Remembering the Choke at Doak

Don't let the record book fool you. The 80,210 seated in Doak Campbell Stadium on Nov. 26, 1994, and the millions more watching from home will tell you the 31-31 tie between No.4 Florida and No. 7 Florida State belies the reality on the field that afternoon.

In one of the greatest installments of the longtime Florida-Florida State rivalry, the stakes were once again high as both teams were situated in the top 10 at kickoff -- just like the 13 other times from 1990-2000. The Gators, ranked No. 4, were also hoping to match FSU's first national title in '93 with their own in '94.

Florida coach Steve Spurrier, never one to shy away from offering a punch line at the expense of a rival school or coach, stoked the fire earlier in the year when he called FSU "Free Shoes University," referring to a report that agents picked up a $6,000 tab that Seminoles players rang up at a Foot Locker near FSU.

"You respect [Spurrier], but he's like a crazy uncle," Andre Wadsworth, a defensive end on that '94 Noles team, said. "I never did like Florida. Growing up in Miami, I only respected the Canes and FSU. The Gators didn't play [Miami]. I don't care about the excuse of being in the SEC and all that nonsense."

Spurrier has always been good at getting opponents' blood boiling, but up until that point, he had not beaten his cross-state rival in Tallahassee and was 1-3 overall against Bobby Bowden.

"We were aware at that point that Steve had not won in Doak Campbell, and, I don't know if that meant anything to the players, but it meant something to the coaches," said Mickey Andrews, FSU' defensive coordinator from 1984-2010. "Steve, part of his deal, was trying to get under the skin of another coach. Everybody thinks some things, but Steve thinks out loud. I'm sure some of the stuff bothered Coach Bowden."

When the time came to stop the talking and work it out on the field, the Gators looked as if they'd back up their words, jumping out to a 31-3 lead. Florida began resting its starters in the third quarter. Then, somehow, the momentum began to shift. Florida State made defensive play after defensive play, and the offense did nothing but score touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

By the time the clock turned to zero, the scoreboard read 31-31.

It was a tie, but yet everyone involved remembers a Florida State win and a Florida loss.

"It is a pretty dang good win ... I mean tie," was Bowden's postgame Freudian slip.

Twenty years later, Florida State still beams with pride; Florida is still haunted with regret.

Here's the oral history of the 1994 "Choke at Doak" from the people who lived it.

52:38 -- Florida 7-3

Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel struggles, starting 1-of-6, but he then connects with Aubrey Hill for a 68-yard touchdown on a blown coverage.

UF WR Jack Jackson: We had so many guys in that wide receiver corps. I don't know if anyone had a corps like us.

FSU DB Devin Bush: Spurrier really revolutionized the bunch coverage, so we had to make sure where [the receivers] were and be ready for their talent level. They could hurt you in a flash.

30:08 -- Florida 24-3

The Gators' offense is now hitting its stride, and the Gators make it 24 consecutive points with a touchdown pass, field goal and then a back-breaking 28-yard touchdown with less than 10 seconds before halftime. The drive begins at midfield with 23 seconds and no timeouts, but in three plays -- including a spike -- the Gators score.

Jackson: We thought we broke their will, but obviously we didn't. Their fans were distraught giving up a touchdown that late.

FSU QB Danny Kanell: I don't watch the first half too much. I remember it being rough, getting hit, Florida doing whatever they wanted. It was ugly.

HALFTIME -- Florida 24-3

Bush: For a minute it was quiet [in the locker room]. Everybody was trying to figure out if we're asleep or is this really happening? I've never been down like this in the history of me playing football.

FSU LB Derrick Brooks: We were down, but no one panicked. We did a good job of keeping our poise. The mistakes we were making were correctable mistakes. We had to go out and play better. I don't know if I would say we were going lose, but we needed to play better so we don't be embarrassed. I was thinking, 'Hey it's my [senior day], and we're better than how we're playing.'

Kanell: My only mindset in the second half was not to come back and win but to make it respectable. We were getting embarrassed at home.

24:43 -- Florida 24-3

A long drive renews hope FSU will at least be competitive, but it ends with a missed field goal. However, the drive gives Kanell, who passed for 72 yards in the first half, confidence.

Kanell: We were going off the field at halftime, and the fans were chanting for Thad Busby. They wanted me benched, and I know there was conversation between [Mark] Richt and Bowden whether they should. I'm thankful to this day Bowden said give him one more drive.

19:34 -- Florida 31-3

Florida orchestrates an 80-yard touchdown drive, and the nail looks to be sledgehammered into the coffin toward the end of the third. .

Jackson: I was basically pulled out and I was on the sideline, and we're pulling players from the game.

Andrews: It got discouraging when you're down 24-3, miss a field goal, and they go on an 80-yard drive, and it looks like they're going to score 100. But they took the challenge.

FSU DL Derrick Alexander: It came down to a situation where the leaders had to get our guys together and say, 'These are the moments we live for and what they'll remember forever.'

FSU offensive coordinator Mark Richt: I remember talking to Coach Bowden about how maybe we need to go no-huddle to start the [fourth quarter]. He's like, 'Buddy, I don't care what you do.' It was kind of like we're getting beat so bad he was thinking about his speech on why we got thrashed.

17:06 -- Florida 31-3

Throwing underneath routes, the Seminoles string together a long drive but once again face a red zone fourth down. FSU goes for it and targets Kez McCorvey, who gets the first down by inches. FSU scores four plays later.

Kanell: It was a good spot by the officials. [McCorvey] went up in the air and his body contorted only the way Kez's did. He's like Gumby out there.

12:59 -- Florida 31-10

Trying to nurse the victory, Florida runs twice on short yardage and fails. The momentum is shifting.

UF punter Shayne Edge: One of my best friends [Florida OT] Jason Odom said, 'We're in trouble,' and I looked at him like, 'He's crazy, are you stupid, what are you talking about?' And he said, 'We've gone conservative.' I said, 'Jason, it doesn't matter what we do.' When Jason said that, I thought he'd lost his mind.

Andrews: I don't know what happened in the fourth quarter. We started playing defense like we ought to be playing and getting the ball back to our offense.

10:04 -- Florida 31-17

The second straight touchdown comes on a three-play, 33-second drive, which is exactly what FSU needs.

Kanell: First play of the drive, I got wrecked and I was mildly concussed. I was looking at the Florida sideline for the play call to come in. After that touchdown, everyone kind of woke up. That was the critical drive of the comeback.

Alexander: That's what we always pride -- the fourth quarter and finishing the game -- and that's from doing mat drills and getting up at 4 a.m. and running and sweating, preparing for that particular opportunity. Fortunately for us, it was against Florida that we did that.

Wuerffel: One of the downsides of our success was we didn't have a lot of close games in the fourth quarter. Any time you end up in a battle, you just don't have the experience and the time to look back on it like, 'We've pulled this out five times before.' You're in a place you've never been.

7:28 -- Florida 31-17

Alexander injured his elbow on Florida's first touchdown drive but is dominant on Florida's drive. Alexander single-handedly ends a drive by nearly sacking Wuerffel on consecutive plays.

Alexander: You can break my back and no way I'm ever coming out of a Florida or Miami game. I think the game plan was to hurt me. ... It was hyperextended or dislocated. I went to the sideline and felt like my arm was going to fall off. They said they'll take me inside, and I said, 'No way in hell I'm leaving this sideline.' From the time I hurt my elbow to the end, that might have been some of the best football I ever played.

Florida lines up to punt leading 31-17, but the snap is high. Punter Shayne Edge takes off toward the right toward the first-down marker.

Edge: I thought about faking and running for the first down because everyone on FSU turned around for the return. Peter Boulware is the only one who stayed in contain. I don't think Boulware would have caught me, but knowing the situation, I had to get it down the field. I might have gotten a first down and it's a different story, but he's the only reason I didn't run. I think I probably could have gotten by him, but [if not], they wouldn't let me back on the bus. The punt goes 56 yards and right then I know the game is over because no way they're going to drive down the field.

5:25 -- Florida 31-24

The Seminoles begin at their 26-yard line, but seven straight completions have FSU at the 2. Kanell scrambles after a play-action and loops around right tackle for a touchdown.

Kanell: The last thing I wanted to do was run it. I never ran the football, and I think that's why Florida was caught so off guard. Typically I'd slip it to the guy in slot or I'd take shot over the defense, but Florida was playing soft. I'm like, 'I'm going to have to run this thing.' It's the longest 2-yard run in FSU history time-wise. I always give [Florida DE] Kevin Carter a hard time about it. He was breathing down my neck, but I showcased my speed and turned on the jets.

FSU DB James Colzie: I always felt Danny never got the accolades he should have. He was the QB who led us back. He ran in as slow as he is.

Wadsworth: Any time you come back from adversity against a rival that wants to annihilate you, it shows a lot. I think a lot of people backed off right then and there.

Kanell: Without a doubt [the comeback changed fan perception]. Most of the year, I wasn't even worried about filling in for Charlie Ward. I knew I wouldn't be able to do that. I just wanted to hang onto my job. That was my signature moment.

4:01 -- Florida 31-24

Florida's Fred Taylor nearly breaks a long run but is dragged down in the open field. It is a game-saving play, as seconds later Wuerffel throws left, but there isn't a receiver in the area. Colzie is the closest player to the ball and dives right, hauling in the interception and sliding into the Gators' sideline.

Colzie: I remember we were pretty much a press team, and whenever Florida would check, we would back out and key up our alignments. They would do certain things when we would press and do certain things when we backed out, so we tried to confuse them. I knew the [defensive] call was 'Robber.' I remember it vividly because we ran it so much. Me being on the No. 2 receiver, I had outside leverage and help inside. Knowing Spurrier as well as we knew him from playing so many times, we knew they were a big outside team. They like smash routes, a stop route and a corner. They were going to run a certain route with me pressed, and I backed out late, so there was probably some miscommunication. They were going to run a corner route, but when the receiver saw me back out, I don't think Wuerffel did.

Jackson: I don't know the miscommunication, but I remember the play. With our offense, you had options like reading coverages. It could have been an in or out route. We audible a lot with Coach Spurrier audibling in the plays. It could have been a receiver getting the wrong signal.

Wuerffel: [Laughing] I'm not sure specifically what caused that interception at the end, but it was definitely someone else's fault.

Beginning at the 39-yard line, FSU running back Warrick Dunn catches a swing pass at the line of scrimmage but evades two tacklers and sprints 36 yards down the sideline, just like in 1993.

Kanell: That [1993] play was to the left, and I threw it to the right, but the way he made a guy miss in a phone booth is what reminded me of it. There was no room to make a guy miss, and he makes him whiff. I'm like, 'Whoa, that's last year.'

1:45 -- Florida 31-30

Five plays later, FSU RB Rock Preston, who earlier fumbled inside the Florida 10, takes a handoff and scores. He rips off his helmet and celebrates with the Deion Sanders "Prime Time Dance."

Preston: Of course I was upset with the fumble. It was surprising because I hardly ever fumble. ... As we were coming back, I was wishing I can make a play to redeem myself. We got near the goal line, and my number was called. There was no way I was going to get stopped. It was a wonderful feeling! I remember it like it was hours ago.

Wadsworth: I was next to Julian Pittman on the sideline, and I could yell in his ear hole but I couldn't hear myself and he couldn't hear me. It was deafening. It gave me goose bumps. That was the loudest sporting event that I've been to, and I've been to two Super Bowls and Game 7 for the Angels-Giants and the Diamondbacks-Yankees. I got to tell you, nothing can beat how loud it was on that field when Rock Preston scored.

Edge: It could have been the loudest ... but a lot of those people tried to beat the traffic.

UF defensive coordinator Bob Pruett: Last thing I told [Spurrier] and people after the game was, 'I shut it down and turned the defense over to [Spurrier]. ... We got winded, they got momentum, and they came back.' Momentum, you got to stop it as a team. The defense looked bad but we didn't do anything on offense. We make a first down, and they don't have enough time to score. The defense gets the blame for it, but it's a whole team deal.

Richt: That game, I felt like in a lot of ways it saved my career as an offensive coordinator, because if we would've gotten beat that bad to Florida and didn't score even a touchdown, Coach Bowden might have had second thoughts about having me be in that position.

Now, Bobby Bowden has the decision whether to go for two and the lead or kick the PAT and secure the tie? Bowden, without hesitation, quickly called for the PAT.

Kanell: Before that drive, I talked to Mark Richt, and his exact words were, 'When we score -- not if -- we're going to go for two and we're going to run 30 trap.' And 30 trap was the exact play on the touchdown for Zack Crockett. He said make sure you keep everyone on the field so you don't waste time, so I'm yelling at the O-line to stay because we're going for two. And I look over and Coach Bowden was signaling for one. I was bummed and mad at the time. I felt no way they would stop us. It was the right decision [to kick], but at the time, we wanted to go for it.

Bowden: We would have won the national championship in 1987 if I kicked the extra point [against Miami], but we went for two and didn't get it [and lost 26-25]. If I had gone for one, we both end up 11-0-1, but they ended up No.1 and we ended up No. 2, so my thinking changed after that.

Wadsworth: I have mixed feelings but not bad feelings not going for two trying to win it.

Pruett: If they had gone for two, they'd have probably won. I'm just awfully happy they didn't. At that point of the game, we weren't stopping anything.

UF OT Jason Odom: I remember saying, 'Don't go for two.' We wouldn't have stopped them no matter what they did.

Norm Carlson, UF football historian: We're probably damn lucky it's 31-31. If it's another 10 minutes, it might be 41-31.

Alexander: Maybe if [Bowden] had time to sit down for an hour, he might have went a different way, but I think he realized taking the tie was a win for us.

0:00 -- Florida 31, Florida State 31

The game ends 31-31, although the Sugar Bowl will pit the two teams months later in The Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter, which FSU wins 23-17. Brooks says the bowl win answered any questions about whether FSU won in November, although nearly everyone already concedes FSU won.

Pruett: Sure we consider it a loss. At the end of the day it was a tie, but one team felt like they lost and one team felt like they won.

Wuerffel: If there's ever a tie that felt like a loss, it's that one.

Brooks: We definitely take that as a win.

Edge: It was probably the worst loss in my four years of college football. Everyone knows that's a Florida State win.

Odom: When Shayne Edge texted me and said this is what [the interview] is about, I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth.

UF DL Mark Campbell: I've never watched that game in its entirety since that day. We went over it in film study because we had to.

Andrews: The entire time Steve was in Florida, he never beat us in Tallahassee. Those were two games [including 1996] to make that happen.

Well, almost everyone is willing to concede defeat.

Spurrier: They were all bragging about the tie. I said, 'Hell, it's the same for you as it is for us.'