But to college football faithful from around the country, Florida State-Miami is synonymous with one of the most thrilling, blockbuster rivalries in the history of the sport.
While the two programs have agonized over an unbelievable 30 games (nearly half of the series) decided by one possession or less, the college football world has delighted in the unforgettable, heart-pounding finishes.
One of the lesser-known classics of the series occurred in 1980, as second-year Cane head coach Howard Schnellenberger and head coach Bobby Bowden, in his fifth season at FSU, tangled in the Orange Bowl. Each team missed three field goals (go figure) and Noles quarterback Rick Stockstill had a chance to be the hero against his counterpart, future-NFL hall-of-famer Jim Kelly. Stockstill tossed an 11-yard touchdown with 39 seconds remaining, but his next pass flailed short on a two-point conversion call from Bowden.
A result that would soon begin to feel all-too-familiar for Bowden: Miami slipped by Florida State, 10-9. The two legendary head coaches continued to build their burgeoning programs, splitting the 1981 and 1982 games.
Then, Schnellenberger broke through in 1983 to secure Miami’s first national title, but not before the Canes rode into Tallahassee and kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired to win 17-16. In 1984, wideout Jessie Hester had 100 yards rushing and receiving as the Seminoles got their revenge 38-3.
But that revenge didn’t last. Even though Schnellenberger bolted for the fledgling USFL and Jimmy Johnson took over as the new head man in south Florida, Miami went on to win the next four in the series.
This included 1987, a 26-25 squeaker and a hallmark game in the history of college football. Legendary receiver Michael Irvin caught a 73-yard touchdown to cap off a comeback from down 19-3, and Noles quarterback Danny McManus failed to connect with Pat Carter on another game-altering two-point conversion. The two teams were clearly the class of college football, as Miami won its second championship and FSU won its other 11 games and finished the year second in the polls.
In the fourth game of Johnson’s winning streak, the Seminole rap doomed the Noles 31-0. The next year, tailback Dexter Carter raced past Miami’s third national title team in a 24-10 upset win for FSU. The carousel of classic games and dominant teams continued into the next decade.
In just the 18th time ever the top two teams in the poll era had faced off, #1 Florida State led #2 Miami for the first 57 minutes of the 1991 game, until the Canes grabbed the lead by a point, forcing FSU to trot out kicker Gerry Thomas for a game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt.
What followed was an indelible moment in college football lore: Thomas’s kick faded lazily to the right, just beyond the uprights. Wide Right I. Miami rode the wave of the magical win to claim its fourth national title.
Inexplicably, the ’Noles lost in the same fashion the very next year! Dan Mowrey’s 39-yarder failed to connect, torturing #2 FSU with a 19-16 loss to #3 Miami down in the Orange Bowl. Wide Right II.
Still searching for their shot at championship glory, Florida State welcomed Miami to Doak Campbell Stadium in 1993. In the first quarter tied at 7 apiece, eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward raced to his right and wiped away UM’s grip over the ’Noles’ destiny when he lofted a throw 35 yards downfield into the hands of receiver Matt Frier. Frier raced into the end zone, and defensive back Devin Bush’s pick-six put an exclamation point on a 28-10 triumph. Buoyed by finally escaping Miami, Bowden completed the program’s transformation into a national power with his first national championship in 1993.
Miami came back with a 34-20 victory in 1994, but running back Warrick Dunn had a career-high 184 rushing yards in 1995 and side-stepped the Canes for 163 more in 1996 in back-to-back wins for FSU. The Hurricanes’ only down year of the 1980’s and 1990’s came in 1997 (5-6 record), and Florida State capitalized with a 47-0 laugher.
In 1998, standout receiver Peter Warrick snagged 7 receptions for 190 yards for the Noles, including the game’s opening 62-yard score, in a 26-14 win. An uber-talented roster was beginning to resurface in Coral Gables when Miami receivers Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss both caught touchdowns in the first half in 1999, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Travis Minor’s 25 rushes for 146 yards and late touchdown.
At the turn of the century, FSU trailed 17-0 at the half but Chris Weinke eyed a third straight national title appearance and passed for 496 and 3 touchdowns, the latter with 1:37 left in the game to take a 24-20 lead.
However, the savant Bowden waved his celebrating, #1 ranked team back to the sideline, seemingly angry that they had let their excitement show with plenty of time still left.
His hunch was correct, and tight end Jeremy Shockey wormed his way into the end zone a mere 51 seconds later to go up three. Weinke dumped off two passes out of the backfield to the dependable Minor, and met up with wideout Snoop Minnis to get the ’Noles to the 32-yard line with 5 seconds left.
The end result: a 49-yard field goal try. Wide right…again. 27-24. Wide Right III.
Another mythical missed field goal plagued the Seminoles and seemingly catapulted the budding juggernaut Hurricanes to a shot at another championship. Instead, the BCS-era computers somehow favored #2 Florida State (11-1) over #3 Miami (10-1) despite the head-to-head loss.
In 2001, Florida State lost their first game at home in 10 years (not a misprint) when #2 Miami blew past FSU 49-27. The Canes cruised to a title this time, their fifth in just 19 seasons.
A spunky effort from running back Greg Jones and the ’Noles’ talented defense kept a vintage, uncontrollably-loaded #1 Miami at bay for 55 minutes in 2002, up until Willis McGahee’s busted screen play set up Jason Geathers’ game-winning touchdown run.
For the fourth time, the Seminoles had their shot to win with a kick. In a cruel twist of fate, Xavier Beitia missing a 43-yarder: this time, to the left. Miami escaped again, 28-27. A disappointing 5 turnovers cost FSU 22-14 in 2003, but a rematch in the Orange Bowl (the major bowl game, not the stadium) on New Year’s Day was even more painful when Beitia missed a late field goal again in a 16-14 Miami win.
As covered in last week’s Matchup History discussing season openers, the Florida State-Miami game was moved to the first game on both teams’ schedules for three straight seasons when Miami joined the ACC in 2004. The Hurricanes snuck into overtime and pulled out a 16-10 win in 2004, but FSU got their revenge in a 10-7 slugfest in 2005 when Miami’s placeholder bobbled a game-tying field goal.
Bowden finished his career against the Canes by splitting the final four matchups from 2006-2009. The 38-34 coin-flip contest in 2009 could have perhaps began a stronger final year for Bowden if quarterback Christian Ponder had connected with receiver Jarmon Fortson on the game’s final play (and Bowden’s final in the series).
Much like his final four years, Bowden’s first four years against Miami from 1976-1979 also included a two-two split. In 1979, running back Mark Lyles had 85 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns for FSU as they topped Miami and the first-year Schnellenberger 40-23 to continue their magical, first-ever undefeated regular season.
In an era before a playoff in college football, it is reasonable to say the Hurricanes solely kept FSU and Bowden from playing for an additional three-to-five national titles during the ’Noles’ 14-year dynasty run.
Interestingly, the bitter rivals found themselves locked in several close battles even before they were national powers seeking championships. In an ominously strange fashion, games against the Canes in FSU’s first 25 years of football history foreshadowed the biggest thorn in the side of their golden run at the end of the twentieth century.
In the 1950’s, Miami won the first five in the series, including a 35-13 yawner in the series’ first game. Florida State got their first win over UM in the series in 1958, when sportswriter Bill McGrotha said they “beat their ears off” (17-6 final).
The very first game to go down to the wire was in 1959: trailing 7-0 the entire game, Fred Pickard scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:52 left in the 4th. Before 1980 or 1987, it was not Bowden but FSU head coach Tom Nugent who went for two, a failed Pickard toss sweep tackled just short.
In an almost comical fashion, the ’Noles missed a 35-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the 4th to fall 7-6 to Miami in 1962. FSU also lost 6 fumbles.
Offensive guru Bill Peterson (who took over in 1960) avenged the heartbreaker in ’62 with shutout victories in 1963 and 1964. Wideout Fred Biletnikoff had 9 catches for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns in 1964. Biletnikoff’s wide receiver coach for those two wins was some fella from Birmingham named Robert Cleckler Bowden.
A trick-play 94-yard kickoff return touchdown from T.K. Wetherell in 1966 led to a 23-20 win for the ’Noles. Florida State somehow nailed a field goal with under two minutes to win 16-14 over Miami in 1969, and again with four minutes to play in 1971 for a 20-17 victory. One more close loss for the Seminoles came in 1975’s 24-22 contest, when Miami hit a late field goal of their own, erasing a 15-point comeback and 2 two-point conversions from FSU.
Flash forward to the recent history of FSU-UM, and Hurricane faithful are likely still thankful for former FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher bolting to College Station in 2017.
Fisher’s career at Florida State saw him top Miami his first seven seasons at the helm. In 2010, Ponder flashed the ‘U’ at halftime to the crowd and the Noles racked up 298 rushing yards in a 45-17 trouncing. FSU’s defense overpowered Miami in 2011 and 2012. Tailback and Miami native Devonta Freeman shined with 78 yards rushing, 98 receiving, and 3 huge touchdowns as the #3 Seminoles knocked out #7 Miami 41-14 in primetime.
But the next season, Miami made all the plays and nearly knocked off FSU from their 25-game unbeaten streak in a 30-26 duel. Another Miami native, star running back Dalvin Cook, had one of the greatest games by either player in the rivalry in 2015. Despite being banged-up and questionable to play the entire week with hamstring injury, Cook had 222 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns and took a 72-yard option pitch to the house on his first carry of the game.
It was yet another infamous kick that decided the 2016 game, when defensive end DeMarcus Walker blocked an extra point attempt that would have tied the game with under two minutes to play. FSU escaped 20-19 and Cook (154 yards on 27 carries and a 59-yard touchdown reception) finished his legendary career against the Canes with 592 total yards in just 3 games.
Miami has won the past three contests from 2017 to 2019, including a last-gasp 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Malik Rosier with six seconds left for a 24-20 victory in Fisher’s final year.
A college football rivalry of the highest caliber, Florida State-Miami represents all that is special about the college game. Unfortunately for the ’Noles, the sheer likelihood of a game between two teams coming down to so many kicks again and again, and those kicks so often dooming FSU, is strange to say the least.
But even perhaps more polarizing are the two program’s involvement in college football’s history the past half-century, and even more so, the sheer number of times their yearly game was an organic, ‘de-facto playoff semifinal’ in retrospect.
Year-by-year results (UM 34 Wins, FSU 30 Wins):
1951: Miami 35, Florida State 13
1953: Miami 27, Florida State 0
1955: Miami 34, Florida State 0
1956: Miami 20, Florida State 7
1957: Miami 40, Florida State 13
1958: Florida State 17, Miami 6
1959: Miami 7, Florida State 6
1960: Miami 25, Florida State 7
1962: Miami 7, Florida State 6
1963: Florida State 24, Miami 0
1964: Florida State 14, Miami 0
1966: Florida State 23, Miami 20
1969: Florida State 16, Miami 14
1970: Florida State 27, Miami 3
1971: Florida State 20, Miami 17
1972: Florida State 37, Miami 14
1973: Miami 14, Florida State 10
1974: Miami 21, Florida State 14
1975: Miami 24, Florida State 22
1976: Miami 47, Florida State 0
1977: Miami 23, Florida State 17
1978: Florida State 31, Miami 21
1979: Florida State 40, Miami 23
1980: Miami 10, Florida State 9
1981: Miami 27, Florida State 19
1982: Florida State 24, Miami 7
1983: Miami 17, Florida State 16
1984: Florida State 38, Miami 3
1985: Miami 35, Florida State 27
1986: Miami 41, Florida State 23
1987: Miami 26, Florida State 25
1988: Miami 31, Florida State 0
1989: Florida State 24, Miami 10
1990: Miami 31, Florida State 22
1991: Miami 17, Florida State 16
1992: Miami 19, Florida State 16
1993: Florida State 28, Miami 10
1994: Miami 34, Florida State 20
1995: Florida State 41, Miami 17
1996: Florida State 34, Miami 16
1997: Florida State 47, Miami 0
1998: Florida State 26, Miami 14
1999: Florida State 31, Miami 21
2000: Miami 27, Florida State 24
2001: Miami 49, Florida State 27
2002: Miami 28, Florida State 27
2003: Miami 22, Florida State 14
2003: Miami 16, Florida State 14 (*Orange Bowl: game played on 1/1/2004)
2004: Miami 16, Florida State 10
2005: Florida State 10, Miami 7
2006: Florida State 13, Miami 10
2007: Miami 37, Florida State 29
2008: Florida State 41, Miami 39
2009: Miami 38, Florida State 34
2010: Florida State 45, Miami 17
2011: Florida State 23, Miami 19
2012: Florida State 33, Miami 20
2013: Florida State 41, Miami 14
2014: Florida State 30, Miami 26
2015: Florida State 29, Miami 24
2016: Florida State 20, Miami 19
2017: Miami 24, Florida State 20
2018: Miami 28, Florida State 27
2019: Miami 27, Florida State 10