‘Wide Right' continues to define the Florida State-Miami football rivalry
When you crack open the history books of college football and look up great rivalries, several chapters are written on Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Texas and Florida State-Miami (Fla.).
If you watched a Florida State-Miami football game in the early 90s, you were assured of two things – a majority of these players would play football again on Sundays and the game would have national title implications.
Miami was riding a 58-game home winning streak when they welcomed rival Florida State into the Orange Bowl on Oct. 3, 1992. The Hurricanes were the No. 2 team in the country and defending national championship. Despite putting together a 20-game winning streak, Miami appeared vulnerable. Hurricane Andrew, the fourth costliest hurricane in United States history, had disrupted Miami’s early schedule and the team looked sluggish in an 8-7 win against Arizona the previous week.
|HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF|
|Miami (Fla.) 17, Fla. State 16|
|Date||Nov. 16, 1991|
|Stadium||Doak Campbell Stadium|
|• Miami moved to No. 1 in the AP poll and won its final two regular season games. The Canes shut out No. 11 Nebraska 22-0 in the Orange Bowl for their fourth national title.|
|WIDE RIGHT II|
|Miami (Fla.) 19, Fla. State 16|
|Date||Oct. 3, 1992|
|• Miami won its final seven games and at 11-0 entered its bowl game No. 1, However, the Hurricanes lost to Alabama 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl.|
Oh, and Florida State was looking for revenge for something known as “Wide Right.”
It didn’t take long for Florida State to put points on the board. The Seminoles’ Tamarick Vanover caught the opening kickoff at the Florida State six-yard line and then cut through the Miami defenders to go 94 yards for the touchdown. The score was even at 10-10 as the two teams hit the locker room at halftime.
The Seminoles were leading 16-10 in the 4th quarter. When they hosted the Hurricanes in 1991, Florida State was winning late in the fourth quarter. But Miami mounted a comeback and held a one-point advantage late in the game. FSU kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard field goal in what will forever be known as 'Wide Right.'
Would history repeat itself?
Miami responded with a 58-yard drive that culminated with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Gino Torretta to Lamar Thomas. Torretta was knocked to the ground and didn’t see Thomas’ catch.
"As soon as everybody started cheering, I knew," Torretta said to The New York Times after the game.
The extra point was good, giving Miami a 17-16 advantage.
Miami’s defense forced Florida State to punt on the next series as did the Florida State defense. But Miami's punt exposed a breakdown in the Florida State special teams. FSU returner Corey Sawyer was penalized for attempting an illegal forward pass from his own end zone, resulting in a safety for Miami.
The Miami advantage was now 19-16.
There were 95 seconds left in the game. Florida State had one drive left to put that ball in field goal position.
"Before that drive, everybody got in the huddle and said, 'We've got to push it,' " Miami linebacker Darrin Smith said to The New York Times. "We told everybody: 'Look at the clock. See how much time is left. Come on. Hold on for two minutes. Hold on for a minute. Come on. We've got to do it.' "
Charlie Ward had other plans for the Miami defense. He drove the Seminoles offense 59 yards into field goal range.
The Seminoles then called on Mowrey, hoping the kicker would tie the game. He hit on three field goals earlier in the game. But once his foot hit the ball, there was no more suspense. The kicker knew what happened.
"There was no need to look," Mowrey told The New York Times. "I knew the moment I hit it that it was no good."
Once again, the ball was wide right.
Wide Right II.
Miami used the game as springboard to the national championship. The Canes won their last seven games and faced No. 2 Alabama in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. They lost 34-13.
Florida State didn’t lose another game the rest of the season and finished 11-1. The Seminoles defeated Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl and was No. 2 -- behind Alabama and ahead of Miami -- in the final poll.
Between 1987 and 1992, Florida State only lost nine games, but Miami accounted for five of those loses. Bobby Bowden said losing to Miami never bothered him, because his team was in the game until the very end.