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5 epic Florida versus Florida State football games

Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier era defined rivalry between Seminoles, Gators
Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier after 1997 Sugar Bowl
Posted at 10:40 AM, Nov 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-28 10:40:24-05

It's been a long time since Florida and Florida State fans haven't had bragging rights on the line.

But, like many things in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is undercutting one of the all-time great rivalries that has produced many epic battles since it commenced in 1958.

Although fans of the Seminoles and Gators will have to settle for games against Virginia and Kentucky this Saturday, respectively, here are five memorable moments during the defining era of this rivalry, when Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Florida's Steve Spurrier roamed the sideline.

No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (10-1) 33, No. 7 Florida Gators (9-1) 21
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, Gainesville, Florida
Nov. 27, 1993

Florida State Seminoles QB Charlie Ward flashes victory sign while leaving field after beating Florida Gators in 1993
Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward flashes the victory sign as he leaves the field after the Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 33-21, Nov. 27, 1993, in Gainesville, Florida.

The Seminoles handed Florida its first loss at home under head coach Steve Spurrier. Florida State senior quarterback Charlie Ward, who went on to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy, amassed 475 yards of total offense, completing 38 of 53 pass attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns. The Seminoles took a 13-0 lead before Florida got on the scoreboard with an 11-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Danny Wuerffel to senior wide receiver Willie Jackson with 7:20 to go in the first half. Florida trailed 27-7 in the fourth quarter, but the Gators wouldn't go down that easily. Junior quarterback Terry Dean, who replaced an ineffective Wuerffel, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, closing the gap to 27-13. The Seminoles appeared poised to score again, driving 57 yards to the Florida 9-yard line, but junior fullback William Floyd fumbled and the Gators recovered. Sophomore wide receiver Jack Jackson caught a 31-yard touchdown pass with 5:52 left in the game, cutting FSU's lead to six points. Facing a third-and-10 at FSU's own 21-yard line, Ward eluded a pair of Florida defenders as he rolled to his left on the play-action fake and threw to true freshman running back Warrick Dunn, who sprinted 79 yards along the FSU sideline for the game-winning touchdown. Florida State's defense was stifling, recording six quarterback sacks and holding the Gators to a school-record minus-33 rushing yards. Spurrier had won 23 consecutive games in "The Swamp," where Florida hadn't lost since a 24-17 decision against the Seminoles in 1989 -- the season before Spurrier returned to his alma mater.

No. 4 Florida Gators (9-1) 31, No. 7 Florida State Seminoles (9-1) 31
Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
Nov. 26, 1994

Florida State Seminoles QB Danny Kanell lines up under center vs. Florida Gators
Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell prepares to take a snap against the Florida Gators.

This was the tie that Florida State fans will forever say felt like a win and Florida fans will forever say felt like a loss. Florida led 24-3 at halftime and 31-3 headed into the fourth quarter. Then Florida State took over, tying the NCAA record for a fourth-quarter comeback in the game that Florida State fans affectionately refer to as the "Choke at Doak." Senior fullback Zack Crockett barreled into the end zone from 5 yards out to cut the lead to 31-10 with 12:59 remaining. After forcing Florida to punt on its next series, the Seminoles took over at the FSU 40-yard line and trimmed the score to 31-17 on a 6-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Danny Kanell to sophomore wide receiver Andre Cooper with 10:04 remaining. The Seminoles forced the Gators to punt again and Kanell led his team on another scoring drive, culminating with his 3-yard rushing touchdown with 5:25 remaining. It was now a one-possession game. Florida State sophomore cornerback James Colzie made a diving interception of a pass from Florida's Danny Wuerffel to set up the final score -- a 5-yard touchdown run from junior tailback Rock Preston. The extra point by senior kicker Dan Mowrey tied the game at 31 apiece. The game ultimately led the NCAA to institute overtime, beginning with the 1996 season.

No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (10-0) 24, No. 1 Florida Gators (10-0) 21
Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
Nov. 30, 1996

Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier yells at players during game vs. Florida State Seminoles in 1996
Florida head coach Steve Spurrier yells instructions from the sideline during a timeout in the third quarter against Florida State, Saturday, Nov. 30, 1996, in Tallahassee, Fla.

For only the fourth time in college football history, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams met in a regular-season finale when the top-ranked and undefeated Gators came to Tallahassee favored against the second-ranked and undefeated Seminoles. Florida State got off to a quick start when safety Shevin Smith intercepted Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel in the end zone on the Gators' opening drive. The Seminoles took over and scored the first points of the game on a 26-yard field goal by senior kicker Scott Bentley. Defensive end Peter Boulware blocked Florida's first punt of the game on its next possession, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run from fullback Pooh Bear Williams to give the Seminoles a 10-0 lead. Another defensive stand and a big pass from junior quarterback Thad Busby to freshman wide receiver Peter Warrick set up another FSU touchdown 32 seconds later. Busby's 1-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Melvin Pearsall gave FSU a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Wuerffel threw three interceptions in the first half, but the senior quarterback rallied his team in the next 15 minutes as the Gators outscored FSU 14-0 in the second quarter. Wuerffel threw a pair of touchdown passes to sophomore wide receiver Jacquez Green, but the Gators missed a potential game-tying 53-yard field goal on the last play of the half. After a scoreless third quarter, the Gators missed another field goal -- this one from 43 yards out -- that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter. When the Seminoles got the ball back, they went on an 11-play, 75-yard drive to take a 24-14 lead. Williams scored on a 1-yard plunge on the last of three straight carries during the drive. Wuerffel, who went on to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy, connected with junior wide receiver Reidel Anthony in the end zone, cutting FSU's lead to 24-21 with 2:28 left, but the Seminoles ran out the clock to preserve its undefeated season. Wuerffel was sacked six times and knocked to the turf several times throughout the game, prompting Florida head coach Steve Spurrier to accuse the Seminoles, who led the Atlantic Coast Conference in penalties, of deliberating trying to injure his quarterback. The win assured FSU of a spot in the Sugar Bowl to play for the national championship. There the Seminoles would face a familiar foe in an unlikely rematch.

No. 10 Florida Florida Gators (8-2) 32, No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (10-0) 29
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, Gainesville, Florida
Nov. 22, 1997

Florida Gators players dance after upsetting Florida State Seminoles in 1997
Florida players dance on the 50-yard line after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 32-29, Nov. 22, 1997, in Gainesville, Fla.

The 10th-ranked Gators played the role of spoiler against top-ranked Florida State, knocking their rivals out of national championship contention with a 32-29 victory in the regular-season finale for both teams. Florida State appeared to be on its way to a second straight perfect regular season when kicker Sebastian Janikowski drilled a 20-yard field goal to give the Seminoles a 29-25 lead with 2:38 left to play. But the Gators found a way to pull it out in "The Swamp." Sophomore quarterback Doug Johnson found junior wide receiver Jacquez Green on a 63-yard pass on the first play after the Gators got the football back. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Fred Taylor -- his fourth score of the game -- two plays later to put the Gators back on top. Florida scored on its opening possession but missed the extra point to take a 6-0 lead. The Seminoles then scored 17 unanswered points off a 15-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by senior linebacker Sam Cowart, a 28-yard field goal by Janikowski and a 5-yard touchdown catch by tight end Melvin Pearsall. Momentum swung in Florida's favor again just before halftime as the Gators scored twice in the second quarter to reclaim the lead. Johnson connected with junior receiver Travis McGriff on a 6-yard touchdown pass, and Taylor scampered into the end zone with 4:13 left before halftime. Janikowski nailed a 31-yard field goal with 10:32 left in the third quarter, giving the Seminoles a 20-18 lead, but Taylor raced 61 yards for a touchdown on Florida's next possession to give the Gators a 25-20 advantage. Florida State freshman running back Travis Minor scored from 18 yards out with 5:24 left in the third quarter, but the Seminoles failed to convert a two-point attempt. Janikowski then tacked on FSU's final three points late in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough. The Gators alternated between senior Noah Brindise and sophomore Doug Johnson on almost every play as the quarterbacks combined for 336 passing yards. Taylor finished with 162 rushing yards -- the most allowed by FSU's defense all season -- and four touchdowns in what many Florida fans consider to be the greatest game ever played at "The Swamp."

No. 5 Florida State Seminoles (10-1) 23, No. 4 Florida Gators (9-1) 12
Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
Nov. 21, 1998

Florida State Seminoles QB Marcus Outzen throws vs. Florida Gators in 1998
Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen passes as Florida linebacker Johnny Rutledge pursues, Nov. 21, 1998, in Tallahassee, Fla. The Seminoles rallied to beat the Gators 23-13.

The Seminoles rallied from a 12-6 halftime deficit to shut out the Gators in the second half en route to a 23-12 victory. Florida scored its only points on a 50-yard touchdown pass, a safety and a 22-yard field goal after the safety. But the first blow may have been dealt before kickoff. A fracas before the game resulted in the ejection of three players after the Gators gathered at midfield to stomp on the head of the FSU mascot. As a result, Florida starting cornerback Tony George and FSU backups Josh Baggs and Ronald Boldin were ejected. After Florida's lone touchdown, sophomore kicker Sebastian Janikowski got Florida State its first points on a 36-yard field goal. The Gators led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, but Janikowski's 42-yard field goal in the second quarter cut Florida's lead to a point. Later in the quarter, sophomore quarterback Marcus Outzen, who was starting just his second game after a season-ending injury to Chris Weinke, was sacked and fumbled on a third-down play in Florida State's own end zone, giving the Gators a safety. Florida tacked on its final points before halftime on a 22-yard field goal by freshman Jeff Chandler. Junior wide receiver Peter Warrick caught a touchdown pass and threw for another to lead Florida State's second-half comeback. Outzen completed 13 of 22 passes for 167 yards, including the 32-yard pass to Warrick that gave the Seminoles a lead they would never give up at 13-12 with 3:29 left in the third quarter. Sophomore running back Travis Minor led FSU on the ground with 127 yards on 30 carries. Minor's 46-yard touchdown run was called back for holding, but Warrick took a reverse on the next play and threw a 46-yard touchdown strike to fellow receiver Run Dugans to give the Seminoles a 20-12 lead with 13:30 left to play. Janikowksi sealed the win with a 41-yard field goal with 4:31 remaining. FSU's defense didn't allow Florida to convert a third down all game and held the Gators to just 204 yards of total offense -- their lowest output in eight years. Gators quarterback Doug Johnson threw three interceptions and completed just 13 of his 36 passes attempted. The Seminoles, meanwhile, went on to play for the national championship, losing to top-ranked Tennessee, which handed Florida its only other loss of the season, in the Fiesta Bowl.