Photo courtesy of Garnet and Great/Florida State football archivist
Unfortunately for Florida State, the last four seasons have all been losing campaigns. For more than four decades before that however, the Seminoles saw nothing but winning seasons.
That was what was at stake for FSU on this day 15 years ago. Needing a win to clinch a 30th straight winning season, the Seminoles rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from UCLA in the Emerald Bowl, 44-27.
Setting the Stage
FSU was in the midst of its worst season in 30 years as it arrived at AT&T Park on Dec. 27, 2006. In their 31st season under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden, the Seminoles finished the regular season with a record of 6-6. They needed a win to avoid their first losing season since Bowden’s first season.
UCLA was 7-5 and playing what served as a de facto home game in San Francisco. The Bruins had closed the regular season on a 3-game winning streak. That was highlighted by an upset of No. 2 USC to thwart the Trojans’ national championship aspirations.
FSU Rallies for Victory
UCLA used a 9-yard touchdown run by Chane Moline to end a streak of 13 straight points for FSU and take a 27-23 lead into the final quarter. FSU began the first drive of the period at its own 10-yard-line.
For the Seminoles, the drive would last 11 plays. UCLA had no answer for 6-foot-6 wide receiver Greg Carr.
After FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford had connected with Carr for 27 yards and a first down earlier in the drive, the two hooked up again to put the Seminoles ahead for good. Facing 4th-and-9 from the UCLA 30-yard-line, Bowden elected to keep his offense on the field.
It paid off.
Carr was able to free himself along the sideline and Weatherford delivered a perfect throw as the Seminoles regained the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. The 30-yard strike gave FSU a 30-27 lead, but the Seminoles were just getting started.
A slip-up by UCLA’s Derrick Williams on the ensuing kickoff forced the Bruins to start inside their own 5. After a 3-and-out, FSU’s next drive began near midfield and lasted six plans.
Running back Lorenzo Booker, a California native, got touches on five of those plays. After Weatherford found Booker for 26 yards on 3rd-and-12, the running back’s 2-yard run pushed the FSU lead to 37-27 with more than six minutes remaining.
UCLA quickly marched into the red zone, but cornerback Tony Carter put the contest on ice. Facing 3rd-and-4, UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan fired toward the sticks. Carter stepped in front of his throw and returned it 87 yards for the game-sealing touchdown. Myron Rolle would add an interception for the FSU defense later in the contest.
The game’s first two touchdowns came on consecutive offensive plays. After Booker’s 25-yard touchdown gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead, UCLA responded on the very next play from scrimmage as Cowan found Brandon Breazell for the 78-yard score.
UCLA’s Justin Medlock and FSU’s Gary Cismesia would twice trade field goals in the first half, but sandwiched around those was a 7-yard touchdown pass from Cowan to Junior Taylor. Cismesia’s second field goal right before halftime cut the Bruins’ lead to 20-13 at the break.
Cismesia got the second-half scoring started with a 36-yard field goal. After a big stop by the FSU defense, the Seminoles came through with a huge special teams play. Dekoda Watson was able to block a punt and linebacker Lawrence Timmons returned the block 25 yards for the FSU touchdown.
The Seminoles led 23-20, but that would last less than three minutes. It took just six plays for the Bruins to answer on Moline’s touchdown.
UCLA finished with a slight edge in total yardage, but FSU made the big plays. Weatherford passed for 325 yards in the win while Booker tallied 91 yards rushing and a game-high 117 yards receiving in his final career game. UCLA’s Chris Markey led all rushers with 117 yards.
Both teams would finish the year 7-6 and unranked. With the Emerald Bowl win, FSU had notched its 30th straight winning season. That streak would run to 41 before coming to an end in 2018.
It would not have lasted another 11 years without the comeback win that took place on this day 15 years ago.