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5 most memorable Florida State wins in Bobby Bowden era

College Football Hall of Fame coach led Seminoles from 1976-2009
Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden hugged after beating Nebraska in Orange Bowl to win 1993 national championship
Posted at 9:48 AM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 09:48:51-04

With the news of the death of legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, takes a look back at five of the most memorable wins during his 34 seasons in Tallahassee.

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

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden shares laugh with running back Warrick Dunn, Aug. 18, 1996
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden shares a laugh with star running back Warrick Dunn during team photos as part of the team's media day Sunday, Aug. 18, 1996, in Tallahassee, Fla.

The annual meeting between Florida State and Florida was unique for myriad reasons. First, it brought together two coaching legends -- FSU's Bowden and Florida's Steve Spurrier -- for the seventh time in the intrastate rivalry, but it was the first time the Seminoles and Gators entered the game undefeated. It also marked only the fourth time in college football history that two untied and undefeated teams would meet as No. 1 and No. 2 in the regular-season finale. In fact, the last time an untied and undefeated 1-versus-2 matchup had occurred, the Seminoles were involved. The November 1993 meeting at Notre Dame fell one touchdown short of a Florida State victory and tailback Warrick Dunn -- the featured back who played in both games -- was determined not to let the Seminoles falter again. Dunn rushed for a career-high 185 yards while the defense dominated the Gators, holding Florida's ground game to 81 yards and recording six sacks on eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel. FSU got off to a 17-0 start until the Gators rallied before halftime and closed the gap 17-14. Florida missed two field goals and Bowden later proclaimed the game "the greatest" in the history of the series.

No. 1 FSU (11-0) 46, No. 2 Virginia Tech (11-0)
Jan. 4, 2000
Sugar Bowl | Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden doused with water after winning 1999 national championship at Sugar Bowl
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden gets doused with water after the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech 46-29 in the Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4, 2000, in New Orleans.

The Seminoles entered their fourth national championship game in seven seasons undefeated. It was just the third time in school history that FSU ended the regular season without a loss, the others coming during Bowden's watch. Yet in each of the two previous seasons that the Seminoles entered their bowl game undefeated, FSU managed to fall short of an unbeaten season. In this game, however, the Seminoles would do one better when FSU became the first time in college football history to go No. 1 wire-to-wire. Pitted against the explosive mobile Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, the Seminoles scored early on the Hokies before squandering a 28-7 lead and falling behind 29-28 in the final quarter. But FSU rallied for an 18-point fourth quarter behind quarterback Chris Weinke that sealed the deal on a second national championship. Weinke went on to win the Heisman Trophy the following season and the sensational Peter Warrick -- Sugar Bowl MVP -- became a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in that April's NFL Draft.

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

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 became the first team to beat Spurrier at "The Swamp." Prior to that game, the last team to win in Gainesville was Florida State in 1989, one season before Spurrier returned to his alma mater. FSU quarterback Charlie Ward, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy, completed 38 of 53 pass attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns. With the Gators closing in on a 27-21 deficit, the Seminoles had 5:58 left in the game to secure a spot in the national championship game at the Orange Bowl. Ward orchestrated the game-winning touchdown pass when he scrambled left and found Dunn on a 79-yard catch-and-run into the end zone. Dunn finished the game with 140 receiving yards and 33 rushing yards. It was the game that fueled the feud between Spurrier and the Seminoles after FSU's defense held the Gators to minus-33 rushing yards -- a school record -- and recorded six sacks. Spurrier's only other loss of the season came against Auburn, coached by Bowden's son, Terry Bowden.

No. 1 FSU 17 (7-0), Clemson (3-3) 14
Oct. 23, 1999
Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium
Clemson, S.C.

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden and Clemson Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden shake hands before 1999 game
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, right, shakes hands with his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, before the start of their game Saturday, Oct. 23, 1999, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson S.C.

The Seminoles survived a scare at Clemson to preserve their undefeated record in the inaugural "Bowden Bowl." The matchup between Florida State and Clemson was unique in that it was the first time in major college football history that a father would coach against his son. Clemson was in its first season under Tommy Bowden. Although the Tigers were only .500 when Clemson hosted FSU at "Death Valley," the Seminoles had endured two games without leading receivers Peter Warrick and Laveraneus Coles. Warrick and Coles had been suspended from the team after a scandal in which they were accused of receiving a significant discount from Dillard's at the Tallahassee Mall. Warrick returned to the lineup in time for the Clemson game, but Coles had been kicked off the team after numerous mishaps with the law. Clemson took a 14-3 halftime lead before the Seminoles rallied from their largest halftime deficit since 1995 to tie the game. Sebastian Janikowski's 39-yard field goal proved to be the game winner after Clemson missed a kick that would have tied the game, allowing FSU to run out the clock. The win was the elder Bowden's 300th, making him only the sixth coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history to reach that mark.

No. 1 FSU (11-1) 18, No. 2 Nebraska (11-0)
Jan. 1, 1994
Orange Bowl | Miami Orange Bowl

Florida State Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden claps during 1994 Orange Bowl
Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden claps for his team during the second quarter of the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1, 1994, in Miami.

Bowden finally evaded the skeptics who said he couldn't win the big game when his Seminoles scored their first national championship in a nail-biter against Nebraska. On New Year's Day in 1994, Florida State won its first national title in any sport by defeating the Cornhuskers on the final play of the game, which was decided when Nebraska kicker Byron Bennett's 45-yard field goal try sailed to the left as time expired. Just 21 seconds earlier, heralded FSU kicker Scott Bentley kicked a 22-yard field goal that gave the Seminoles a two-point lead. Bentley was perfect in all four field goals attempted. While he kicked field goals of 34, 25, 39 and 22 yards out, it was Bentley's shortest kick that proved to be the most important. Ward did not throw a touchdown pass but went 24-of-43 for 286 yards. The Seminoles trailed Nebraska 7-6 at halftime and scored their only touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run by fullback William Floyd. The Orange Bowl victory was the first of Bowden's five national championship game appearances.