This matchup of top-4 teams is the game that made Miami-Florida State the defining rivalry in college football in the late 1980s and 1990s. There was jaw-dropping athleticism all over the field, with such stars as the Noles' Deion Sanders and the Canes' Michael Irvin. The Canes erased a 19-3 third-quarter deficit to take a 26-19 lead, then had to deflect a game-winning two-point conversion pass from FSU's Danny McManus to hang on to a one-point win on their way to a national title. Here's the incredibly tense final sequence of this college football classic.
1989: Bowden Beats the Champs
Florida State 24, Miami 10
Second-ranked Miami entered this game without starting quarterback Craig Erickson but still brimming with confidence having won four straight in the series. Florida State came in already eliminated from the national title chase thanks to two opening losses (to Southern Miss and Clemson). But the Noles took advantage of Erickson's absence, pounding the Gino Toretta-led Canes 24-10. Miami lost the battle but won the war, going on to claim the national championship with an 11-1 record, while FSU finished second in the Coaches Poll. Here, the speedy Dexter Carter gets the corner and goes the distance on a shocked Canes defense.
1991: Wide Right I
Miami 17, Florida State 16
The only No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup in the rivalry's history, this one delivered on its promise with a white-knuckle ride to the end. The matchup received "Game of the Century" hype and comparisons to the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma classic. Despite the presence of several offensive playmakers, the defenses dominated. After an early touchdown drive from Miami, the Noles took over, building a 16-7 third-quarter lead, but the Canes' ability to hold the Noles to field goals instead of touchdowns would prove decisive. Trailing by six with seven minutes left, the Canes drove for a go-ahead touchdown with 3:01 to play, converting a 4th-and-6 along the way. The Noles responded, as Casey Weldon led a desperation drive to the Miami 17-yard line. Bowden trotted out kicker Gerry Thomas on third down to attempt a 34-yarder, but thanks to the NCAA's decision prior to the 1991 season to narrow the width of the uprights by 4 feet 10 inches, the kick sailed wide right.
1992: Wide Right II
Miami 19, Florida State 16
Another year, another top-3 matchup between these two titans. Miami had started the season No. 1, but the disruption of Hurricane Andrew and a lackluster performance in an 8-7 win over Arizona the week prior had dropped the Canes to No. 2. Nevertheless, the Canes had plenty of star power and were riding a 20-game winning streak as they faced their third-ranked rivals, who already owned two wins over ranked teams. The game once again lived up to its billing. Tamarick Vanover electrified the Florida State contingent in the cavernous Orange Bowl, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but from that point, the game unfolded in an eerily similar manner to the previous season's Wide Right I. Once again, the Noles led 16-10 in the fourth quarter, but Gino Toretta launched a 33-yard TD to Lamar Thomas while absorbing a vicious hit, and the Canes took a 17-16 lead that grew to 19-16 after a special teams blunder. Once again, FSU embarked on a desperation drive in the waning moments, this one led by Charlie Ward, who converted a 4th-and-12 with a pass to Kez McCorvey. On the game's final play, Bobby Bowden called on Dan Mowrey to complete his flawless day with a tying 39-yard field goal, but the kick sailed - you guessed it - wide right. And for the second straight year, a kicker who had already nailed three field goals missed the one that mattered most. The Canes would lose the national title game to Alabama, ultimately finishing third — one spot behind Florida State.
2000: Wide Right III
Miami 27, Florida State 24
The Noles had seemingly assumed control of this rivalry, entering the 2000 matchup riding a five-game winning streak in the series over the probation-ravaged Canes, including a 47-0 demolition in 1997. But Butch Davis had managed to rebuild the Miami program, and the Canes entered this matchup against the top-ranked defending national champions ranked No. 7 themselves and riding some positive momentum despite a disappointing early-season loss to Washington. On a scorching day, the aging Orange Bowl ran out of water, but the fans sustained the home team to a 27-24 win that was secured when Noles kicker Matt Munyon joined his predecessors in missing a game-tying field goal that sailed, yep, wide right. The Noles would go on to earn a controversial spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma, while the Canes were sent to the Sugar Bowl to play Florida. Following Oklahoma's 13-2 win over Florida State, Miami would finish No. 2 in the final polls ahead of FSU.
2002: Wide Left, For a Change
Miami 28, Florida State 27
Coming off the 2001 national championship and in the midst of a winning streak that would reach 34 games, top-ranked Miami welcomed ninth-ranked Florida State to the Orange Bowl, where the underdog Noles came within a whisker of derailing the Canes express in front of a record Orange Bowl crowd of 81,927. FSU outplayed Miami for most of the day, taking a 27-14 lead before Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey finally went to work, leading two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. But there was still time for the Noles to lose in heartbreaking fashion. After a short punt, Chris Rix navigated the Noles to the Miami 26-yard line, and Xavier Beitia trotted onto the field for a potential game-winning 43-yard attempt on the final play. The result was predictable, although the direction wasn't — wide left. Amazingly, the Canes moved to 7-0 in one-point games against their arch-rivals. "I'm an old man, and it's the best football game I've ever seen,'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. Miami would go on to lose the national championship to Ohio State in a classic Fiesta Bowl, 31-24.
2004: Wide Right IV
Miami 16, Florida State 14
It's probably a little unfair to tag this one with the "Wide Right" label, since the field goal in question came with about five minutes left. Still, the irony is undeniable. This game, the only bowl meeting between these two teams, was a rematch of a 22-14 Miami win in the regular season and was a little anticlimactic given the national title aspirations both teams had held. After a scoreless first quarter, the second stanza brought a flurry of activity, and the Noles took a 14-13 lead into halftime. The only score of the second half was a Jon Peattie 51-yard field goal in the third. As fate would have it, the decisive play of the fourth quarter would come on an FSU field goal. After a failed Miami fourth-down attempt, the Noles gained possession on the Miami 30 but could advance only to the 22. Xavier Beitia's opportunity for redemption — a 39-yard field goal with about five minutes left — sailed wide right, because of course it did. The Noles didn't threaten again, and Miami held on for the 16-14 win.
2005: The Miami Muff
Florida State 10, Miami 7
It's uncanny how many of these games, featuring college football's greatest athletes, have come down to kicks. In 2005, the Noles finally gained a small measure of satisfaction courtesy of a failed kick; it was the least that the football gods could do. Miami entered the Monday Night season-opener ranked No. 9 and the Noles No. 14, and the early-season jitters were evident. Trailing 10-7 in the fourth quarter, Miami mounted a drive that led to yet another field goal attempt, after the Canes had already missed two — but at least they got those two off. With 2:30 left, Jon Peattie came on to attempt a chip-shot 28-yarder to tie the game. But the kick never happened, as Brian Monroe dropped a low snap, and the Noles were able to run out the clock. "We finally stole one from them like they've been stealing them from us," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's about time."
2008: The Noles Hang On
Florida State 41, Miami 39
These teams' first matchup at Miami's Pro Player Stadium almost saw a comeback for the ages. The Canes trailed 24-3 at halftime and 31-10 in the third quarter before mounting a memorable rally that included two Florida State special teams gaffes and a Sean Spence interception return for a touchdown. As the Noles clung to a 34-32 lead, they faced a 3rd-and-goal at the Miami 20-yard line, and on the game's critical play, Antone Smith broke a 20-yard run for a touchdown. It was Smith's school record-tying fourth rushing TD of the game. The Canes added one more score with 14 seconds left but could get no closer. The 80 combined points were the most in the history of the rivalry, and FSU's 41 points were the most scored by the Seminoles on the road against the Canes.
2009: Bowden Bows Out
Miami 38, Florida State 34
Bobby Bowden's final game against Miami — he would retire at the end of the season — brought more bitter disappointment in a rivalry that dogged him throughout his career; Bowden finished 12-19 against the Canes. Fittingly, this was one of the more exciting installments of the rivalry during the Bowden era, a see-saw battle that went down to an official review of the final play. Canes quarterback Jacory Harris passed for 386 yards — the most by a Canes quarterback against Florida State — despite a funny bone injury that left his arm numb for much of the final quarter. Trailing 34-31, Harris led the Canes on a 59-yard TD march, with Graig Cooper plowing the final three yards with 1:53 left. But the Noles weren't done. Christian Ponder let FSU down to the Miami 2-yard line with time for two plays. On first down, Brandon Harris deflected the ball away from Jarmon Fortson, and on second down, Fortson couldn't quite get his arms under a low pass from Ponder, and the Canes erupted in celebration at Doak Campbell Stadium. "A heck of a television game," Bowden said of his final Canes-Noles matchup. That's a fitting description for most of the games in this storied series.
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