1989 Miami-Florida State: Seminoles Win A Battle; Canes Win A War

For at least seven years, 1987 through 1993, the Miami-Florida State rivalry blazed red-hot, one of the best in both college football and all of sports. 1989 had an ironic twist—more often than not, the Hurricanes got the best of the Seminoles. Florida State won the ’89 battle, but even then, it was Miami who ended up winning the war before it was all over.

You can read more about the complete seasons of both teams, as well as their key players, at the links below. This post focuses specifically on the 1989 Miami-Florida State game.


It was a humid night in Tallahassee on October 28. Florida State was building momentum on their season after a rocky start left them 0-2 and out of the national championship picture. The Seminoles had responded with five straight wins, three over ranked teams. Beating #2 and undefeated Miami would validate their turnaround.

The Hurricanes were dealing with an injured quarterback. Craig Erickson had missed the last two games and been replaced by freshman Gino Torretta. It hadn’t come back to bite the ‘Canes yet, but the freshman had not faced an opponent of this caliber or a road environment that would be this loud.

And it showed on his first pass. Torretta was picked off by LeRoy Butler. FSU’s Dexter Carter immediately ripped off a 37-yard run for a touchdown. A first-quarter flurry was underway.

To his credit, Torretta settled down and led a 65-yard TD drive that tied the game. Florida State marched right back with another touchdown. Miami raced back the other way and got a field goal. All the back and forth left this a 14-10 game with FSU in front as the first quarter came to a close.


The remaining three quarters would be marked by Hurricane mistakes and missed opportunities. Miami drove to the one-yard line in the second quarter. Torretta’s third-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Kevin Grant. The ‘Canes drove to the one-yard line in the third quarter. Kirk Carruthers recovered a fumble. The recovery went with Carruthers’ two interceptions and made it a dream night for the linebacker.

Florida State made the turnover hurt when they drove 99 yards for a touchdown that gave them some breathing room. After a field goal extended the lead to 24-10 it was time for Miami to make yet another drive to the FSU one-yard line. This time they were stopped on downs.

On the night, the ‘Canes committed six turnovers—four of them interceptions by the freshman quarterback. They were flagged for nine penalties totaling nearly 100 yards.

Lest we think that the evening was only marked by Miami shooting themselves in the foot, let’s also point out that Florida State dominated the line of scrimmage. The Seminoles rushed for over 200 yards, 142 of them from Carter. The Seminoles moved up to #6 in the polls with the win. The Hurricanes fell to #7.

Miami would rebound though, winning out and beating top-ranked Notre Dame in the season finale. The Hurricanes went on to the Sugar Bowl back at #2 and beat Alabama. When the Irish knocked off #1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl, it handed Miami the national title.

As for Florida State, they kept on coming. The Seminoles won out and then blasted Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. FSU finished #3 and had a lot of people believing they were the nation’s best team, even if the two early losses made it impractical to crown them as champs.