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October 25, 2013

Bobby Bowden's top five all-time FSU victories

Florida State welcomes the return of Bobby Bowden this weekend. This will be Bowden's first official return to the program since stepping down following the 2009 season.

The 83-year old coaching legend returned to Tallahassee in 1976 to become FSU's head coach and would go on to revive a football program that was nearly dead. He would go on to lead Florida State to two national titles and 12 conference championships. From the late 1980's through the entire decade of the 1990's Bowden would direct the Seminoles to an amazing run of 14-straight top five finishes. He would go on to become the winningest coach in major college football.

Over 1,500 Seminole fans on the Tribal Council Message Board voted on Bowden's top all-time wins. Here's a closer look at the top five games selected in that poll:

No. 1 - 1994 Orange Bowl - FSU 18, Nebraska 16 - 29.71% of the vote
Under the leadership of Bobby Bowden, Florida State claimed its first national championship against Nebraska on this January night in South Florida. The Seminoles entered the game with an 11-1 record with the lone blemish a heartbreaking loss at Notre Dame. The Irish would suffer an upset loss at the hands of Boston College late in the season allowing FSU to get back into the national championship hunt. Nebraska came in with a perfect 11-0 record but were a 17.5 point underdog to the Seminoles.

Despite being a heavy underdog the Huskers, led by quarterback Tommie Frazier, gave FSU all it could handle. The game was close throughout but Heisman Trophy winning quarterback led the FSU offense on a late drive to set up a Scott Bentley field goal with 21 seconds left. His kick gave the 'Noles a narrow 2-point lead and appeared to be the game-winner. However, a celebration penalty on FSU, a good kick return, a big offensive play and a questionable spot of the ball gave the Huskers the ball on FSU's 28-yard line. After Nebraska's final offensive play the clock showed no time remaining and the FSU players doused Bowden with a bucket of water. The official eventually put 1 second back on the clock setting up a dramatic ending. However, Nebraska's 45-yard kick sailed well left of the uprights and Seminole faithful could finally celebrate the program's first national championship.

Highlights - 1994 Orange Bowl

No. 2 - 2000 Sugar Bowl - FSU 46, Virginia Tech 29 - 23.49% of the vote
Florida State entered the 2000 Sugar Bowl following an undefeated 1999 regular season with the team being ranked No. 1 in every week in the polls. The Michael Vick led Virginia Tech Hokies were also undefeated but a decided underdog to the top ranked Seminoles. The win would mark Bobby Bowden's second national championship and the Sugar Bowl victory completed the first ever No. 1 ranking wire-to-wire season in college football history.

Florida State would jump out to a 14-0 lead and then a 28-14 advantage at halftime. But the Hokies would come storming back and actually took a 29-29 lead over the Seminoles late in the third quarter. However, Vick was eventually worn down by FSU's relentless FSU defense. The 'Noles would roll in the final quarter scoring 18 points to claim a dominating 46-29 win. Wide receiver Peter Warrick made a dramatic touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter to seal the game for good (the catch made the cover of Sports Illustrated). He was named the game's most valuable player.

Highlights - 2000 Sugar Bowl

No. 3 - No. 16 Florida State upsets No. 3 Nebraska on the road 18-14 (Oct. 1980) - 14.4% of the vote
This game was arguably Florida State's first signature win as a football program. While FSU finished the 1979 season undefeated, the Seminoles had never defeated a top 10 team prior to the 1980 matchup against the Huskers. Not only did FSU finally earn a win against an elite opponent, it did so against a team ranked in the top five and did it on the road.

After losing to Miami the week before and falling behind 14-3 at halftime nobody could have predicted what was to take place in the second half. Taking advantage of several Cornhusker turnovers, the Seminoles stormed back and racked up 15 unanswered points to take an 18-14 lead. It looked it was all for not when Nebraska drove to FSU's 3-yard line and faced a second and goal. But FSU linebacker Paul Piurowski got a hold of Nebraska quarterback Jeff Quinn and jarred the football loose. The fumble was recovered by defensive tackle Garry Futch and FSU had pulled off a stunning road upset. The effort was so remarkable that the Nebraska fans gave the FSU players a standing ovation at the end of the game.

Highlights - 1980 FSU-Nebraska

No. 4 - No. 2 FSU 24, No. 1 Florida 21 (Nov. 1996) - 9.82% of the vote
This was one of several matchups involving Florida State during the 1990's that was tabbed as a "game of the century". Despite the respective rankings and the game being played in Tallahassee, the Gators were a decided favorite entering the regular season finale.

The Seminoles jumped out to a quick start pulling ahead 17-0 by the end of the first quarter. The Gators would rally but FSU's defense, led by All-American defensive linemen Peter Boulware, Reinard Wilson and Andre Wadsworth, was too much for Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel. He was sacked six times and pressured all day throwing three interceptions. For FSU, Warrick Dunn had a huge outing rushing for 185 yards against UF's vaunted defense. The victory was somewhat marred by an unlikely series of events that allowed Florida to back into a rematch with FSU in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators would win the rematch and claim their first national championship despite the 1-1 record against the Seminoles.

Highlights - 1996 FSU-Florida

No. 5 - No. 1 FSU 33, No. 7 Florida 21 (Nov. 1993)- 6.68% of the vote
Following Notre Dame's upset loss to Boston College the week before, Florida State was back in the national championship hunt but needed to get by the Gators in the Swamp.

Behind a huge day by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward (446 passing yards), the Seminoles built a 27-7 lead headed into the fourth quarter. The game appeared to be out of hand but UF stormed back and had FSU somewhat on the ropes late. With the lead cut to 27-21 with less than six minutes left, and FSU facing a 3rd-and-10 from its own 21-yard line, Ward could pulled off what many consider the greatest play in school history. The 'Noles' senior quarterback rolled away from pressure and hooked up with freshman running Warrick Dunn, who took the pass and raced down the sideline for a game-clinching 79-yard touchdown. Florida State would go on to win its first national championship in the following game defeating Nebraska in the 1994 Orange Bowl (see No. 1).

Highlights - 1993 FSU-Florida

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