RIP Florida State’s bowl streak (1982-2018)

A blowout loss to the Florida Gators means FSU's NCAA-record bowl streak is over. It was 36.
Florida State tight end Gabe Nabers (32) reacts after missing a pass in the first quarter against Florida. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Florida State tight end Gabe Nabers (32) reacts after missing a pass in the first quarter against Florida. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Published November 24 2018
Updated November 24 2018

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's NCAA-record bowl streak, which began modestly before becoming the foundation of one of the biggest powerhouse programs in the country, ended Saturday with a 41-14 loss to No. 13 Florida.

It was 36.

"Disappointing game," first-year coach Willie Taggart said during the post-game eulogy. "Disappointing season."

And although the streak's end had seemed inevitable for weeks, its end Saturday might have been the most disappointing part of it all. It went down fighting (literally, in one instance), and was surrounded by 71,953 of its closest friends and family members at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The streak was born during the 1982 season, when Bobby Bowden's Seminoles beat West Virginia 31-12 in the Gator Bowl to finish off a 9-3 season and lift FSU to No. 13 in the AP poll.

The streak grew during Bowden's dynasty. Trips to the Citrus Bowl and All-American Bowl blossomed into top-five showdowns at the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl. Five of them served as national championship games, with Bowden's 'Noles winning two (1993, 1999).

As the bowl system morphed from the Bowl Coalition/Alliance through the BCS to the current College Football Playoff, the streak evolved with it. FSU transitioned from the lost years under Bowden to its rebirth under Jimbo Fisher. His five consecutive New Year's Six bowl games included a victory in the final BCS championship and a blowout loss to Oregon in the first playoff game at the Rose Bowl.

When Fisher flirted with Texas A&M last year, the streak and its cousin, the run of 41 years without a losing season, became a rallying point in a splintering program.

As rivals Miami and Clemson were preparing to play for the ACC title last December, FSU was hosting lowly Louisiana-Monroe for the chance to keep the streak going for another year. The Seminoles were derided for rescheduling the game (which was initially called off because of Hurricane Irma), but they didn't care. FSU improved to 6-6 to qualify for the Independence Bowl and pass Nebraska (1969-2003) for the longest bowl run in college football history.

But that trip to Shreveport only delayed the inevitable. The illnesses that put the streak on life support last year lingered and proved fatal this season.

The inability to handle adversity that Taggart saw from afar last season hasn't been fixed. The Seminoles didn't quit, but they didn't rally, either. Saturday was the sixth time FSU lost by at least 19 points.

Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson saw it, too. He said the 'Noles looked afraid.

The lack of discipline that became a hallmark of Fisher's end festered.

Midway through Saturday's second quarter, FSU had more penalty yards (50) than yards of offense (47). An illegal shift negated what would have been a 70-yard touchdown by Cam Akers. Cornerback Stanford Samuels was flagged for throwing a punch at UF receiver Van Jefferson after a third-down stop in the red zone; that was the difference between a field goal attempt and the touchdown UF scored two plays later.

The offensive line remains a wreck, thanks to injuries (Landon Dickerson and Cole Minshew were both sidelined) and recruiting misses.

Switching right tackles from Jauan Williams to Brady Scott in the first quarter didn't help; Scott was flagged for false start penalties on back-to-back plays. Gators defensive end Jachai Polite was unblockable with 2 ½ sacks. One of them was a strip-sack at the FSU 22 that set up another Gators touchdown and a 20-point lead.

By then, the only thing in question was the final score

The streak was done.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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