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Football flashback: Remembering the Choke at the Doak

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It was a tie. A deadlock. Thirty-one for this team, 31 for that one.

Why, then, do FSU and Florida have completely different memories of it?

It was Nov. 26, 1994, when Florida spent three quarters of the game bashing the dickens out of FSU, only to have the Seminoles return the favor with a 28-point fourth quarter. It was a stunning comeback, a tie that left FSU feeling as if it had won and Florida as if it had lost.

Seminole players were celebrating, and Gator players were angry.

Florida, the nation’s No. 4 team, had started the day as if it could do no wrong. Steve Spurrier’s Fun and Gun offense had its way early. Danny Wuerffel threw for three touchdowns in the first half, and the Seminoles (ranked seventh) could not figure out how to stop him. It was 31-3 going into the final period.

But Danny Kanell hit 18 of 22 for 233 yards in that fourth period alone to guide FSU to its comeback tie. FSU scored to come within 1 with just over a minute to play, but coach Bobby Bowden went for the tie. He said that going for two against Miami several seasons earlier influenced his decision. That year, FSU failed on its two-point conversion that year and the Hurricanes finished No. 1 while FSU was No. 2.

This time, he overruled several assistant coaches to go for the kick, saying that he didn’t want such a comeback to be wasted by a failed two-point conversion.

In hindsight, Bowden was right. The Choke at the Doak has become on of college football’s most famous ties (along with Notre Dame-Michigan State in 1966). Yeah, both teams got their tie. But for FSU, it is a golden memory, and for Florida, it is a garbage one.

These days, with overtime, a tie wouldn’t happen. For that day, however, it was fitting.

The teams played again in the Sugar Bowl where FSU won a 23-17 game.

FSU finished the season ranked fourth that year. Florida was ranked seventh.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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