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Florida State’s greatest play of all time: Wire-to-wire solidified

As part of SB Nation’s “Greatest of All Time” week, we present our choice for consensus greatest play of all time.

As part of SB Nation’s “Greatest of All Time” week, we present our choice for consensus greatest play of all time.

There are many moments in Florida State Seminoles football history that can be defined as program-changing, all-time memorable occurrences. Although FSU didn’t start relevantly competing at a national level until the arrival of Bobby Bowden, those 34 years were jampacked with high-strung action, drama, wins and big plays.

Bowden, who considered himself a gamesman when it came to trick plays, had no shortage of them up his sleeve. The Puntrooskie, for example, stands out as one of the sport’s most hysterically smooth trickeries as does Chris Weinke’s 98-yard touchdown throw to Snoop Minnis on an end-zone trick play (both done at the expense of the Clemson Tigers.)

The Seminoles have laid claim to three national titles in their history — 1993, 1999 and 2013. While the first and third both came down to the final play, easily giving credence to their argument for the best to ever happen at the school, one moment in particular from that 1999 championship run stands out above all.

The Seminoles entered the 1999 season as everybody’s title favorite. Peter Warrick led a group of 4 returning All-Americans, plus a boatload of experience at nearly every position. Lindy’s went so far as to say, “Consider that in each of the 12 games Florida State plays this season, the Seminoles will have a better offense, a better defense, and better special teams than their opponent.”

Warrick, a star quarterback for Bradenton Southeast High, came to FSU in the summer of 1995. After building an almost mythical reputation for his scout team exploits, Warrick exploded onto the college football radar as a redshirt-sophomore in 1997 against Clemson. The following year, P-Dub (as he became known) torched everyone in his path, closing the regular season with 60 receptions for 1,225 yards—more than 20 yards per reception—and 12 TDs. He even threw for a touchdown against arch-rival Florida. Yet, as good as the numbers were, they barely scratched the surface when trying to describe the excitment Warrick brought to the field. By the end of the 1998 season, Peter Warrick had become the most electrifying player in college football. A true threat to score every time he touched the ball, he was breathtaking if you were a ‘Nole fan and terrifying if you weren’t.

Starting with week one, FSU found themselves in tougher than expected games. It seemed everyone treated their showdown with the Seminoles as their bowl game. But the ‘Noles had Warrick and he was living up to the hype, turning in a run for the ages against Louisiana Tech, out-dueling Heisman hopeful Joe Hamilton in a shootout with Georgia Tech, and scoring three first-quarter touchdowns in a blowout over Duke.

After defeating the third-ranked Florida Gators in The Swamp, the Seminoles made it New Orleans without a blemish on their record and had just one more foe to vanquish — the Mike Vick-led Virginia Tech Hokies.

Facing a defense filled with NFL talent, Vick was unstoppable. By the time the third quarter ended, FSU’s 28-7 lead had evaporated and turned into a 29-28 deficit. However, this year FSU wouldn’t fold. Chris Weinke connected with Dugans for his second score of the night to regain the lead early in the fourth and a Sebastian Janikowski field goal made it 39-29 a couple minutes later. But plenty of time remained and Tech still had Vick. VT had scored three times in just over five minutes of game time the previous quarter, and FSU’s defense was exhausted from chasing around the ball of lightning playing QB for the Hokies. Games like 1987 and 1991 Miami taught Bowden that daggers needed to be thrown when you had a championship-caliber team on the ropes.

All of which brings us back to the top. Prior to the game, Bowden went to Warrick and told him “you have got to counter Vick’s big plays.” Now, with the crowd chanting his name and the offense huddled on the sideline, Warrick approached his coach and teammates and asking, “y’all want me to finish them?”

It’s one of those plays where you wouldn’t believe it if you hadn’t seen it—merely describing it with the words of mortal men just isn’t good enough. The concentration and sheer force of will to somehow corral the bobbling ball into his belly is almost as amazing as the gravity defying hand-eye coordination on display.

Prior to the 1999 season, Bobby Bowden often remarked about an empty picture frame he had in the athletic center. The frame was being reserved for the first undefeated, untied national championship team. This play cemented that legacy. Not only did it seal the deal on a perfect season—something that team down in Gainesville has yet to accomplish—it capped off the first wire-to-wire number 1 season in college football history.

It became the defining image of a Florida State Dynasty.