The Choke at Doak

On November 26th, 1994 the Florida Gators came into Doak Campbell Field in Tallahassee, Florida riding high. They were ranked 4th, but only because they had been upset by 6th ranked Auburn in their 6th game. They were rolling over everybody else and Auburn was right in the middle of a 20 game winning streak in Tommy Bowden’s early years.

The Gators had been the top ranked team in the country at the beginning of the season.

Steve Spurrier was the man at Florida and if Gator fans had their way, he would have been elected President of the United States. Future Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel split time with Terry Dean at quarterback for the Gators, but Wuerffel was definitely the star here. But, this Gator team was loaded with other stars like running back Fred Dean and receivers Ike Hilliard, Jack Jackson, Reidel

Anthony and Chris Doering.

The Florida Gators came into the game with a 9-1 record.

Big Gator rivals Florida State came into the game with a 9-1 record, also, and they were ranked 7th. Seminole king, Bobby Bowden, had finally won his first national championship the previous season and they were right in the middle of their dynasty period. Dynasty Years  Dynasty Beginning

The Seminoles beat 13th ranked North Carolina coached by Mack Brown, but then they lost to rival Miami in game 5. The Hurricanes had been beaten by the Washington Huskies early in the season, but they recovered and eventually matched up with Nebraska in the national championship game.

The Gators were loaded, but so were the Seminoles. They were the defending national champions and their quarterback won the Heisman Trophy. Heisman winner Greg Ward was gone, but a fairly experienced Danny Kanell moved into his spot. They also had running backs Warrick Dunn, Rock Preston and Zack Crockett along with wide receivers Kez McCorvey, Andre Cooper and Omar Ellison.

The Seminole defense was even more loaded with Derrick Alexander, Andre Wadsworth, Peter Boulware, Derrick Brooks, Daryl Bush, Clifton Abraham and Devin Bush.

This game was hyped up in the usual way when these rivals got together with coaches Bobby

Bowden and Steve Spurrier. It was #4 against #7. This game was must watch live, or on the tube.

However, when the Gators went up 17-3 the Seminoles looked to be in some trouble on their home field. The high powered Gator offense under Steve Spurrier were threatening to blow them off the field.

It looked even worse when the Gators scored again to go up 24-3. It was all smiles for Spurrier and the Gators when the Gators scored yet again to go up 31-3. The Seminoles were in deep, deep trouble.

Spurrier had no love for the Seminoles and he looked like he was enjoying himself. There was no way he was going to call off the dogs and this could be an embarrassing blowout for the Seminoles and on their own turf. Nobody, but nobody could come into Doak Campbell Stadium and blow out the Seminoles like this. But, the Florida Gators were doing it.

Going into the 4th quarter, this game was over.

Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell led them down field and Zach Crocket, the fullback, scored

to bring it to 31-10.

But, that just made this out of control game look a little better for the Noles.

The Seminoles held the high powered Gator offense to a 3 and out and forced a punt. It didn’t matter, the Gators were still in control and their sideline was still all smiles.

The Noles started a drive from their own 39 yard line and Kanell hit Kez McCorvey for a long gainer to within the Gators 30 yard line.

Kanell hit super tailback Warrick Dunn who ran the ball inside the Gator 10 yard line. Kanell hit his wide receiver Andre Cooper inside the edge of the end zone for another score.

Now, suddenly, it was 31-17 with 10 minutes still remaining. The smiles were fading on the Gator sideline and this was a game again.

The Gators were still trying to milk the clock, but the Seminole defense was all over the running game. Trying to change things up, Danny Wuerffel attempted to hit a deep receiver but his throw was off. Wuerffel tried to roll out and throw on 3rd down, but he was tackled by a Seminole defender in what would have been a 15 yard penalty for a horse collar tackle now. But, it wasn’t against the rules back then.

The momentum had shifted badly in this game for the Gators and next was a bad snap on the punt, but the punter miraculously got the ball off.

The seminoles had the ball back and they were hot. With their passing game, and their talent, there was plenty of time left on the clock.

Kanell hit Omar Ellison for a good gain and Ellison also was tackled in an another horse collar.

Kanell was 6 out of 13 passing in the first half for 72 yards and an interception. In the second half,

mostly the 4th quarter, he was now lighting it up.

With plenty of time left, he had thrown 30 passes and completed 25 so far for 246 yards and a score. It was still almost in the middle of the 4th quarter and he had time to pad those numbers.

It was 5:30 approximately left in the game and Steve Spurrier was no longer smiling. Neither was a very nervous Bobby Bowden on his own sideline. FSU was driving again and they had a first and goal after Danny Kanell hit his tailback with a short pass Warrick Dunn yet again.

From around the 4 yard line, Kanell faked a handoff and ran it outside to his right and took it in for a touchdown.

The score was now 31-24 and Doak Campbell stadium was going wild. That famous War Chant was now piercing the Autumn sky.

The game had about 5:00 minutes remaining, which was plenty of time for either offense.

The Gators actually started driving the ball again when they got it back after the kickoff. But, Wureffel threw an interception to about the Seminole 40. James Colzie picked Wuerffel’s pass off for the Noles and again the stadium erupted.

Florida State and their suddenly explosive offense had the ball back and in good field position from their own 40.

Kanell hit Warrick Dunn along the sideline and the explosive Dunn ran it all the way down to around the Gator 20 yard line. Kanell kept throwing it and they got inside the 10. Kanell then threw the ball to the other tailback Rock Preston, who took it in for the score. It was now 31-30, but Florida State had a decision to make.

Bobby Bowden had been known for going for 2, or taking chances in games. But, he elected to kick the extra point and tie the game with 1:45 left. One has to remember that here was no Overtime back then.

The Florida Gators were stopped on 3rd down and Spurrier really had no choice but to punt the ball, or give the Seminoles great field position.

The Noles threw the ball trying to score again, but time ran out on them.

They say a tie is like kissing your sister, but in this game there was a clear winner and a clear loser. The Seminoles walked away with their heads held high with their 28 point 4th quarter comeback. The Gators, on the other hand, would be known for choking in the 4th quarter.

This game would always be known as THE CHOKE AT DOAK.

About 5 weeks later, the two teams met again in the Sugar Bowl with the game being nicknamed 5TH QUARTER IN THE FRENCH QUARTER.

Florida State won the rematch, 23-17.

The Sugar Bowl may, or may not, be forgotten. But, it was the Choke at Doak that will probably be remembered forever. Even if it did end in a tie, a 28 point comeback will always be remembered.

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