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Who's No. 1? Huskers would vote for FSU

TEMPE, Ariz. (Jan. 1, 1990) - The Sunkist Fiesta Bowl had always been a heartbreak bowl for Nebraska.

In 1975, Arizona State came from behind in the fourth quarter to nip the Huskers, 17-14. In 1986, a disastrous third quarter allowed Michigan to rally from a 14-3 halftime deficit and post a 27-23 win. In 1988, Florida State scored on fourth-and-goal at the NU 15 with 3:07 left for a 31-28 win.

Back for a fourth time, and facing FSU for the second time in three years, the Huskers wouldn't win this one either, but this game went beyond heart-break and came closer to anguish.

After spotting the Huskers early leads of 7-0 and 10-7, Florida State ran off 34 unanswered points to build a 41-10 lead at the end of three quarters, then settled in for a 41-17 victory. It was the Seminoles' 10th win in a row since losses to Southern Mississippi and Clemson in the first two games of the season, a win string which included a 24-10 win over eventual national champion Miami (Fla.) on Oct. 28. But the two losses were too much in the minds of the voters, and the Seminoles were denied the national title.

"Either they were completely out of sync, or we were playing very good," Seminoles Coach Bobby Bowden said. "I tend to think we played very good. This was as good as we could play."

The Seminoles destroyed the Huskers with a lightning-quick defense and a passing attack the likes of which Nebraska had not previously seen in its first 100 years of football.

Senior quarterback Peter Tom Willis threw for 422 yards on the afternoon, the most passing yards ever against a Nebraska team, as he completed 25 of 40 passes, with no interceptions and five touchdowns (also an all-time high vs. NU).

"They obviously had very fine receivers and a great passer," said Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne. "And a lot of big plays. A couple of times, the receivers were open. A couple of times they made great catches. A couple of times it was like a jump ball on the passes, and they got them."

If there was a turning point in the game, it came in the final three minutes of the first half. Leading, 14-10, Florida State had moved the ball to the Nebraska 35, but three-straight holding penalties moved the Seminoles back to a first-and-40 at their 35. Two plays later, Willis converted on third-and-23 at the NU 48, finding fullback Edgar Bennett with a 30-yard pass for a first down at the Husker 18, and three plays after that, he tossed a 10-yard scoring strike to tailback Dexter Carter and FSU led at halftime, 21-10.