Upon entering the conference, Florida State dominated the ACC. The Seminoles won their first 29 ACC games as a member and the conference in each of their first nine seasons.
In their inaugural season, however, there were some challenges. That includes one that took place on this day 30 years ago.
In a top-20 matchup, quarterback Charlie Ward led two touchdown drives over the final 3:20 as Florida State rallied from 10 points down for a 29-24 victory.
Setting the Stage
FSU was facing its third ranked ACC opponent on the road as it arrived at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Oct. 17, 1992. The Seminoles were forced to rally to win at Clemson earlier in the year. At 5-1, FSU was ranked No. 6 in the country.
With a record of 4-1, Georgia Tech was ranked No. 16. The Yellow Jackets had already knocked off two ranked ACC teams and had won their three previous games by a combined nine points.
Ward Finds a Way
For Ward, it wasn’t a great night statistically, but when the game was on the line, he came through. He did, however, give the Seminoles an early 7-0 lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass to William Floyd. Georgia Tech responded with 21 straight points.
Floyd scored early in the fourth to cut the 14-point deficit in half. Georgia Tech kicker Scott Sisson’s fourth field goal of the night with 5:20 remaining, however, looked as though it would put the Seminoles away.
To that point, Ward had passed for just 105 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Down 24-14, opened the next drive with four straight completions. After a 14-yard completion to ‘OMar Ellison on 4th-and-5 kept FSU alive, Ward kept it for a 5-yard touchdown.
With 3:20 left, the 2-point conversion try was no good, but the ensuing onside kick try was. Dan Mowrey’s kick was recovered by FSU’s Corey Sawyer and the Seminoles had new life. After two completions and two runs from Ward, Georgia Tech was again one play from victory.
Facing 4th-and-5 from the Georgia Tech 17, Kez McCorvey was able to break open and Ward didn’t miss him. The 17-yard touchdown strike put the Seminoles ahead for good with less than two minutes to play, 27-24.
The FSU defense sealed the victory. After a second-down sack by Carl Simpson, Georgia Tech quarterback Shawn Jones ran out the back of the end zone for a safety with just 47 seconds remaining.
For Georgia Tech, the loss was the beginning of a downward spiral to close the year. The Yellow Jackets dropped five of their final six games to finish 5-6.
From there, FSU was a different team and Ward was a different player. The Seminoles closed the season on a 7-game winning streak, 11-1 and No. 2 in the final polls.
For Ward, also a basketball player, the offense changed to a wide-open passing attack known as the “Fast Break Offense.” The following season, Ward became FSU’s first Heisman Trophy winner and led the Seminoles to their first national championship, running that style.
Most point to the comeback in Atlanta as the birth of the Fast Break Offense. It came on this day three decades ago.
Featured image courtesy of Garnet and Great/FSU football archivist