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Matchup and Memories: Florida State vs Florida

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The Battle for the Sunshine State.

WARRICK DUNN

The Florida State Seminoles were able to hold off the Boston College Eagles for their 5th win of the season last week.

Saturday afternoon, the Seminoles take on their in-state rivals, the Florida Gators. It’ll be a battle for bowl eligibility as FSU travels to Gainesville. Let’s take a look at the series history between these two rivals.

  • Opponent: Florida Gators
  • First matchup: 11/22/1958 (Florida with a 21-7 win)
  • Series record: Florida leads FSU 36-26-2
  • Current streak: The Gators own a 2 game winning streak.
  • Last game: Opponent: Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • Last game: Florida with an easy 40-17 win over FSU.

FSU is riding a two game winning streak and is looking to secure a bowl spot against the Florida Gators. Can FSU pull off the unthinkable after an 0-4 start?

NoleThruandThru’s Recruiting Reminiscences

Where to even begin in this rivalry? Florida State and Florida battle for high-profile recruits seemingly every year, with both sides claiming significant victories over the other throughout the past two decades.

UF has flipped highly-rated FSU commitments such as 5 star DE Dante Fowler, the 4 star Pouncey twins, 5 star DT Torrey Davis, 4 star DB JC Jackson, and 4 star QB Treon Harris, but landing all-everything WR Percy Harvin (despite his love for FSU growing up) in 2006 still pains “Nole Nation” the most.

However, FSU has had its share of joy at the expense of the Gators, as well. The Seminoles flipped highly-rated UF recruits including 5 star DB Greg Reid, 4 star CB Nick Waisome, 5 star WR Ermon Lane, 4 star WR Da’Vante Phillips, 4 star DB Marcus Lewis, and 4 star LB Jaleel McRae, but undoubtedly the most painful recruiting loss for Gator fans goes by the name of Dalvin Cook.

Perhaps the strangest recruiting battle between these two teams over the past two decades revolves around 5 star safety Matt Elam. Elam had been committed to the Gators for 14 months before his concerns about UF’s instability led him to flip to the Seminoles on New Year’s Eve 2009. Urban Meyer soon called Elam and told the talented prospect to “have faith” in him, while also recounting the dream he had of Elam in blue and orange. Ten days and one infamous picture of Elam in full FSU gear later, Elam flipped back to the Gators.

Matt Minnick’s memorable moment

Like many Florida State fans, the FSU/UF rivalry evokes the most pure disdain from me. Unlike the Hurricanes, who also had to kick down the door to college football respect with swag and independence, the Gators were born on third base and then acted like they won something when conference mates like Alabama, Tennessee, and Auburn hit home runs. In fact, despite playing football since 1906, UF didn’t win 10 games in a single season until the early 90s (FSU first accomplished that feat in 1977), and to this day they still do not possess a perfect (untied and unbeaten) season.

Perhaps it’s appropriate then that I’ve seen FSU play in person against UF more than any other opponent. Among the 21 times I’ve been subjected to that hideous shade of orange and blue, FSU has been victorious on the scoreboard 12 occasions. These dozen wins include outdueling Spurrier’s fancy new “fun ‘n’ gun” offense in 1990 (featuring a classic first round haymaker in the game’s opening minutes; first video below), Ward-to-Dunn, a 5th Quarter in the French Quarter, Rix-to-Sam, and a play that I firmly believe is one of the top three loudest individual moments in Doak Campbell Stadium history—a play (second video below) that gave rise to the quip, “Bowden might have lost his Weinke, but he still had his Peter.”

(FYI—there’s another video on Youtube that has great replays from several angles, but they don’t allow embedding. Just type in “Outzen to Warrick.”)

However, the game I want to relive today is one that didn’t technically have a winner—although you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Gator fan who didn’t feel like they lost when walking out of the stadium. And the moment isn’t so much as a single play, but rather an entire quarter that, depending on the outcome of the forthcoming installment of the Seminoles and Gators rivalry, might serve as a microcosm for the 2021 FSU football season.

The season was 1994 and the game is what would become known as the “Choke at Doak.”

Florida was loaded in 1994. Spurrier’s innovative offense was running roughshod over the SEC, dropping 73 on Kentucky, 42 on LSU, and 52 on UGA. Moreover, the ‘Ol Ballcoach had finally started to get serious about his defense too, as evidenced by a 31-0 whitewashing over a top 20 Tennessee team in Knoxville. And for the first three quarters of this top 10 showdown in Tallahassee it looked like we were headed for a similar result.

After FSU opened the scoring with a short field goal to take a 3-0 lead, the Gators would reel off 31 straight, including three first-half touchdown passes from sophomore sensation Danny Wuerffel. The feeling in Doak was not too dissimilar from the feeling this year when the Seminoles began the year 0-4. It didn’t matter what the coaching staff tried, nothing seemed to work. And the prospects of climbing out of the hole that had been dug seemed to be fading with every second ticking off the clock.

Then, suddenly, a spark. This season, it was a last-second win over a bumbling Syracuse squad. In 1994, it was Danny Kannell converting a seemingly innocuous 4th and 10 to Kez McCorvey early in the 4th quarter trailing 31-3. But what began as a spark, turned into a fire. And the fire grew quickly, providing warmth and drawing other big plays into its light. Before you knew it, logs were popping and flames were towering. Rock Preston diving into the endzone with 1:45 remaining unleashed the roar.

Could it be? Could FSU come all the way back from the brink of disaster and tie the game up at 31? Similarly, can Norvell’s squad go from 0-4 to bowl eligible? If the epic video below is any indication, you better believe it’s possible.

Matt Minnick, the resident Tomahawk Nation historian, is a Tallahassee native and life long Seminoles fan, attending over 225 FSU football games across the country since 1986.


We love hearing your favorite Florida State football moments and memories. Drop a comment below sharing your favorite memory from FSU’s games against the Florida Gators.