There are instances in life where a great amount of animosity leads to must-watch television. Be it politics, fights in baseball or an episode of Maury, the buildup rarely matches the outcome. The exception to this rule is the annual battle between the University of Miami and Florida State University—a rivalry that dates back to 1951 with the Hurricanes emerging the victors 35–13. Through the better part of the eighties, Miami bested their archrival winning 7 of 10 games within the decade. Entering the nineties, the Hurricanes continued to dominate the Seminoles, reeling off three straight wins at the beginning of the decade before dropping the 1993 game to ‘that school’ in Tallahassee, Florida.
Miami was led by senior quarterback Frank Costa and plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball. However, the identity of the team that season was in the personnel they trotted out at defense. From DL Patrick Riley, DT Warren Sapp, LB Ray Lewis, S Carl Richardson and many more (without naming the whole roster), lets just say the defense was loaded with future pros.
Entering 1994, the goals for each program were of a similar nature. Win the state, qualify for the national championship and go out and dominate—except the Hurricanes suffered a home loss to the University of Washington earlier in the season, one that put a damper on their national title hopes. However, as with most rivalries, your record entering the game does not matter to the team on the opposite end of the field. This is especially true when there is a healthy amount of hate resonating from the team itself, their fans in the stands and those who watched the game at home.
What was different about this meeting was that for the first time in a long while, the mighty Miami Hurricanes appeared to be mortal. Losing the ‘93 game to FSU brought up the question of whether there had been a changing of the guard after the win. If that loss was not concerning enough, Miami then witnessed their 58-game home winning streak snapped by the Washington Huskies by a score of 38–20. The murmurs of Miami’s decline grew louder as the season progressed. A consecutive loss in as many seasons to the program’s most despised rival would be a crushing blow for morale to be sure.
FSU careened down the Florida turnpike towards a roadblock that was The U. Behind young quarterback Danny Kanell and RB Warrick Dunn, the ‘Noles breezed through the first three games of their ACC schedule. With Bobby Bowden coaching his 19th season, you wonder how the coach kept in touch with where the game was trending in those days. In comes current Miami head coach Mark Richt, who was serving in his first season as FSU’s offensive coordinator. It would be his first game in that role pitted against his alma mater. FSU’s defense also produced LB Derrick Brooks, DT Peter Boulware, DL Andre Wadsworth and DB Corey Fuller. Not a shabby group at all.
The setting for the 1994 edition of the rivalry was at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The game was to be aired on national TV via ESPN during primetime. Still one of the biggest feuds in college football, the game drew plenty of attention outside the state because of the ramifications on the national picture as of its result. Miami entered the game ranked 13th in the country, with the visiting Seminoles ranked third in the top 25.
From the outset, the Hurricanes knocked Kanell and the FSU offense down a few pegs. Unable to get the running game in motion, the Seminoles took to the air to see if they could get the best of Miami’s defense. The U was having none of that. The defense pressued Kanell all game long, and while there were some moments of success for the gold and garnet, it was the team with U on the side of their helmets that emerged victorious. Kanell had a miserable day behind center, completing 13 of 28 passes for 153 passing yards and gifted three interceptions to the Hurricanes’ defense on the day. FSU’s QB was ultimately yanked from the game in the final minute of the third quarter and replaced by Jon Stark. FSU’s five turnovers on the day helped Miami stamp a 34–20 victory. “We knew if we put pressure on the quarterback it would throw off his timing,” exclaimed LB Rohan Marley after the game. Miami most certainly applied the pressure that evening, limiting FSU to 47 rushing yards and adding five sacks in their victory.
Imagine if the Turnover Chain had existed in this time! We most certainly would have seen DB Carlos Jones wearing it on the bench after nabbing Kanell’s pass for an interception and returning it to the endzone for a pick six. Just as significant, the Hurricanes also made sure to get points off of the Seminoles’ other turnovers. The big star on the offensive side of the ball was FB James Stewart, who rushed for 95 yards on 16 carries, crossing the goal-line twice that day. Unlike their counterparts, Miami’s offense found success running the ball, gaining 185 rushing yards on 45 carries on the day. There were mishaps from Miami to be sure, but the outcome is what any Hurricane fan expects and wants every single time they play the ’Noles.
Beating FSU is one of the top priorities for the Hurricanes. Coming off the loss the year before and with the win streak at the OB dead in the water, the game tested not only the fortitude of the program but the resiliency of the team to move on from those losses and continue to prove that The U remains a contender at a national level. This team was far from the best the program has ever produced—specifically among the offense—but the defensive play was stellar and the team rose to the occasion. Plus, where else in America could you say the son of Bob Marley, one of the game’s greatest linebackers and Hollywood’s biggest star all took played.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!