of series success

While not continuous like UF and Miami, the series with Louisville is one of the oldest in Florida State’s history. Louisville and FSU first matched up in 1952, the inaugural season in which the Seminoles played the majority of their games against what would today be considered “FBS” programs. In fact, FSU only played two programs prior to 1952 that are currently playing FBS football: Troy State (now known as Troy University) every year from 1947-1951 and the University of Miami in 1951.

The Cardinals took that 1952 matchup 41-14, as FSU struggled to a 1-8-1 record during its transition to major college football. But the next year, innovative head coach Tom Nugent led a remarkable turnaround that included a 59-0 whitewashing of Louisville—to this day the largest margin of victory in the series. Beginning with that 1953 demolition, FSU would win 14 of the 15 meetings between the two programs over the next 60+ years.

And then came Lamar Jackson.

The electric, Heisman winning quarterback led UL to back-to-back wins over FSU in 2016 and 2017, giving the Cardinals bookend success in a series dominated by the ‘Noles.

It’s a blowout, baby!

For whatever reason, the FSU/UL series is one marked mostly by blowouts on both sides. 13 of the 18 games have been decided by 20 points or more, with a 14th coming as a 17-0 shutout victory for FSU. Conversely, only three games have been decided by a touchdown or less:

  1. FSU’s 9-7 defeat of Lee Corso’s Cardinals in 1970. You may remember this game from our Top 100 play countdown, as Seminole legend J.T. Thomas not only broke the color barrier at Florida State, but he also blocked field goals on back-to-back plays to preserve the victory. Read and watch more about his remarkable story here.
  2. Louisville’s 26-20 upset of FSU during a tropical storm in 2002.
  3. Louisville’s 31-28 thief of a victory last season.

Did You Know?

FSU shut out Louisville for three consecutive years during the 1979, 1980, and 1981 seasons. The combined score of those three games was 96-0.

Blowing Off the Dust

It’s not exactly reaching deep into the way-back machine, but to be honest I couldn’t find much video of any pre-2002 FSU/Louisville games online (and I don’t think anyone wants to relive that 2002 nightmare...). So with the Seminoles headed up to Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to FSU’s last victory in Louisville.

The 2014 FSU team that liked to live on the edge. Seemingly every week the ‘Noles would spot their opponent a sizable lead, only to slowly reel them back in—much to the nation’s dismay—and pull out a victory. Perhaps no game exemplified this more than the matchup against the Cardinals.

Sporting the number 1 defense in the country, Louisville came stifled FSU early and the score was knotted up 0-0 after the first quarter. However, the Cardinals came alive in the second quarter and quickly found the endzone twice. Trailing 14-0 and looking to score before the half, reigning Hesiman winner Jameis Winston got greedy and paid the price.

A few plays later it was 21-0 Louisville and FSU appeared in deep trouble. However, just before half, lady luck smiled on the Seminoles and Nick O’Leary finally got FSU on the scoreboard after he recovered a fumble in the endzone.

Coming out of the half, luck was still on FSU’s side. Winston threw his 3rd pick of the game on the first play of the 3rd quarter, but incredibly forced a fumble during the return that FSU would recover.

A few minutes later, as the broadcast team talks gleefully about Louisville repeating their upset from 2002, Winston connects with freshman Travis Rudolph to make it 24-14.

From there, it was another freshman who stole the show. Dalvin Cook. As incredible as it sounds, it’s arguable that Cook was a better all-time player than Winston. And the 2014 Louisville game was certainly his bust-out game on the national stage.

Mid-way through the third quarter, Cook took over the game. He accounted for 74 of 80 yards on a scoring drive that culminated in a 40 yard TD scamper to make it 24-21.

Then, trailing by 3 points with less than four minutes to play, Cook showcased his angle-breaking speed on another big run and put the Seminoles up for good.

For the game, Cook would finish with 110 yards on just nine carries, while chipping in another 40 through the air, helping FSU to their 24th consecutive victory.