NC State: Florida State's speed bump
Posted October 24, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — One football moment seared into the memory of many – especially in the Triangle region - is listening NC State’s first win in three decades over FSU in 1998.
Driving back to North Carolina from a weekend trip, my father and I picked up over a murky AM station what seemed like a near impossibility: a team outside the state of Florida beating Florida State (this hadn’t happened in three years). It was surreal. We half-joked that we must be experiencing a “War of the Worlds”-type hoax.
Wolfpack fans carried the goalposts out of Carter-Finley Stadium that evening - and for good reason. Almost no one beat FSU back then.
From 1987 to 2000, the Seminoles finished in the top-5 every season, played for six national titles, and dominated the ACC so absolutely — amassing a 70-2 record in their first nine seasons in the league — that it perhaps damaged the conference’s football reputation permanently.
Head coach Bobby Bowden’s program won their first 29 ACC games after joining in 1992. They stood undefeated until a ranked Virginia team knocked them off in 1995 on an opportune (i.e. cold) Thursday night in Charlottesville. The Seminoles responded by winning their next 18 conference contests before slipping up in Raleigh.
Losing (as rare as it was) seemed to only make the Noles better in the 90s. After that first conference defeat, they only lost three games combined over the next three seasons (all to Florida). And after losing to the Wolfpack in ‘98 (only their second ACC blemish ever), the Noles again only lost three times in as many years - with two coming in national title games.
The Seminoles didn’t drop another ACC contest until succumbing to both North Carolina and NC State in 2001.
Of course, FSU’s mind-boggling success is what makes their fall from the top even more conspicuous — and something NC State has always seemed to have their hand in.
The Seminoles finished in the top-5 of the AP poll 15 consecutive years leading up to 2001. The departure from elite status came almost precisely after the departure of a linebackers coach by the name of Chuck Amato. He, of course, left Bowden’s staff to take over in Raleigh the year before.
There is no proof that Amato’s exit caused the abrupt fall of Florida State football, but #HotSportsTakes aside, nobody can prove it didn’t either.
After starting out 70-2 in the ACC, the Noles are 64-32 since.
Amato probably didn’t directly cause to the “collapse” of the most sustained dynasty in the history of college football, but he did have a direct hand in beating them more than a few times while Bowden’s program began to flounder. Unlike the 1998 loss that precluded the Seminoles’ three consecutive BCS national title bouts, NC State’s wins over FSU in 2001 and 2002 had the opposite effect: Florida State didn’t win 10 games in a season for almost a decade thereafter.
It was always implied that Amato’s FSU connections had a lot to do with NC State’s seemingly flukish wins over the Seminoles (it was probably Philip Rivers, but that doesn’t make for nearly as good of a story now does it?). Amato recruited from Florida heavily and his last season in Raleigh harbored no less than 26 Floridians on his roster, and of course, an eventual win over FSU.
The last Wolfpack team to lose to the Seminoles only had six players from the Sunshine State.
The narrative for this trend was that it was payback for those Floridian players Bowden didn’t recruit - or perhaps, payback for having to attend NC State. Either way, the Pack have found ways to beat FSU, both before and after Amato’s recruiting classes.
NC State has beaten FSU more than any other ACC opponent in history, seven times, and is to blame for over one-fifth of every ACC loss ever absorbed by Tallahassee’s team. The series is dead even at 6-6 since Florida State started to slip in 2001.
That record might not be so much a compliment to NC State as it is to FSU’s still prevalent ACC hegemony, but it can’t be ignored how the Wolfpack have always found a way to give the Noles problems.
FSU seems poised for a title run this season, and doubly poised to crush the Wolfpack this Saturday (many in Vegas are giving NC State at least 28 points), but both of those statements were true last year when Mike Glennon took it Jimbo Fisher’s squad on a last second drive in Raleigh.
Bob Holliday declared this week that “The Noles of the 90s are back,” and with Jameis Winston at the helm, this does look to be the case. However, curiously enough, the litmus test for FSU’s dominance seems to hinge on whether the Seminoles can get past the Wolfpack.
NC State’s “Stuff” has always been on a pendulum that can swing wildly in both directions. We’ll see on Saturday exactly how history is to repeat itself.