This Saturday, as the 1993 National Championship Team is honored, fourth-ranked FSU is set to take on ACC foe Syracuse on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium (Noon – ABC). With the Cuse in town, I thought it’d be an excellent idea for us to relive some of the history between these two programs.
I present my TOP FIVE WINS in the FSU vs SYRACUSE series history:
Coming off a 20-point win over then third-ranked Michigan and its Heisman hopeful Desmond Howard, FSU and its high-powered offense would face another national title hopeful in the tenth-ranked Syracuse Orange. The nation was tuned into this game, curious to see if Cuse’s electric and explosive kick returner/wide receiver Qadry “The Missile” Ismail would put on a show against the Noles. He did not let the nation down, scoring two early touchdowns, including an electric 95-yard kickoff return before a sellout crowd of 61,000+ people at a rain-soaked Doak Campbell Stadium. Cuse took a 14-7 lead, and it was the first time that season the Noles trailed in a game.
The Noles, however, didn’t let the rain, “The Missile,” nor the Cuse stop them from winning their 11th game in a row and 14th straight at Doak. FSU QB Casey Weldon would complete 22 of 35 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense, after allowing 80 yards on the first two plays of the game, only allowed Syracuse to gain 105 yards the rest of the game. FSU would go on to win 46-14.
With star QB Chris Rix not playing due to an ankle sprain, Wyatt Sexton started his second straight game. Sexton was sensational the week before against North Carolina but could not replicate that production against a stingy Cuse defense.
Leon Washington and Xavier Beitia did all the scoring as the eighth-ranked Noles won 17-13 in front of 40,000 screaming Cuse fans at the Carrier Dome. Washington and Lorenzo Booker (nicknamed Thunder & Lighting) carried the day as FSU rushed for 258 yards (Washington – 164 / Booker – 85). Syracuse led or was tied for most of the game as the Noles first lead didn’t come until 13:45 in the 4th quarter when Washington exploded for a 45-yard touchdown to give FSU a 17-10 lead and the Noles held on to avoid the upset 17-13.
This game is on here not for the game itself, but where it was in that season’s history. Top-ranked FSU would win comfortably 38-20, controlling most of the game from start to finish. Nick O’Leary had a career-high eight catches for 97 yards and one touchdown. Rashad Greene became FSU’s all-time receptions leader with six catches for 107 yards.
However, everyone’s attention was on FSU’s star QB, Jameis Winston, and the sexual assault allegations that came out the day before the game. With the national media and every local outlet bombarding former FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher with questions about Winston and his status for the game, the Heisman Trophy winner blocked out all the noise and delivered an almost flawless performance as he threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead FSU to it’s nation-leading 22nd straight win. Winston would never be charged as authorities declined to press charges, citing a lack of evidence.
This game is number two for many reasons, but none more than the fact that this was a sign FSU had genuinely rebounded from the mid-season skid of three straight losses (Wake, Clemson, and NC State) to move back into the conversation as a team to keep an eye on the following season. Head Coach Mike Norvell wanted his team to come out and have a dominant performance, and he wasn’t let down.
Sensational QB Jordan Travis, who totaled five touchdowns on the day, would throw for three, rush for one, and catch another as FSU won in dominating fashion. This game was coming off the heels of an absolute beat-down of Miami (45-3) in which the Seminoles had the game under control in the opening minutes. FSU would outgain Syracuse 420 yards to Syracuse’s 160 yards and pound the Orange into a pulp 38-3.
Let’s all be real for a moment: whether you want to admit it or not, Mike Norvell was on the hot seat during the early part of the 2021 season. Let’s recap why: Coming into this game, FSU was 3-6 during the pandemic-plagued 2020 season, which was Norvell’s first as head coach. Coming into the 2021 season, expectations were that the team would be improved; Norvell and company had gone into the portal and gotten game-changers in Jermaine Johnson, Keir Thomas, former UCF star QB McKenzie Milton, and so on. The 2021 season was supposed to be different.
Yet, FSU found itself coming into the game against Syracuse 0-4 on the season, with one of their losses being inexplicably to FCS Jacksonville State on a last-second hail mary throw in which FSU’s defense allowed JSU’s receiver to get behind them on a prevent defense call. At that point, FSU was 3-10 under Mike Norvell, and things were looking worse than when Willie Taggart was leading the program from an outside view.
We all know what happens next. In his weekly press conference the following Monday, Norvell showed the nation his passion and desire to get things turned around. You can relieve the moment in the video below.
That moment lit a fire under the fan base and the players themselves. FSU would go out on the field the following Saturday and win a thriller against Syracuse 33-30 on Ryan Fitzgerald’s 34-yard field goal as time expired. Jordan Travis connected on 22 of 32 passes and scored two touchdowns. FSU’s defense held Cuse to 2 of 12 on third-down attempts but gave up 150 yards of rushing in the game. That win would spark a revival in the program as FSU would go on to win 20 of their next 26 games, including a bowl win over Oklahoma, back-to-back wins over Miami, beating Florida for the first time since 2017, and wiping out Clemson’s home winning streak this season.
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