Photo provided by Garnet and Great/Florida State football archivist
Florida State won the ACC in each of its first nine years as a member from 1992 to 2000. In 2001, FSU fell short for the first time and finished 8-4.
The Seminoles were expected to return to form in 2002, but in the opener, they got all they wanted and more from a foe with an emerging quarterback. On this day 20 years ago, however, FSU was able to stop Iowa State’s Seneca Wallace inches from the goal line to survive, 38-31.
Setting the Stage
While FSU was coming off a disappointing season in 2001, the Seminoles still won the Gator Bowl and finished ranked in the top 15. FSU was ranked No. 3 as it arrived at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City for the Eddie Robinson Classic on Aug. 24, 2002. FSU head coach Bobby Bowden was one win shy of passing legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant for second on the all-time wins list.
Entering its eighth season under head coach Dan McCarney, Iowa State was coming off consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1977 and 1978. Still, few thought the Cyclones would be any match for the Seminoles. Thanks to the play of Wallace, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
For much of the night, it appeared that the Seminoles would cruise to victory. FSU raced to a 31-7 lead in the second quarter. Iowa State fought back, but Chris Rix’s second touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin midway through the final quarter gave FSU a 38-24 lead and appeared to be the dagger.
Wallace and the Cyclones, however, refused to go quietly. With 5:26 left, Wallace capped a 91-yard touchdown drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jamaul Montgomery.
Down 38-31, the Iowa State defense would give Wallace one last chance to steal a win and shock the college football world. On a drive that began with less than three minutes remaining, Wallace marched the Cyclones 64 yards in 11 plays to the FSU 1-yard-line.
After a 20-yard scramble by Wallace that came up just inches short of the goal line, the Cyclones had time for one play. With four seconds to go, the ball was put in Wallace’s hands. On an option call, Wallace kept it as he went to his right. FSU linebackers Kendyll Pope and Jerel Hudson converged to make the stop.
Bowden had surpassed Bryant.
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Wallace finished with 313 yards passing and three total touchdowns for Iowa State in the loss. The Cyclones would win their next six games and ascend into the top 10 before dropping six of their last seven games to finish 7-7.
In addition to the two touchdown passes from Rix to Boldin, defensive end Alonzo Jackson also returned an interception for a touchdown for FSU. Greg Jones and Nick Maddox combined for 170 yards rushing with each finding the end zone.
It was another disappointing year for FSU as it finished 9-5 with a 26-13 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. What the Seminoles were able to do was win the ACC and finish in the top 25. Their ACC title campaign began with a thrilling victory in Kansas City on this day two decades ago.