Many are aware of Florida State football’s splendid run of 14 straight top-5 finishes.
From 1987 to 2000, the Seminoles finished in the top five of the AP Poll each year. Only once during that stretch did FSU finish outside the top four.
One might say the streak got started on this day 35 years ago. The Seminoles assured themselves a top-5 finish with a thrilling 31-28 victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was a matchup of top-5 teams as the schools arrived in Tempe on Jan. 1, 1988. With identical 10-1 records, fifth-ranked Nebraska raced to an early 14-0 lead. No. 3 FSU quickly erased that with three second-quarter touchdowns, including two scoring tosses from Danny McManus to take a 21-14 lead.
Touchdown runs from Steve Taylor and Tyreese Knox gave the Cornhuskers a 28-24 lead after three quarters. In the final period, Nebraska was on the verge of sealing the victory.
Nebraska was looking to take a 2-score lead as it had the ball near the FSU goal line, but a Knox fumble gave the Seminoles new life at their own 3-yard-line. The Seminoles marched 95 yards to the Nebraska 2, but a 15-yard penalty called on FSU running back Dexter Carter would complicate matters. With more than three minutes remaining, FSU faced 4th-and-goal from the 15.
Perhaps one play from defeat, McManus was given a clean pocket and fired a strike. As Ronald Lewis came out of his break, the ball hit him in stride for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:07 remaining. The FSU defense did the rest.
Box Score and Recap:
Garnet and Great
In a matchup of contrasting styles, the Cornhuskers finished with 242 yards rushing to just 82 for FSU. McManus passed for 375 yards and three scores for the Seminoles. Nebraska managed just 142 yards through the air. Herb Gainer caught two touchdowns in the win.
The victory gave FSU a then school-record-tying 11th win and a No. 2 finish in the final polls — its highest-ever at the time. From 1982 to 1995, FSU went 13-0-1 in bowl games. One of the more thrilling of those victories began a streak of 14 straight top-5 finishes and came on this day 35 years ago.