Seminole Sidelines – II

#1 Fan
Many older college football fans all over the nation can identify the #1 Seminole fan. It's Burt Reynolds, who is so well known because of his tv and movie acting career.
  • Burton "Buddy" Reynolds was an all-state RB from West Palm Beach who originally committed to Miami but was persuaded by Coach Tom Nugent to switch to Florida State.
  • Buddy was also influenced by a high school friend, Dick Howser, who played baseball at FSU (and later coached the Seminoles as well as managed the 1985 World champion Kansas City Royals and has the FSU baseball stadium named for him).
  • Nugent teased Reynolds by telling him that the university wanted him so much they named a freshman girls' dorm on campus Reynolds Hall in his honor. "My own dorm filled with beautiful women," reminisced Burt many years later.

Nugent thought that Reynolds could help his second Seminole team navigate its tougher schedule as the school moved toward major college status.

  • Buddy bypassed the freshman team and earned a spot on the varsity immediately.
  • Burt scored a TD in the 47-6 romp over Louisville on the road. It was the first game in which the Seminoles had faced black players. The Cardinals had three, including Lenny Lyles, who would later start for the Baltimore Colts.
  • On October 23, FSU visited Auburn. Reynolds provided the highlight in the 33-0 loss when he broke away for a 54-yard run before DB Bobby Freeman ran him down. In later years, Burt revised the story to give credit to Fob James, future Alabama governor, for the tackle. "It was me," said Freeman 30 years later, "but I don't know that it makes a whole lot of difference to the hundreds of millions of Chinese out there."
  • HB James was one of the Tiger stars, ripping off a 37-yarder. Reynolds gained more yards on his run that the Seminoles netted for the whole game: 44.

The Seminoles finished strong to earn a bowl bid.

  • The Auburn loss evened the record to 3-3. But FSU then won the remaining five games: VMI (33-19), Furman (33-14), at Stetson (47-6), Southern Miss (19-18), and at Tampa (13-0).
  • Finishing 8-3, the Seminoles played in the Sun Bowl against the hometown team, Texas Western (now Texas El Paso).
  • The squad had a great time on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the Rio Grande. Partly as a result of the distractions but mainly because FSU was no match for the Miners, the host school won easily, 47-20. Another mitigating factor was the loss of sophomore QB Lee Corso to a leg injury early in the contest.

Reynolds looked forward to his sophomore season.

  • He filled the #1 HB slot in fall practice until he jumped for a pass and landed awkwardly on his knee. He went home to West Palm Beach to consult a physician there. "I would make a mistake I would regret the rest of my life. I went to a surgeon, and he said the knee needed surgery."
  • Years later, a specialist who re-operated on the damaged knee opined that the previous work had been done by a butcher.
  • Already active in little theatre back in West Palm, Burt decided to go to New York to start an acting career. Soon he was in Hollywood but getting only bit parts.

After two seasons away from football, he returned to Tallahassee.

  • Visiting Nugent at his home, Reynolds received an invitation from the coach to return to the team.
  • Burt was not only out of shape but two-three steps slower after the operation. "It would be a year I would like to forget."
  • In the game against North Carolina State, star RB Dick Christy got behind Buddy for a 47-yard TD. Films confirmed that Christy stepped out of bounds while running his pattern, making him an ineligible receiver, but the officials missed it. As a result, the Wolfpack defeated Florida State 7-0. According to Reynolds, Nugent told the team at halftime that, if they lost the game it would be Reynolds' fault." "No one could feel as bad as I felt. In the last half, I sat on the bench with no one within 20 yards of me. ... I thought, 'To hell with it.'"
  • In his brief return to the gridiron in 1957, Reynolds ran the ball three times and caught two passes. That made his career stats 19 runs for 146 (7.7 average), six receptions for 76 yd, two TD, and one INT.
  • "If I hadn't busted my knee, I'd be a high school football coach in West Palm today," Reynolds has said.

The man who went on to become the #1-ranked male box office draw in the world has proved to be one of the best benefactors of the FSU program.

  • Reynolds and Bobby Bowden designed the arrow helmet together.
  • But bought the team's first set of gold pants in 1979 as well as the first set of all-garnet uniforms, which some of his Hollywood pals helped design.
  • Another Reynolds Hall, Burt Reynolds Hall near Doak Campbell Stadium, houses many of today's football players.
References: Seminoles! The First Forty Years by Bill McGrotha
"Burt Reynolds just may be our biggest fan," Charlie Barnes,
Seminole Boosters Magazine Feb/Mar 2005
Burt Reynolds, FSU
Burt Reynolds

Coach Tom Nugent
Tom Nugent

RB Fob James, Auburn
Forrest "Fob" James

QB Lee Corso

DIck Christy, NC State
Dick Christy

1988 Fiesta Bowl Program Cover

QB Danny McManus
Danny McManus fires in 1988 Fiesta Bowl

CB Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders

Steve Taylor 1988 Fiesta Bowl
Steve Taylor directs Nebraska

RB Dexter Carter FSU
Dexter Carter

Danny McManus FSU Hall of Fame
Memorable Game 1988 Fiesta Bowl

Nebraska leading 28-24. 7 minutes left in the game. Cornhusker 1st-and-goal 3y from a commanding lead. The Seminoles need a miracle ...

FSU came into the New Year's Day game in Tempe AZ ranked 3rd while Nebraska was 5th.

  • Both teams finished the 1987 regular season with 10 wins and one loss to a rival nemesis.
  • Miami had won a 26-25 decision in Tallahassee on October 3 by knocking down a 2-pt conversion pass in the last minute.
  • Nebraska had also lost at home to Oklahoma 17-7 on November 21.
  • It was the fifth meeting between the schools but the first not played in Lincoln. Each team had won two.

Tom Osborne's Huskers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in Q1 before a sun-bathed but chilly standing-room only crowd of 72,112, third largest in Fiesta Bowl history.

  • TB Keith Jones scored from the 3 6:10 into the game following Richard Bell's 27y punt return to the 18. Later, the usually reliable FSU special teams faltered again, allowing Dana Brinson to return a punt 52y to paydirt with 1:10 left.
  • FSU owned Q2, tallying 21 unanswered points as QB Danny McManus got hot. 16-30/199 in the first half, Danny hit WR Herb Gainer with a 10y TD pass 4:30 into the second period after a Deion Sanders INT and found Gainer again on a 25y strike with 44 seconds left. In between, FB Dayne Williams plunged in from the 3 to cap a 6-play 75y drive following LB Paul McGowen's fumble recovery.

The lead changed hands three more times in the second half.

  • QB Steve Taylor's 3y run 3:19 into Q3 tied the game at 21. Then the Seminoles retook the lead on a 32y FG goal by Derek Schmidt — the NCAA's all-time leading scorer at the time — with 7:49 remaining in the period. But Nebraska drove to take a 28-24 advantage on backup TB Tyreese Knox's 4y run with only 0:40 left in Q3.
  • The final period was packed with big plays and excitement. The score remained the same when the situation described at the beginning of this article took place – UN 1st-and-goal at the 3. Faced with the prospect of falling at least 6 points behind and possibly 10, the Seminole D forced Knox to fumble, and DT Eric Hayes pounced on the pigskin at the 3.
  • Still, 97y and the Black Shirt D separated the Noles from the go-ahead TD with slightly less than 7 min to play. But McManus cooly moved his unit downfield, primarily through the air. He completed four, two to RB Dexter Carter for 57y, to put the spheroid on the 2 – essentially the same position Nebraska had been in minutes earlier.

FSU nearly squandered the opportunity.

  • Cornhusker CB Charles Fryar stuffed Williams for a yard loss on first down.
  • The Huskers gang-tackled Carter on a sweep left for no gain. That's when the Seminoles were called for only their second penalty — a personal foul on Carter for kicking one of the tacklers — and it almost beat them. The infraction pushed FSU back to the 18.
  • McManus dumped his third-down pass over the middle for only 3 yards.
  • On fourth down, Bowden eschewed a FG that would have cut the margin to 1 with only 3 min left. Instead, McManus made the clutch play of the game to cement the MVP award. The senior fired a pass to WR Ronald Lewis wide open in the EZ to give the Seminoles the lead 31-28 and put Nebraska's back to the wall.

A big mistake sealed Nebraska's doom.

  • Taking to the air to mount a comeback, Taylor completed a 56y pass and run to the Seminole 2. However, the gain was erased by an illegal formation penalty with 2:41 to go. "The TE lined up on the wrong side of the formation, which made him an ineligible receiver. It was a tragic play as far as we were concerned," Osborne said afterwards.
  • The Noles then put pressure on Taylor, forcing him into an intentional grounding penalty. Faced with 4th-and-35, Nebraska ran out of downs, and FSU ran out the clock.

The Seminole field general set two Fiesta Bowl records and tied another.

  • McManus's 375y passing broke the record of 347 set by another Seminole, Gary Huff, in the first Fiesta Bowl in 1971.
  • His 3 TD passes tied a record, and his 51 attempts surpassed the 50 thrown by Miami's Vinny Testaverde just the year before against Penn State.
  • "I don't even throw 51 times in practice. I haven't thrown for 300 yards since high school," said McManus, whose previous best college game was 275y in the 1987 season-opener against Texas Tech. "I was just glad our receiver (Lewis) was wide open on the last play. That was the easiest pass I had."

Florida State finished #2 in the final AP poll behind Miami, which defeated previous #1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. It would mark the start of an incredible 12-year run of top 5 finishes for FSU.

"Are you stupid?"
Dr. Thomas Kent Weatherall went from being chewed out by Bobby Bowden to being Bobby's boss. T. K. came to FSU as a wide receiver on the 1963 freshman team.
  • His position coach was Bobby Bowden, an assistant on Bill Peter­son's fabulous staff that included Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, Don James, Dan Henning, and Jim Meyer.
  • T. K. remembers Bobby as animated and intense but not a screamer. "Coach Bowden would chew us up one side and then down the other if we didn't perform up to his expectations."
  • The ex-FSU president says he made the varsity based on his blocking rather than his catching ability. "I couldn't catch a cold."
  • Weatherall relates an incident that illustrates Bowden's ap­proach.

My first year on the varsity was my sophomore year, and our first game was against Texas Christian. We put in this play called 60 Divide. ... I was supposed to run a curl route or zero route ... But this was a divide, which meant we were going to do something different. I would run an out. Our TE would run a curl; and our RB, Larry Green, would hit the middle of that seam. We practiced that play all summer long ... It was perfect in practice. Green would be all alone every time ...

We got into the Texas Christian game and fell behind 7-3 in the fourth quarter. The 60 Divide was set up perfectly - left hash, 35y line. We called 60 Divide, and I went in there and ran the wrong zero route and ran flat into Larry Green. The ball bounced off of Larry's helmet, and Texas Christian inter­cepted the ball and almost scored.

I ran off the field, and there was Coach Bowden staring at me and saying, "Are you stupid or something?" We lost that game 7-3. [Note: The actual score was 10-0.]

  • T. K. got in Bobby's doghouse again the following season.

I remember playing against Houston in 1965, and we had a play where the receiver tripped and fell down, and the DB would run away. And then all of a sudden, we would throw the ball over there. I did that. QB Ed Pritchett rolled out, and I got up and was 25y behind everybody. Pritchett threw this beautiful pass, and it just floated up there, and I said to myself, "I got this puppy." I throttled it back a little bit, and that ball started coming down more like a punt, and I realized I had misjudged the throw. I turned the afterburners back on but missed it off the tip of my fingers. I looked at Bowden on the sidelines, and he started on me the moment I began jogging over there. I sat out three series before he put me back in.

  • In that simpler era, the assistants took care of their boys off the field as well as on. The receivers went to the Bowden residence on Sunday after church and Bobby and his wife Anne fed them hamburgers and hot dogs. Many of the players hunted and would leave their shotguns at the Bowden house, and there would always be cases of shells for them. (Was that an NCAA violation then?)

Bowden left Florida State after the '65 season to become the O coor­dinator at West Virginia. After four years, he became head man in Mor­gantown.

T. K. Weatherall, End
WR T. K. Weatherall

 

 

Weatherall and Bowden
Dr. T. K. Weatherall and Coach Bobby Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby and Anne Bowden
Bobby and Anne Bowden in younger days

 

Reference: Pure Gold: Bobby Bowden, an Inside Look as told to Steve Ellis and Bill Vilona
Birth of the Sod Cemetery

The Sod Cemetery at Florida State contains pieces of the turf from stadiums where the Seminoles scored road victories.

The Sod Cemetery became famous during Bobby Bowden's early years in Tallahassee when his Road Warriors scored wins at Florida, LSU, Nebras­ka, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. However, the cemetery actually began in 1962.

  • The 2-1-1 Seminoles of third-year Coach Bill Peterson traveled to Athens GA to face a 2-1 Bulldog squad that ranked in the nation's top 10 in both O and D.
  • At the end of the Thursday practice, Dean Coyle Moore, a member of the Athletic Board, issued a challenge to the team: "Bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia."
  • The morning of the game, 18 Seminoles woke up with diarrhea. "For­tunately, they responded to medication," recalled team physician Bob Johnson.
  • Early in the contest, the FSU D stopped Georgia on the 1 following first-and-goal from the 6.
  • Ken Sussom returned a punt 38y in Q2 to the Georgia 26. Nine plays later, "kicking specialist" Doug Messer split the uprights from the 17 to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
  • The Seminoles marched 80y in 16 plays in Q3, with the TD coming on a 6y pass from Eddie Feely to E Hank Sytsma. The big plays of the drive were an 18y Steve Tensi pass to Sytsma and another of 17y to Winfred Bailey as well as a 14y run by speed merchant Phil Spoon­er. A bad pass from C caused holder Feely to toss to Gene Roberts for two instead and an 11-0 lead.
  • FB Dave Snyder intercepted a pass from Bulldog QB Larry Rake­straw and raced 15y for the final score of the game in Q4. Another INT in the closing seconds set up another chance but time ran out with FSU on the 1.

Afterwards, captain Gene McDowell remembered Dean Moore's challenge and grabbed some grass as a souvenir of the 18-0 triumph.

  • The team presented the grass to Moore at the Monday practice.
  • Moore and Peterson buried the grass at the edge of the practice field and placed a tombstone-like plaque to commemorate the triumph.
  • The '62 team also brought home grass from Georgia Tech and Auburn where they earned 14-14 ties.
  • Over time, the tradition changed to taking home a chunk of the turf of the enemy field. Eventually, it was decided to enshrine only road vic­tories where the Noles were underdogs, with all ACC championship games and all bowl games counting as Sod Games.
  • The Seminole captains continue the tradition each season by gather­ing their teammates to explain the significance of the tradition before leaving for a sod games. Victorious captains return with a piece of the opponent's turf to be buried in the Sod Cemetery outside the gates of the practice field.

Sod Cemetery, FSU

Coach Bill Peterson
Coach Bill Peterson

Steve Tensi

Captain Gene McDowell

FSU Sod Cemetery, Georgia 1962

 


Fred Biletnikoff, FSU
Fred Biletnikoff

Coach Bill Peterson
Coach Bill Peterson

QB Steve Tensi

Steve Spurrier, Florida QB
Steve Spurrier

Fred Biletnikoff

Florida State's first consensus All-American was WR Fred Biletnikoff in 1964. Considering he has an award named for him (Best College Receiver as awarded by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club), he ranks as one of the most important players in Seminole history.

  • Biletnikoff was recruited out of Tech Memorial in Erie PA by Coach Bill Peterson and his staff.
  • After playing on the freshman team in 1961, Fred was hurt early in his sophomore season but came back to catch his first TD pass of his college career, a 66-yarder from Steve Tensi against Georgia Tech at Grant Field. The score put FSU ahead 14-7, but Tech eventually gained a tie at 14, one of three Seminole deadlocks that season.
  • Peterson said of his receiver, "Biletnikoff was a great athlete who could have played any position for us. After his injury, we could have kept him out and preserved a year of eligibility – but he wanted to play in those late games."
  • In the 20-7 loss to Florida in Gainesville, Fred jumped offsides three times in the first half alone. FSU coaches accused the Gators of shouting FSU's offensive signals, an illegal tactic. Coach Ray Graves denied the charge.

Biletnikoff began to blossom his junior year under the tutelage of a new receivers coach named Bobby Bowden.

  • In the opener against Miami in the Orange Bowl, he capped a long drive by snagging a 23y TD pass from Tensi. Then he caught a 17yarder to put the Noles up 14-0 at halftime. Playing defense as well, Biletnikoff grabbed a George Mira pass and ran 99y for his third TD to spark the 24-0 triumph. The game highlighted the 4-5-1 season in which FSU didn't exploit the Tensi-Biletnikoff enough.
  • Peterson decided to follow his gut and emphasize the passing attack in 1964 despite the opposition of some of his assistants. When Vince Gibson left to take a position at Tennessee, he urged Tallahassee Democrat sportswriter Bill McGrotha to talk to Peterson. "Don't let him start Tensi. He can't do it."
  • The 6'5" Tensi and 6'1" Biletnikoff worked out all spring, practicing every possible pattern.
  • It wasn't until the fourth game that the passing O began clicking. Once again, Biletnikoff burned the Hurricanes, catching nine balls and scoring both TDs in the 14-0 victory.
  • The shocking 48-6 homecoming victory over #5 Kentucky on October 10 catapulted the Seminoles into the national limelight. Dick Dunkel proclaimed the game one of the biggest upsets in the history of his Dunkel Index ratings. Fred had a 43y reception for the second TD and grabbed another in the second half.
  • Georgia lay in wait the following week in Athens. Showing no sign of a letdown, the Noles jumped to a 10-0 lead thanks to two fumble recoveries. But the Dogs rallied to take a 14-10 lead early in Q4. The Tensi-Biletnikoff combo pulled it out, connecting on a fourth down to keep the drive going before Freddie grabbed an aerial between two defenders for the winning TD from the 20.
  • The following week Tensi completed 21 passes, 11 of them to Biletnikoff, both school records. But despite outgaining Virginia Tech 423-191, the Seminoles lost in Blacksburg 20-11. The TD was Tensi-to-Biletnikoff for 4y. When the frustrated WR threw the ball into the stands, boos and jeeres erupted.
  • After larruping USM 34-0, FSU visited Houston. Writers accused Peterson of covering up the fact that Fred would not play because of a charley horse. The coach finally stated that Biletnikoff would start, which he did. However, after that one play, he came out and didn't return as the Cougars gained a 13-13 tie because FSU missed an extra point and, late in the game, a FG from the 7.
  • Against North Carolina State the next Saturday in Tallahassee, Fred caught two TD passes in the 28-6 victory.

That brought the Gators, fresh off an open date, to Tallahassee for the first time.

  • Since Florida led the nation in pass defense, the game would pit the unstoppable force against the immovable object. The UF jerseys said "Go for Seven" in honor of the 6-0 advantage the Gators held in the series.
  • FSU started shakily, losing a fumble on its 19. But when Florida drove to the 1, they returned the favor with a fumbled snap. Nevertheless, the Noles played from deep in their territory into Q2. Finally, another Gator fumble gave the Noles the ball at their 45. Tensi struck immediately, finding Biletnikoff behind two defenders. Fred raced into the EZ untouched.
  • The game remained 7-0 into Q4 when two FGs added to the lead, which proved important when sophomore Steve Spurrier came off the bench to lead a TD drive. After a failed onsides kick, FSU drove for another FG and their first victory over their snotty rivals from Gainesville, 16-7.

The 8-1-1 regular season and #10 ranking earned FSU a bid to the Gator Bowl to play Oklahoma.

  • While preparing for the bowl, Biletnikoff learned that he had made the consensus All-American team, a first for any Seminole.
  • Tensi had a field day in Jacksonville, 23-for-36 for 303y and 5 TDs.
  • Biletnikoff had 13 receptions for 191y and 4 TDs.
  • "We gave them a show, didn't we?" said an exuberant Peterson after the 36-19 romp. It was the greatest passing performance in any bowl to that point and added to FSU's national reputation as an aerial circus.

Immediately after the game, Biletnikoff signed with the Oakland Raiders underneath the goal posts. Then he completed his FSU career by getting married under the goal posts at Doak Campbell Stadium. He then went on to star in the NFL for the Raiders until he retired after the '78 season.

  • Fred was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
  • Three years later, he earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.
  • Raider coach John Madden emphatically remarked: "Fred tops my list of all-time great receivers."
Reference: Seminoles! The First Forty Years by Bill McGrotha
Birth of the Fast Break Offense

The 1992 Seminoles, in their first season in the ACC, traveled to Atlanta October 17 with a 5-1 record and a #6 ranking to face #16 Georgia Tech.

  • Junior QB Charlie Ward led a pro style O. But on that day, the O stumbled and made errors. Numerous penalties and two INTs put FSU behind 21-7 early in Q4.
  • At that point, Bobby Bowden and his O coaches decided to switch to a no-huddle, spread, shotgun offense that would later come to be known as the "Fast Break" O.
  • Ward led an 11-play, 80y drive that culminated in a 1y William Floyd run to cut the deficit to 7. Ward passed for 29 to Kez McCorvey during the drive as well as breaking out of the pocket for 15 through the spread out D.
  • Tech responded with another Scott Sissom FG to lead 24-14.
  • Charlie then led another drive, doing the honors himself on a 5y run. For some reason, Bowden went for 2 but failed to leave the score 24-20.
  • The Noles recovered the onside kick on the Tech 45. Ward wasted no time moving the team again. Charlie again burned the Yellow Jackets with a 19y scramble out of the spread. He completed the comeback with a 17y pass to McCorvey with 1:48 left. The PAT made it 27-24.
  • The Seminole D tackled the QB in the EZ to top off the scoring at 29-24.

Strangely, Bowden reverted to the old O for the next game at Virginia. He thought of the spread only as a desperation formation you used to come back late in a game.

  • After the O struggled in the 13-3 victory in Charlottesville, Bowden was finally persuaded by assistant Brad Scott to start the game with the basketball-style O.
  • Ward and Company responded by pounding Maryland 69-21 and Tulane 70-7 in Doak Campbell.
  • That was OK but neither team was strong. How would the Noles fare against Steve Spurrier's Gators? No problem: 45-24.
  • The Seminole Express rolled over Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl to set a record of eight straight bowl victories. (The streak would end at 11.) FSU finished second to undefeated Alabama in the final AP poll and ahead of #3 Miami, the only team to defeat the Noles during the season.

With Ward returning for his senior season, Bowden stuck with the Fast Break.

  • Scott and Mark Richt visited the training camps of the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two clubs that ran a spread O. They were particularly interested in how they protected the QB in an empty backfield with five receivers spread wide. The Bills had utilized their "K-Gun" (named for QB Jim Kelly) to win four straight AFC titles.
  • The 1993 Seminoles won the National Championship and Ward, the Heisman Trophy.
  • FSU continued to use the Fast Break O as its staple for years to come.

 

Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward

Kez McCorvey

Memorable Game: 1991 LSU-FSU

LSU Coach Curly Hallmann
Curly Hallmann

1991 LSU-FSU Program

Terrell Buckley
Terrell Buckley

Todd Kinchen, Rams
Todd Kinchen

LSU QB Chad Loup

LSU K Pedro Suarez

Casey Weldon
Casey Weldon

Edgar Bennett
Edgar Bennett

Amp Lee
Amp Lee

FSU QB Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

FSU FB William Floyd

The Tigers and Seminoles first played in the inaugural Peach Bowl in 1968.

  • LSU won 31-27 in a game pitting former Paul Dietzel assistants Charlie McClendon and Bill Peterson.
  • The two schools next met in 1979 when Bobby Bowden brought his #8 Noles to Baton Rouge and won 24-19.
  • The teams played in Tiger Stadium the next four seasons, with FSU winning three: 16-0 in '80, 38-14 in '81, and 40-35 in '83.
  • The only Tiger win in that span came in 1982, 55-21 in the second-to-last regular season game to propel LSU to the Orange Bowl.
The teams didn't meet again until 1989.
  • FSU prevailed in Tiger Stadium 31-21 on ESPN.
  • LSU finally visited Tallahassee the next season, getting creamed 42-3 on TBS in Mike Archer's last season as head coach. The game ended with a free-for-all.

That brings us to 1991, and the only game in the series that yours truly attended.

  • Curly Hallman's first Tiger team stood at 3-3 entering the October 26 clash. Hallman's Southern Miss squad, led by an unknown QB named Brett Favre, had upset FSU in the opening game of the '89 season.
  • Bowden had warned his team after the previous week's lackluster victory over Middle Tennessee State.

You weren't ready to play. Men, if we don't play any better than that, we will lose next week, I can promise you. LSU is not having a good year. But when they play against No. 1, they'll be like everybody else and be comin' after us.

  • He also didn't want the fight that ended the '90 game to be a distraction. He told the players:

I seldom ever tell you what to tell the press. But if any of them ask you about that fight ... well, I know what I'm gonna say when they ask me. I'm gonna say, 'No comment.' Don't let them start talking about that fight last year. They'll want to keep bringin' it up and bringin' it up.

71,019 welcomed the 7-0 Seminoles, who were ranked #1.

  • Persistent rain for days made the Tiger Stadium turf soggy and caused cancellation of the usual pregame parade of Mike the Tiger in his cage around the field.
  • In his pregame talk in the locker room, Bowden predicted what would happen.

LSU is going to be fired up, full of emtion. They're going to come at you and attack you. But that's only going to last so long. We've simply got to knock it out of 'em. Backs, protect the ball. It's a little wet out there. Defense, knock the ball out of there. Stop the run first, make 'em throw.

The fired-up Tigers, a 27-point underdog, shocked the ESPN audience by jumping to a 13-0 Q1 lead.

  • On the Tigers' second play from scrimmage, CB Terrell Buckley bit on a run fake, allowing All-SEC WR Todd Kinchen to sprint past him to haul in a 63y TD pass from QB Chad Loup. The stadium exploded, making it impossible to hear anything except the roar of the crowd.
  • After Tiger McMillon returned the kickoff to the 47, QB Casey Weldon, playing despite pains in his hip, calf, and shoulder, ran the play the offensive staff had decided to lead off with - a run fake and a rollout pass to the TE.
  • Sure enough, Weldon hit Lonnie Johnson, who took off downfield only to fumble when hit, LSU recovering.
  • Loup hit FB Leo Abel for a gain of 30 to the 25. After three plays gained 7, Pedro Suarez connected on a 35y FG. Just like that, LSU led 10-0 less than three minutes into the game.
  • Another rainstorm midway through Q1 made it hard to see the other side of the field.
  • The din increased as the Tiger D stuffed the Noles and forced a punt, which Kinchen returned to the FSU 42. Taking a page from Bowden's playbook, LSU picked up 6 on a reverse, then gained a first down on a one-handed catch by TB Sammy Seamster. Another TB, Odell Beckham, ran to the 15 to move the chains again. But the Seminole D stiffened, and LSU settled for another FG, this one 32y.
  • FSU O coordinator Brad Scott decided to resort to smash mouth football. Amp Lee and Edgar Bennett pounded out two first downs on four rushes. The march reached the LSU 24, but Weldon misfired on a third-and-four FB delay pass. Eschewing the FG, Bowden called another play-action pass, but OLB Shawn King forced Weldon out of the pocket and tackled him short of the first down.
  • Mickey Andrews' D finally stopped the Tigers. Buckley returned the punt 23y to the Seminoles' 40.

The visitors finally dented the scoreboard in the second period.

  • Weldon got 33y on two passes and ran once for 4y to put the ball at the 1. Lee went over from there on third down. Gerry Thomas added the PAT to make it 13-7.
  • FSU got a big break when they recovered a botched a punt attempt in the rain at the 8. But the O went nowhere, failing again on fourth down to turn the ball back over.
  • Another turnover on an INT provided another chance, but Weldon, forcing the ball into coverage, returned the favor three plays later.
  • LSU drove to the 19 but bogged down - literally - and had to settle for another Suarez FG, a 41-yarder, to lead 16-7 at the break.
  • The Tigers had twice as many first downs as Florida State and half as many turnovers.
  • Bowden was calm as he addressed his team at halftime.

Men, you've got the most important half of your life coming up. If we execute, we can get this thing right back in perspective.

After the Marching Chiefs and the Golden Band from Tigerland gave their usual outstanding halftime performances despite the wet conditions, the rain began again.

  • FSU went 78y for its second score with Lee getting 16 on four carries and Edgar Bennett gaining 23 more on five carries. Weldon passed twice for 38, including a 22y TD aerial to Lee to make it 16-14. During the drive, Robbie Baker had to leave the game after being gashed by a cleat. He would not be the last O-linemen to drop out of action.
  • LSU also moved the ball on its first possession. A 15y run and a 15y Loup-to-Kinchen pass put the pigskin at midfield. But Loup pressed his luck with a long throw that Leon Fowler intercepted at the 21. The Tiger fans, so accustomed the last few years to blowing leads, lost some enthusiasm. The Florida State coaches on the sidelines could finally hear themselves talk.
  • Weldon had hurt his knee on the previous drive and had to leave after one play of the next possession. He would soon be joined on the sidelines by OT Kevin Mancini. Brad Johnson took over under C and connected with Bennett for 23y. But a personal foul call against the other T, Robert Stevenson, resulted in his ejection. So three of the five starters on the OL were gone.
  • On third and 11, Bowden called for the gadget play he'd been saving for weeks - Smoke Y Hide. The TE would throw himself at the feet of a defender at the line of scrimmage. Then he would crawl into the open in the opposite direction of the play. The play worked as Lonnie Johnson grabbed the pass QB Johnson threw back across the field, but Lonnie's momentum took him out of bounds 3y short of the chain. So FSU punted.
  • When LSU booted back to its 47 four plays later, Weldon convinced the trainers he could play. With the second-string linemen blocking like fiends, backup TB Sean Jackson from New Orleans (who pleaded with his mates at halftime that they could not lose this game in front of his family and friends) and backup FB William Floyd pounded the ball into LSU territory. Facing third down on the 16, Weldon dumped the ball to Floyd just beyond the line of scrimmage. The FB escaped one would-be tackler and set sail downfield. At the 5, he ran over CB Derriel McCorvey before three purple-shirted tacklers corralled him at the 1. Derriel was the brother of Nole CB Erroll McCorvey. (Video of pass to Floyd to the 1) Floyd was stuffed for no gain as Q3 ended.
  • Weldon's sneak gained nothing before Floyd finally pushed into the EZ to give the Seminoles their first lead of the evening, 21-16. The TD capped a 47y drive.
  • On LSU's next possession, DE Toddrick Mclntosh stripped the ball from Loup, and LB Kirk Carruthers recovered at the 20. With the rain and injuries, FSU narrowed its O to two plays - toss sweep to Lee and the FB plunge. FB Paul Moore alternated with Amp to move to the 1 from where Lee ran around LE to the EZ with 10:14 left. The Noles lined up for the PAT but Johnson fumbled the wet ball and jumped up to throw a pass. But S Ivory Hilliard interceptedl at the goal line and set sail for 2 points the opposite way. But Floyd didn't give up and chased Ivory down at the 10 - another gutsy play by a backup. William collapsed when he reached the bench.
  • The rain increased, but, down by 11, the Tigers had to pass. Loup put together a four-minute drive that reached the 5 before DE Dan Footman batted down Chad's fourth down pass. That was the Tigers' last gasp.

Bowden praised his men in the locker room.

That was one of the greatest wins Florida State ever had. We had everything in the world work against us, everything in the world. But you guys just played brilliantly. I'm proud of every one of you.

The bruising battle in the slop inflicted permanent damage on FSU.

  • The hard-hitting Tigers knocked 17 Seminoles out of the contest. Six starters, including Weldon, missed the next game at Louisville. Two O linemen were lost for the season.
  • FSU beat the Cardinals 40-15 and South Carolina at home, 38-10 to clear the decks for the double-barreled finale against Miami and Florida.
  • The #2 Hurricanes won in Tallahassee 17-16 when Thomas missed a FG wide right in the last seconds. Then the Gators prevailed in Gainesville 14-9.
  • Bowden's Boys defeated Texas A&M in the frigid Cotton Bowl 10-2 to finish #4 in the final AP poll.
  • In the meantime, 5-6 LSU missed the bowl party for the third straight year.
Reference: Saint Bobby and the Barbarians: The Inside Story of a Tumultuous Season
with the Florida State Seminoles
, Ben Brown (1992)
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First Air Trip
Coach Don Veller
Coach Don Veller

The first Seminole team to travel by air to a game was the 1952 squad.

  • Don Veller's 0-7-1 squad traveled to Spartanburg SC to face Wofford.
  • FSU ended the Terriers' 13-game winning streak, 27-13.

The long season ended the following week with a home loss to Tampa 36-9.

  • Veller, who had almost stepped down before the '52 season, retired at the end of the season.
  • FSU hired Tom Nugent, the head man at VMI, as its third football coach.
Reference: Seminoles! The First Forty Years, by Bill McGrotha
Coach Tom Nugent
First SEC Win

Florida State wasn't even supposed to play Tennessee in 1958.

  • Tom Nugent's Seminoles were a late replacement for Maryland.
  • Tennessee had cancelled the game because of a black player on the Terrapins roster.

FSU traveled to Knoxville with a 4-2 record.

  • Tennessee Tech fell 22-7 in the opener in Tallahassee.
  • Next, the Noles trounced Furman 42-7.
  • A journey to Atlanta resulted in a 17-3 defeat to Georgia Tech, then a member of the SEC.
  • Wake Forest of the ACC came to the capital city of Florida and left with a 27-24 defeat.
  • Another SEC club, Georgia, handed the Seminoles their second loss of the season, this one in Jacksonville, 28-13.
  • FSU bounced back with a home victory over fellow independent Virginia Tech, 28-0.

The oddsmakers believed the visit to Neyland Stadium would continue FSU's 10-game losing streak to SEC teams.

  • The man for whom the stadium is named no longer coached Tennessee. Bowden Wyatt was in his fourth year at the helm.
  • The '58 Vols started 2-2, with victories over Mississippi State (13-8 in Memphis) and Alabama (14-7) and losses to Auburn (13-0 in Birmingham) and at Georgia Tech (21-7).
  • The contest was billed as a QB duel between the Majors brothers: FSU's Joe, a transfer from Alabama, and UT's Billy. As it turned out, Billy left after a Q1 injury. All members of the famed Majors football family were in attendance except father Shirley, the coach of Sewanee.
  • A Knoxville Journal writer declared FSU a "second-rate gridiron power."

The United Press International story on the game began like this.

Florida State, which someday hopes to join the Southeastern Conference, boosted its credentials Saturday by scoring a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter to upset favored Tennessee 10-0 for its first victory over an SEC member.

  • A "slim crowd" of 32,700 watched FSU come out after halftime with a razzle dazzle offensive show that left the Vols dazed for the rest of the game.
  • FSU took the second half kickoff, and three plays later Fred Pickard, a 160lb battering ram, romped through the middle of the line for 51y before he was brought down from behind at the 26. After the visitors made another first down at the 16, the Vols stiffened and forced a FG by John Shepperd from the 16.
  • A few minutes later, G Al Ulman intercepted a UT pass and trundled to the 27. On the first play, Joe Majors fired a pass to RE Tony Romeo who was tackled on the one as he caught the ball. HB Bobby Renn shuttled over RG for the score. Shepperd booted the PAT.
  • Vic Prinzi's INT cancelled the home team's only real threat thereafter.
  • Pickard totaled 133y on 22 carries, exceeding Tennessee's total O by 22y.

Wyatt was not happy.

  • "You let that little son-of-a-bleep [Pickard] run all over you!" he shouted at his team in the dressing room right after the game.
  • The coach was more gracious to reporters, praising the FSU players and coaches.

An estimated 3,000 fans, including Governor LeRoy Collins, mobbed Tallahassee's airport to welcome their heroes after what some still consider the school's biggest victory.

  • Nugent, who left to become head coach at Maryland at the end of the season, later said, "The Tennessee game, really, has to be No. 1 during my time at Florida State. It meant so much to the school and to the fans."
  • The Seminoles finished the regular season 7-3, including the first-ever victory over Miami. FSU lost to Oklahoma State 15-6 in the first and only Bluegrass Bowl in Louisville December 13.

Reference: Seminoles! The First Forty Years, by Bill McGrotha

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Joe Majors
Joe Majors

Fred Pickard

Tony Romeo

Bobby Renn

Vic Prinzi

First Peach Bowl: December 30, 1968

With Florida State set to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, it's appropriate to go back in time to the first Peach Bowl, the forerunner of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, when FSU placed LSU. The game matched two head coaches who had been assistants on Paul Dietzel's staff in Baton Rouge in the 1950s.

The independent Seminoles finished the regular season 8-2.

  • The losses were to Florida in Tallahassee, 9-3, when the Gator D held Bill Peterson's aerial circus to 17 fewer points than they would score in any other game that season. The other loss also came at home to Virginia Tech 40-22.
  • The key victories were 24-14 at Maryland in the season opener, 48-7 at North Carolina State, and 40-20 over Houston in Jacksonville. The last game was a big upset over a Cougar team that had beaten Tulsa 100-6, accumulating 762y.
  • Junior QB Bill Cappleman (Dunedin FL) had the best statistical season of any FSU QB to that point: 162-for-287 for 2,410y and 25 TD. His main target, All-American receiver Ron Sellers, broke the national record for career pass yardage.

LSU won 7 and lost 3.

  • The Tigers' defeats came at Miami 30-0, to Archie Manning and Ole Miss 27-24, and to Alabama, as usual, 16-7.
  • Charlie McClendon's season included victories over four Southwest Conference foes: Texas A&M (13-12), at Rice (21-7), Baylor (48-16), and TCU (10-7), in addition to traditional foes Kentucky (13-3), Mississippi State (20-16), and at Tulane (34-10).
  • A junior QB also led the Tigers, lefty Mike Hillman from Lockport LA.

35,545 fans turned out on a cold, rainy night (42º with wind gusting to 25 mph) in Fulton County Stadium to watch a game that caused the UPI reporter to ask in his lead: "What is the Peach Bowl going to do for an encore? The first annual Peach Bowl was a dilly ..."

  • LSU fumbled the opening kickoff, and FSU led 7-0 after only 15 seconds on a 37y run by Tom Bailey (Miami) and the PAT by Grant Guthrie.
  • After LSU turned the ball over on each of its first four possessions, the Noles struck again on the first play of Q2. Cappleman hit Bill Gunter for a 75y TD. The failed EP left the score 13-0.
  • The Tigers finally came to life when Craig Burns returned a punt 39y to paydirt. Mark Lumpkin's kick made it 13-7. Afterwards, Peterson said, "We had them in a hole early, but we could have played a better first half. That punt return turned it around." McClendon agreed that Burns' score "gave us momentum."
  • Later in the period, Lumpkin booted a 32y FG to make it 13-10 at the half.
  • The Tigers dominated Q3 with 14 unanswered points. TE Bob Hamlett (Bossier City) caught an 11y score from Hillman to climax the first possession of the second half. Then the southpaw threw another 11y TD, this one to Bill Stober (Rockford OH).
  • FSU answered with 14 of their own in Q4 to regain the lead. After being held to only one catch in the first three periods, Sellers caught two TD passes from Cappleman, one from the 2 to culminate a 72y drive and the other from the 4 after the Tigers fumbled away another kickoff. After failing on a 2-point pass after the first TD, Cappleman hit 6'4" 235 lb Chip Glass to make it 27-24 with six minutes left.
  • LSU began a drive from its 39 but faced 3rd-and-19 at the FSU 37 when Hillman drilled one down the middle that E Tommy Morel (New Orleans) took away from three defenders for 20y – just enough to move the chains. "That Morel, in that last drive, made one of the greatest clutch catches – in a crowd – that I ever said," McClendon said.
  • Maurice LeBlanc, an often-injured second-team RB who led all rushers with 97y in 14 carries, toted the pigskin to the 14. Hillman kept for 11, then LeBlanc carried it across for the go-ahead tally with 2:39 left. Lumpkin's kick made it a 4-point game, 31-27.
  • LSU survived a scare when CB Barton Frye (Baton Rouge) tipped a pass away from Sellers in the last seconds.

Hillman, not Cappleman, won the outstanding offensive player award while DE Buddy Millican (Baton Rouge) took defensive honors.

  • "Actually, we beat them at their own game," McClendon opbserved. Hillman finished 16-29 for 229 while Cappleman was 21-41 for 221 with 1 INT. Morel had more yards, 103, on six catches than Sellers' 75 on 8 receptions.
  • McClendon, as always, praised his D. "We mixed our defense in the second half. Our pass rush was effective and that was the difference." Peterson agreed, "Cappleman was thrown for losses more in this game than at any other time."

 

 

1968 Peach Bowl Program

Coach Bill PetersonCoach Charles McClendon
Bill Peterson (L) and Charles McClendon on LSU staff 1958

QB Bill Cappleman
Bill Cappleman

Ron Sellers
Ron Sellers

 

Coach McClendon with Peach Bowl Trophy
McClendon with Peach Bowl trophy