Of all the things I love in the world, one of those things I love the most. Florida State Football. Let’s take a trip in the way back machine to 1990. I’m a young boy. Eight years old to be exact. And every Saturday the Haas household consisted of two things. Grilling with our neighbors, and watching Nole football. No, I didn’t go to FSU, so my love is a different kind of love. My dad, Don, attended there, briefly (it seems the men in my family have a tradition of kind of sort of going to college) as did our neighbor Max, and so each Saturday we watched together. Two families, rabidly rooting for their favorite college age guys. The Florida, Florida State game in 1990 is officially the moment I became obsessed. I can still remember the names of FSU legends. Casey Weldon. Lawrence Dawsey. Amp Lee. And I remember the names of some lesser known players who blew up in that particular game. Matt Frier. John Wyche. I taped the game so I could watch it again and again. Not only was it the first game that really caught my attention, but it’s the game that set up the next two decades to be dominated by florida schools. Bleacher Report remembers it like this.
It did not take long after Spurrier returned to Florida for this game to start to become a huge national game. In his first game in this series as the head coach, Spurrier brought in the sixth-ranked Gators. Bowden had his Seminoles ranked in the top 10 as well. Florida State was ranked eighth in the country heading into this game. The Seminoles would win the game 45-30, as Bowden won his first matchup against Spurrier. This game was more important in the long run. It marked the beginning of the Gators’ and Seminoles’ dominance of college football. These two squads would meet 12 times in the 1990s. They would also win 14 conference championships and three national titles over the same time period. With the rise of the Gators, the 1990s coined the phrase, “the road to the national championship goes through the state of Florida.”
Ever since that game, (and maybe even this play)I have been totally in love with my Noles, for better, and worse. First, the better. The 1990’s were great for FSU. The Noles finished in the top 5 for 14 straight seasons, a feat which will probably never be matched. They won 2 national titles (and would have won many more had it not been for Miami and poor kicking) and had numerous all americans and 2 Heisman trophy winners (Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke). They also continued a streak of bowl eligibility that is so still going on. Nebraska holds the all time record at 35 consecutive bowl game appearances, but FSU with it’s 22-7-1 record is sure to break that in the next few years. Yes, the 1990’s were great to be a Nole fan.
The bad. It hurts me to say this. Because, well, because God bless Bobby Bowden. Under the legendary coaches direction, the Noles went from a usually crummy team to THE dominant team of the 1990’s. Florida State is truly the house that Bobby built. But….. He stayed too long. And made the poor decision of hiring his son as an offensive coordinator. I won’t lament the “lost decade” (approximately 2001 or 02 and on), but I will say this. I went to a game in 2006. I sat on the very top row. It rained the entire game. And Wake Forest, yes… WAKE FOREST shut us out 31 to zip. A truly humbling experience and proof of just how far we had fallen. Changes needed to be made, and they were made. Jimbo Fisher was brought in as the offensive cooridinator, and the legendary Coach Bowden was forced out in 2010, officially starting the Jimbo era, an era we are still in.
Now that you have been caught up on the history, who are we now? Our recent history has been a team that is pretty good, but lacks some discipline and frequently trips up against teams it shouldn’t. It is not “the lost decade”, but it’s still been a frustrating time for Nole fans based on the (possibly unrealistic) expectations of old. In my opinion, we have been missing a few things. Mental toughness for one. An offensive identity for another. But mostly, we’ve been missing “it”. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. Cam Newton. Vince Young. Percy Harvin. Reggie Bush. Those are recent examples of guys who had it, and they are also recent examples of national champions. I think to win a title nowadays, you need a truly special player or two. And ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to that player – Jameis Winston.
Ever since the number one quarterback recruit in the country committed to play football at FSU, expectations and hype have been on the mind of every fan. This year, Winston’s redshirt freshman year, we finally get a chance to see if he can cope with those two pressures (not to mention the stellar UF defense he will face, and the big game atmosphere at Death Valley against Clemson). So far, we have half an answer. Three games have been played, and three beatdowns have been given. The opener at Pitt was supposed to be against a pretty good defense. So when Winston went 25 of 27 for 356 yards and 4 touchdowns (plus a rushing touchdown to boot) the hype and expectations only grew. Of course, a few weeks later, when Duke put up around 50 points against Pitt as well, that win looked less impressive. It’s possible that after that game, and games against Nevada and division 2 Bethune Cookman, FSU hasn’t been tested. Like, at all. With a game at conference foe Boston College looming this Saturday, we may finally get to see what kind of quarterback Jameis Winston will be. I’ve been telling people since I saw him on the Elite 11 program on ESPN that we finally have a quarterback that has it.
Only time will tell what legacy Winston leaves at FSU (though hopefully we can look forward to more gems like this). I think he has the tools to be the best we’ve ever seen. Can the defense, under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, be competent enough to keep pace? Can the offensive skill players rise to the level of play that Winston will demand? Can the team, and especially the coaches, make it a whole year without one of it’s signature missteps? I say yes. Because of it.