November 26, 1994. Final score: Florida 31, Florida State 31.
Yet, the 1994 game between Florida and Florida State recalled another famous event from college football history. It explains why ties got outlawed. It explains why tying hardly feels like the avoidance of a loss for one side or the denial of victory for the other. It also explains why Bobby Bowden didn’t go for two at the very end.
Over a quarter of a century before The Choke At Doak, Harvard and Yale met in Boston. The 1968 Harvard-Yale game marked the first time since 1909 that both teams were unbeaten entering the matchup. It wasn’t a game with national championship stakes, but Yale was nationally ranked. The prestige of Ivy League football — much like service academy football — was still considerable. (The Ivy League was Division I-A football through 1981 before downscaling to a lower division.)
Who played in the 1968 Harvard-Yale game?
Academy Award winning actor Tommy Lee Jones did.
Decade-long NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion Calvin Hill — also known as Grant Hill’s father — played in that game.
In the urban Northeast, the game was significant in ways modern-day Ivy League football could never be. One could make the argument that this was the last transcendent Ivy League football game in a sport where Princeton played the first game 99 years earlier (against Rutgers in 1869), and in which Yale — in the late 1880s — became the first great juggernaut under Walter Camp, a man called “The Father of American Football.”
Why does that game have such a large place in college football history — and a strong connection to The Choke At Doak?
Yale led Harvard, 29-13, in the final minute of regulation. Harvard scored a touchdown, made the 2-point conversion, recovered its onside kick, drove downfield, scored another touchdown, and scored a second 2-point conversion to tie, all in that final minute. Watch that crazy final minute of play here:
The next day’s Harvard Crimson student newspaper contained the headline, “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.”
One wonders what the reaction would have been if Yale had led 29-15 and then 29-22 after a Harvard touchdown, creating a situation in which Harvard had the option of going for two in order to win the game, not to tie, as had been the case in 1968, down 29-27.
What if Harvard had the ability to tie and took the safe route? Would the student newspaper have been as glowing? Would the outcome have felt as satisfying for Harvard under that circumstance, one which never arose?
Nearly 11 years before The Choke At Doak, the nation got a taste of what it was like for a team to go for two when it had legitimate reason to settle for the PAT and a tie.
Nebraska — as it would continue to do for the next decade and a half — traveled to Miami for a bowl game against a team from the Southeastern United States. Once in a while, this team was outside the state of Florida — Clemson in the 1982 Orange Bowl, LSU in the 1983 Orange Bowl, Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl — but most of the time, Nebraska’s opponent in South Florida was either Miami or Florida State.
In the 1984 Orange Bowl, it was The U on the other sideline, playing in its home stadium, the Old Horseshoe In Little Havana. The reality that Nebraska was playing in its opponent’s own ballyard gave the Huskers added reason to claim that if they could play Miami to a tie, they deserved to be national champions ahead of Auburn, which won the 1984 Sugar Bowl that same night against Michigan.
Put yourself in Tom Osborne’s shoes: While trying to win the game was certainly bold and honorable — following the emotionally satisfying path (I would have gone for two myself) — it remained that playing for a tie wasn’t so much a response to the Orange Bowl game as it was a response to a full season. Narrowly and technically, Nebraska could have chosen to play for a 31-31 tie against Miami on one night in one situation in one hostile stadium. Viewed more broadly, though, kicking that one extra point would have given Nebraska a likely majority of Associated Press poll votes.
It would have given Nebraska a likely ceremony of some sort. It would have given Osborne — as a matter of historical record — a first national championship as recognized by one or both polls (AP writers, United Press International coaches). Nebraska would have been able to plaster a banner or plaque or both — and other markers of national championship glory — in prominent places on campus. All those formal, official or celebratory moments… all from a decision to kick an extra point.
It was so easy. It was so attainable. Some people certainly would have had a problem with it had Osborne done it, but the logic behind kicking the PAT was entirely understandable regardless.
That’s why Osborne’s decision to go for two was a risk, and hardly something to be dismissed as “not a real choice.” It really did risk something.
Bobby Bowden saw Osborne — like him, a coach who came so close to winning the national title on multiple occasions — fail to win a national title on that night in January of 1984. Almost 11 years later, Bowden had just won his first national championship. Osborne had not yet won his initial title. It would come just weeks after The Choke At Doak in the 1995 Orange Bowl, again versus Miami.
Was there a part of Bowden which said to himself, “I am not going to waste this comeback from a 31-3 deficit”? Was there a part of the riverboat gambler which didn’t want to play another hand? Was there a side of the Florida State coach which wanted to make sure that Steve Spurrier never won in Tallahassee as an opposing head coach?
Regardless of how you answer or approach those questions, there was something in Bowden which held him back and prevented him from going for two.
Some Florida fans were probably relieved that their reeling defense never had a chance to surrender a loss. Some Gator fans probably sensed how much of a troll move this was for Bowden, not seeking a scoreboard victory but choosing a low-stress path to a tie which felt like victory.
Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.
Florida State beats Florida, 31-31, roughly 26 years later.
Bowden’s decision might not have been profoundly satisfying at the time — not for anyone involved in the FSU-UF rivalry — but these 24 years later, it is easier to see why he did what he did.
Almost a quarter of a century after The Choke At Doak, Florida fans can’t think of this game without cringing at best, and without becoming ill at worst. Florida State fans think of one simple fact — Spurrier never beating Bowden in Tallahassee — and smile a rich smile normally reserved for victors, not a team which settles for a tie. It’s as though Bowden could look into the future and realize how history would remember this game, the worst collapse in Florida football history and one of Bowden’s great escapes.
Don’t say Bobby Bowden didn’t know how to play the long game, even if you disagreed with one of the most important in-game coaching decisions he ever made.
FSU and LSU announced two game neutral site series Tuesday
In an effort to continue to beef up their out-of-conference schedules, FSU announced on Tuesday that they will play newly-crowned National Champion, LSU in two neutral site games coming soon in 2022 and 2023.
The Seminoles made the announcement through social media and their website that they will be playing the “Bayou Bengals” first in New Orleans and then, in Orlando:
Noles vs. Tigers set for '22/'23!!!https://t.co/nfLwLGhXE3
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) February 11, 2020
Both teams will be given the benefit of essentially a “home-away-from-home neutral-site game” on Labor Day weekend. LSU considers New Orleans to be their second home and just won the College Football Playoff National Championship game over Clemson there on January 12.
The first game with the Noles will be on Saturday night September 4th, 2022.
FSU will, then play “hosts” in Orlando against the Tigers the following year on Saturday night September 3rd. The Noles recently played a season-opening game with Ole Miss, whom they defeated, at Camping World Stadium in 2016.
New Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell had this to say in the school statement about adding the games coming soon,
“I’m excited about this series,” head coach Mike Norvell said. “Florida State has a rich tradition in Louisiana, the home of many former Seminoles including Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor, and all three of our national championship teams had at least one player from Louisiana. It continues to be an important area for us now. We added two players from Louisiana in our first signing class, and it will be great for them and other future Noles to be able to play back in their home state.
This series matches two of the iconic brands in college football, and I know our fans will have a great time in New Orleans and Orlando. I want to thank our administration for all their hard work on this and for continuing to pursue first-class experiences for our student-athletes.”
These will be the 10th and 11th times that Florida State and LSU will meet. The Noles hold a 7 – 2 advantage, including winning four straight games in the series. It is the first time the two schools will have played since 1991.
Further, Florida State is 9 – 2 in their last 11 games opening a season on a neutral field. The Seminoles were to have played Boise State in Jacksonville last Labor Day weekend, but the threat of Hurricane Dorian moved the game to Tallahasse.
That’s where the Broncos upset the Seminoles and sent coach Willie Taggart into a second year spiral that resulted in his firing in November.
The Noles are also 8 – 2 all-time in games at the Superdome with the most prominent one coming in the BCS Championship Game win over Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
Deion tells Dan Patrick he’d consider coaching Hurricanes
NFL Hall of Famer and former Seminoles All-American defensive back Deion Sanders is making the rounds for broadcast outlets at Super Bowl 54 in Miami,. And it’s not just his NFL Network duties that made some news on Tuesday. Rather, it’s an interview, where he expressed more desire for coaching college football and maybe, even in the city where he currently is working this week.
Sanders appeared on The Dan Patrick television – radio show Tuesday in advance of the 49ers and the Chiefs meeting for pro football’s title at Hard Rock stadium Sunday night.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
And, while most of the interview centered around the NFL and the Super Bowl match-up, Patrick naturally turned to Deion’s desire to apparently be a head coach in college football and maybe, as soon as next year.
This subject came up after Sanders was apparently under consideration to possibly be the new head coach at FSU, when they fired Willie Taggart in early November. The school and AD David Coburn did confirm that they had a serious formal discussion with “Prime Time” about building a staff, etc.
That’s when Patrick turn the questioning to Sanders’ son and what might test his loyalty to FSU and possibly, coaching at a hated-rival like the University of Miami.
“What if ‘The U’ called?” Patrick asked.
“You know what is so funny, cuz I saw that when I was watching you on television (earlier in the day when Patrick said he would ask Sanders about Miami). My son is a phenomenal quarterback. My youngest son. He has a plethora of offers. We’re going to visit ‘The U’ on Saturday,” Sanders said.
“But would you coach the U?,” Patrick quickly asked again.
“You know what. You never know,” Sanders replied leaving the door open, like most do.
“Are you a ‘package deal’ with your son,” asked Patrick?
“I’ve never been a package deal with any-body,” Sanders shot back, which drew laughter from the studio audience at Patrick’s Super Bowl show site.
Now, the Hurricanes have obviously floundered for much of the 2010s, including 2019 with first-year coach Manny Diaz struggling mightily down the stretch of his first season. Miami lost it’s final two games to finish 6 – 6, and then, were shutout humiliatingly by Louisiana Tech 14 – 0 in the Independence Bowl.
Miami has swapped offensive coordinators after Diaz fired Dan Enos after just his first season. The Canes have hired former Auburn and SMU play-caller Rhett Lashlee to replace him. And, they secured Houston dual threat transfer QB D’Eriq King for this season.
Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State (1987, ’88), and won the Jim Thorpe Award during his final season playing for the Seminoles in 1988. He was selected in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons and played in the NFL through the 2005 season.
His elite level of play earned him inductions into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders has been analyst for the NFL Network for the past 10 years and clearly has the desire to try something else.