Ten years ago Thursday, Chris Weinke and his Florida State University teammates left the Orange Bowl overheated and heartbroken after a 49-yard, last-second field goal attempt by Matt Munyon sailed wide right, spoiling the top-ranked Seminoles' perfect record and securing a 27-24 win for the University of Miami on a sweltering day.
``Wide Right III'' read the endzone scoreboard, a reference to the 1991 and 1992 FSU losses to UM, which also involved wayward kicks. Weinke, now 38 and the director of the IMG Academy football program in Bradenton, has very vivid memories of that game. Despite the result, he considers it a career highlight.
As the Hurricanes and Seminoles prepare for another nationally-televised showdown on Saturday night -- the first time since 2006 both teams are ranked in the Top 25 when they meet -- Weinke finds himself getting nostalgic.
He plans to ``sneak on down'' to Sun Life Stadium for the game, and relive some memories.
Of the 54 times the intrastate rivals have played, that Oct. 7, 2000 game was one of the most thrilling. A raucous crowd of 80,905 literally shook the Orange Bowl as the seventh-ranked Hurricanes beat the Seminoles for the first time in six years.
RETURN TO GLORY
UM took a 17-0 halftime lead. Weinke came back to throw three second-half touchdowns. UM quarterback Ken Dorsey then completed 6 of 7 passes to march his team 68 yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey to make it 27-24 with 46 seconds left. Not to be outdone, Weinke quickly moved FSU into field goal range with five seconds remaining, but Munyon's kick went wide. Weinke threw for 496 yards that day. It wasn't enough.
The UM victory signaled the Hurricanes' return to glory after battling back from NCAA sanctions. UM would go on to win the next six against FSU, and the rivalry remains one of the fiercest in college sports. Four of the past five games have been decided by four points or less.
Weinke remembers the team bus inching its way through Little Havana to the stadium. The Seminoles were greeted with not-so-nice chants and even a few eggs.
``It felt like we were going into a neighborhood brawl,'' Weinke said. ``But as a football player, that is exactly the kind of environment you love. You realize you're entering a hostile place, and it gets you focused and fired up.
``I loved the scene around the Orange Bowl, and just stepping into that place, knowing all the great players that had played there, it was special and could be intimidating.''
He remembers how hot it was. ``It felt like 120 degrees out there,'' he said. ``It was the hottest game I've ever played in my life. [UM linebacker] Dan Morgan, who later became a good friend, picked me off in the end zone just before halftime and was so hot and tired he couldn't even run it back. The conditions were just brutal.''
A TON OF TALENT
He remembers looking around and being amazed at the talent on the field. The UM team included Dorsey, Shockey, Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Vernon Carey, Reggie Wayne, Bryant McKinnie, and Jonathan Vilma -- all of whom played in the NFL. The NFL-bound Seminoles included Weinke, Derrick Gibson, Jamal Reynolds, Tommy Polley and Tay Cody.
``It was a classic game with a ton of great athletes laying it all on the line,'' Weinke said. ``Other than the Sugar Bowl, when we won the 1999 national title, the other game that really has stuck with me over the years was that 2000 game against UM at the Orange Bowl. Of course, it would have been nicer to have won, but still, it was a game to remember. I really felt the rivalry was back that day after some years where FSU dominated.''
Weinke grew up a diehard UM fan and wore a UM cap because he went to the same high school as former Hurricanes quarterback Steve Walsh. In fact, he took an official visit to UM, and it was among his finalists before he chose to go to Tallahassee.
He was a highly rated baseball player and wanted a school with strong programs in both sports. He wound up signing with the Toronto Blue Jays before enrolling at FSU and played minor-league baseball for six years, prolonging his football freshman season.
He was 28 when he faced UM that hot day, and went on to become the oldest Heisman Trophy winner in history. He played for the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, retired in 2007, and in March was hired to launch the football academy -- modeled after the Bollettieri tennis academy on the same 400-acre campus.
Like all UM and FSU fans, he is eager to see what happens Saturday.
His guess: ``I think it's going to be another great one, come down to a final field goal for FSU again, but this time, it won't go wide right, it will go right through the uprights.''