Getting Past BYU, Detmer Is No. 1 for Florida State
Florida State fullback Edgar Bennett winces at the thought of what could have been if the Seminoles had fulfilled the expectations of the past. Does the word dynasty ring a bell?
“About four years in a row, I’ve felt like we had the best team in the nation,” said Bennett, whose No. 1-ranked Seminoles will play Brigham Young, led by Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer, in tonight’s Pigskin Classic at Anaheim Stadium. “I think this will be the year.”
Bennett, a fifth-year senior, finds himself without a national championship ring for a variety of reasons, mainly because Florida State has had a knack for beginning a season as No. 1 but never finishing it there. That might explain why Seminole players spent much of their fall practices wearing T-shirts that read, “No Excuses.” Or why many of the players remained together in Tallahassee, Fla., to work out, rather than return home for the summer months. In short, the Seminoles don’t want history to repeat itself.
“We’re sick of being second-best,” linebacker Kirk Carruthers said.
A roll-call of near-misses:
--1987: Undefeated Florida State leads unbeaten Miami, 19-3, in the fourth quarter. Miami scores three times in the last 12 minutes to take the lead, 26-19. Florida State scores in the final moments and faces a decision: Kick the extra point and tie, or go for two points and the victory. Bowden goes for two, but the play fails. The Seminoles finish 11-1 and second in the final polls . . . to Miami.
--1988: Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team and records a music video titled, “The Seminole Rap.” That done, Miami humiliates Florida State, 31-0, in the season opener. The Seminoles end the year 11-1 and ranked third.
--1989: Florida State loses its first two games, to Southern Mississippi and Clemson, then wins 10 in a row, good enough to salvage a No. 3 ranking.
--1990: After winning four consecutive games, Florida State loses to Miami and Auburn. With the score tied and the Seminoles on about the Auburn 38-yard line, Bowden decides to go for a first down on fourth and six. The Seminoles lose about 18 yards on the pass attempt, and the Tigers drive for the winning score. Bowden later says he didn’t sleep that night. Florida State finishes 10-2 and fourth in the rankings.
The ’88 season is the one that galls the remaining Florida State players the most. The ’87 season and the missed two-point conversion? A quirk of fate. But ’88--that was a shame, they say.
“We thought the national championship was going to be ours,” Carruthers said. “We had a lot of overconfidence, almost to the point of being cocky. We’re not going to let that happen this year.”
Is that so? Asked if there was a better team in the country than the Seminoles, Carruthers said, “Right now, I think we have the best talent in the country.”
Bowden has tried to do his part to guard against another overconfident Florida State team. When he assembled his players for fall practice, the first film they saw was that 1990 cult classic, “BYU 28, Miami 21.” The Hurricanes entered the game as the No. 1-ranked team but left it 0-1 and with a healthy respect for Detmer, who completed 38 of 54 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
Of course, there are differences between last year’s Miami game and this season’s Florida State contest. The Cougars had already won a game when they faced the Hurricanes. This time, their season begins with Florida State. Also, it was a more experienced BYU team.
But at least the Cougars have the talented Detmer, a fact not lost on the Seminoles, who have heard the recent criticism of the BYU quarterback.
“I cannot understand where people get off saying bad things about Detmer,” Carruthers said. “They’re not justified. We’re very frightened of him.”
Maybe so, but tonight’s 6 p.m. game is more than a duel between Detmer and Florida State. In a way, it is a game between the Seminoles and their somewhat frustrating past. No. 1 today, but who knows about tomorrow?
“They’ve got to pick somebody (No. 1),” Bowden said, “and I guess they got us. We’ll just do the best to fulfill it.”