Nov. 30, 1996
No. 2 Seminoles Edge No. 1 Gators, 24-21, in Battle of Unbeatens
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Warrick Dunn rushed for 185 yards on 24 carries and Pooh Bear Williams scored his first two touchdowns of the season to lead second-ranked Florida State to a 24-21 victory over top-ranked Florida and a berth in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
Florida State (11-0) will move to the top spot of the college football polls and play January 2nd in the Sugar Bowl. If Nebraska beats Texas in the Big 12 championship game at St. Louis on December 7th, then the Cornhuskers will be the likely opponent for Florida State.
"It's not my biggest win ever, but it ranks up there," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who is 5-2-1 against Florida coach Steve Spurrier. "But for the kids, it's their biggest win."
"I'm real happy to perform like this in a game of this magnitude," said Dunn. " "We have so many weapons on offense. That gives any defense a tough time to key on any one guy."
It was the first regular season meeting between number one and number two in three years. Florida State was involved in the previous game as the number one team and lost at second-ranked Notre Dame, 31-24, in November of 1993. But Florida State went on to win the national championship that season.
Florida (10-1) will play Alabama for the SEC Championship on December 7th at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Florida's Danny Wuerffel, the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, passed for 362 yards and three touchdowns, but threw three interceptions and was sacked six times. He completed 23-of-48 passes. Florida State nose guard Andre Wadsworth had two of the six sacks.
Reidel Anthony had 11 catches for 193 yards, including a two-yard touchdown, for Florida.
The battle between the two top teams in the country was a tale of two quarters in the first half. Florida State stormed to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Gators responded with 14 second quarter points to pull within 17-14 at halftime.
Williams' second touchdown of the game - a one-yard run with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter -- increased Florida State's lead to 24-14.
"It's fun to bang heads near the goal line," said the 276-pound Williams. "Our offensive line played well today. They blocked great for Warrick and didn't allow anyone near our quarterback."
But Florida drove 80 yards on eight plays with the help of two pass interference penalties, and closed within 24-21 on a leaping two-yard touchdown catch by Anthony with 1:19 remaining.
Florida then attempted an on-side kick, but Matt Teague's kick rolled out of bounds and Florida State ran out the rest of the clock.
Dunn rushed for 133 yards on 12 carries and Florida State intercepted Wuerffel three times and blocked a punt in the first half, but only held a 17-14 lead. But the Seminoles hurt themselves repeatedly with penalties, committing nine for 109 yards.
"I told our team at halftime about the penalties," said Bowden. "Penalties, penalties, penalties. We gave them their second touchdown because of penalties."
Florida State finished with 12 penalties for 143 yards.
Linebacker Daryl Owens intercepted a pass by Wuerffel in the Florida State end zone on the Gators' first possession. The Seminoles then put together a 13-play, 72-yard scoring drive, which resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Scott Bentley with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
Florida State star defensive end Peter Boulware, who leads the nation with 19 sacks, then made the key play on special teams with a blocked punt. Shevin Smith recovered the ball for Florida State at the Florida three-yard line. One play later, Williams scored on a three-yard run to give Florida a 10-0 lead with 3:07 left in the quarter.
Thad Busby hit tight end Melvin Pearsall with a one-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds left in the quarter to increase the lead to 17-0. Busby hit freshman Peter Warrick with a 29-yard pass to the Florida one-yard line to set up the touchdown. Warrick finished with three catches for 70 yards.
Busby completed 12-of-32 passes for 124 yards with no interceptions. He was just 5-of-18 for 59 yards in the second half.
Florida was rattled after Florida State's 17-point first quarter and appeared on the verge of falling apart, similar to last year's 62-24 loss to Nebraska in last January's Fiesta Bowl for the 1995 national title.
Florida State was ready to apply the knockout punch after linebacker Vernon Crawford intercepted a pass by Wuerffel, but Seminoles cornerback Byron Capers was called for pass interference.
On the next play, Wuerffel hit Anthony with a 50-yard bomb down the left sideline to the Florida State one-yard line. Wuerffel then connected with Jacquez Green on a one-yard scoring play with 12:22 left in the second quarter.
Florida later put together a six-play, 71-yard drive with the help of two personal fouls worth 30 yards. A personal foul penalty after a third down incompletion put the ball at the Florida State 24-yard line and a roughing the passer penalty advanced the ball to the 9-yard line.
Wuerffel then hit Green with a nine-yard touchdown with 9:29 left in the half to pull the Gators within 17-14.
Later in the quarter, Florida was driving in Florida State territory. But Wuerffel had a long pass intercepted by Seminoles cornerback Samari Rolle at the Florida State 23.
Florida again penetrated Florida State territory in the closing seconds of the half after a 14-yard pass from Wuerffel to Anthony to the 36-yard line. But Bart Edmiston missed a 53-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
After a scoreless third quarter, Florida threatened early in the fourth. Wuerffel hit Anthony with a 26-yard scoring pass which would have given the Gators the lead, but the play was nullified by a holding call. Edmiston then missed a 41-yard field goal attempt with 12:03 left.
Florida State then embarked on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by Williams' second touchdown of the game.
This was just the fourth time in Division I-A football history that two teams have gone into the final game of the regular season against each other with undefeated and untied records.
The last time came on November 24th, 1973, when Ohio State and Michigan played to a 10-10 tie. Ohio State defeated Michigan in 1970 and Notre Dame played Michigan State to a 10-10 tie in 1966 the other two times.
Florida State 24, Florida 21
1 2 3 4 F - - - - -- Florida (1) 0 14 0 7 21 Florida St (2) 17 0 0 7 24 FINAL Florida St-FG Bentley 27 Florida St-P Williams 3 run (Bentley kick) Florida St-Pearsall 1 pass from Busby (Bentley kick) Florida-Green 1 pass from Wuerffel (Edmiston kick) Florida-Green 9 pass from Wuerffel (Edmiston kick) Florida St-P Williams 1 run (Bentley kick) Florida-Anthony 2 pass from Wuerffel (Cooper kick) Florida Florida St First downs 23 15 Rushed-yards 28-81 35-183 Passing yards 362 134 Sacked-yards lost 6-34 0-0 Return yards 25 36 Passes 23-48-3 13-33-0 Punts 6-29.3 9-47.3 Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1 Penalties-yards 7-80 12-143 Time of possession 30:47 29:13 Individual Statistics RUSHING: Florida-Williams 7-55, Taylor 11-33, T Jackson 2-18, Wuerffel 8-minus 25. Florida St-Dunn 24-185, Preston 2-6, P Williams 5-4, Busby 4-minus 12. PASSING: Florida-Wuerffel 23-48-3-362. Florida St-Busby 12-32-0-124, Dunn 1-1-0-10. RECEIVING: Florida-Anthony 11-193, Green 4-44, Taylor 3-77, Hilliard 3-43, Williams 1-3, T Jackson 1-2. Florida St-Dunn 4-24, Warrick 3-70, Eg Green 3-37, Cooper 1-10, Pearsall 1-1, Preston 1-minus 8. Att: 80,932