Seminoles Sidelines - VII
Seminoles First: Game against Florida
After a week off following their first-ever victory over Miami, the Seminoles finished their 1958 season with their first-ever clash with the Florida Gators.
  • The Seminoles' attitude toward finally getting a crack at Big Brother U. in Gainesville is epitomized by QB Vic Prinzi. He played three seasons for FSU, he received a medical redshirt for 1957 because of an injury. His reaction: Thank God I got hurt because now I'm going to get a chance to play the Gators.
  • FB Fred Pickard recalled: We were above and beyond ready to play. The whole town [Tallahassee] went wild. They carried us off for a couple of days to get away from everything.
  • Prinzi agreed. We felt pretty optimistic going in. Believe me, our guns were loaded.
  • FSU Coach Tom Nugent said, They had always used as their claim, "We don't play that sister school up there because they don't always play the same kind of schools consistently." So FSU beefed up their schedule to include SEC teams. Nugent: I went preaching around the state that it [playing Florida] was the only reason I wanted to stay at Florida State. "I'm going to make sure Florida plays us." It got us a lot of speaking engagements.

That enthusiasm was not shared by the Gator Nation.

  • The coaches, team, and the fans resented being forced to play FSU by the governor and members of the state legislature. Florida AD and head football coach Bob Woodruff had said that UF would never play FSU as long as he was AD.
  • He later denied he had said any such thing, claiming that dialog had begun on beginning the series as early as 1949. He said he was open to playing FSU but was blocked by the university president, J. Hillis Miller, who didn't want to see Florida State placed on the same level as Florida in anything.
  • The fans looked upon their sister school in Tallahassee as an upstart that wasn't on their level so that the game became a no-win situation for UF - a victory was expected (the Gators were a 7-to-10 point favorite) but a defeat meant utter embarrassment.
  • The #12 Gators still hoped for a bid to the Gator Bowl or even the Orange Bowl despite their 4-4-1 record and certainly couldn't afford to stumble against the 7-2 Noles.
  • Adding to the acrimony were some bitter comments from both sides on ticket arrangements.

The game held special meaning for Gator QB Jimmy Dunn.

  • He hadn't attracted much attention coming out of high school because of his size (142 lb).
  • After some lobbying by Jimmy's high school coach in Tampa, FSU offered a one-year scholarship with the chance to go to spring practice and make the team.
  • Another enticement for Tallahassee was the fact that Jimmy's girlfriend (and future wife) was headed to FSU.
  • However, when Dunn earned the MVP award in the annual high school All­Star game in Gainesville, the Gators offered him a four-year scholarship as soon as the game ended.
  • FSU Coach Tom Nugent recalled: I went across the field to shake his hand and say, "Boy, am I glad you're coming to Florida State." He said, "Coach, I'm going to Florida. Nugent said he would extend his commitment to four years but Dunn responded by saying, I kind of like Florida now.
  • Nugent was not pleased, opining that Dunn "lacked moral fiber." Jimmy would remember that remark when he took the field against FSU three years later.
  • Dunn recalls: If you're playing Auburn or Georgia Tech or Miami, you talk about it in the off-season, each one of them. But this off-season [1958], all anybody was talking about was FSU, and it went on all year.
FSU's Bobby Renn returns opening kickoff 
Bobby Renn returns the opening kickoff.
The record crowd of 43,000, including 10,000 in Garnet and Gold, that filled Florida Field saw the Seminoles start with a bang.
  • FSU did their pregame warmups in a nearby parking lot. Nugent: A rumor went through the stadium like wildfire that we had a bus accident and Florida State wasn't going to show up.
  • When captains Bobby Renn and Prinzi walked to the center of the field for the coin toss, they were the only FSU players in the stadium.
  • Florida State won the toss and elected to receive. After the entire squad made its entrance, Renn and Jack Espenship jogged back to receive the kick, which came down to Espenship, who handed the ball to Renn. With T Bob Swoszowski clearing the way, Renn took off down the sidelines 78y before Dunn tackled him at the UF 15.
  • Dunn: He had a couple of blockers in front of him and I was the only one left. So I just started backpedaling. He ran to the middle of the field to try to outrun me but in the process he outran his blockers. I saw what he was trying to do and was able to get him down. He panicked. He should have scored. If he had stayed with his blockers they'd have run over me.
  • But all Dunn did was delay the TD. The honor of scoring the first Seminole TD against Florida went to Pickard four plays later when he pushed over from the 1 for a 7-0 lead with less than four minutes elapsed.
  • FSU forced a Bobby Joe Green punt that traveled 50y to the 18. After two plays gained 8, Renn was supposed to quick-kick, but Prinzi noticed two defenders unaccounted for in the blocking scheme. So he took the snap him­self and tried to run for the first down. He was thrown for a 6y loss by two defenders, aggravating his thigh injury in the process. Joe Majors replaced him at QB.
  • On fourth down, a high snap allowed E Dave Hudson enough time to break through and block Renn's punt. Dave picked up the pigskin at the 5 and spinted into the EZ. Billy Booker's PAT tied the score with 6:59 left in Q1.
  • FSU's third possession featured runs of 7 and 12y by Bud Whitehead before the Tribe bogged down at its 36.
  • Florida drove to the FSU 49 but Whitehead stole Mickey Ellenberg's pass at the 35 and raced to the UF 40. Clipping, however, set the Noles all the way back to the 24.
  • As Q2 began, Renn punted to Florida's 33. A 7y sack of Dunn and a personal foul set UF back to the 12. Green's boot was a poor effort, giving Florida State good field position at the UF 49.
  • FSU came out in a spread formation with Majors throwing from the TB spot. He found Espenship for 14 and Renn for 13 on successive plays to put the ball on the 17. But on 3rd-and-15, Hudson struck again, intercepting Prinzi's pass at the 3 and returning it all the way to midfield. But the officials ruled he stepped out on the 11.

Hudson intercepts.
Dave Hudson grabs Prinzi's pass away from Renn.
  • The Gators proceeded 89y in 16 plays. Facing third down on the 9, Dunn rolled right to pass, then tucked the ball and reversed his field to pay dirt. Adding Booker's PAT, UF led 14-7 with 3:35 left in the first half.
  • Two plays after the kickoff, E Nick Arfaras hit Majors and forced a fumble, recovering it on the FSU 20. Three plays later, the Gators faced 4th-and-2 the 12 with less than a minute on the clock. Woodruff decided to go for the TD. Dunn repeated his earlier success, again rolling right before pivoting back to the left into the EZ to make it 21-7 at the break.
  • Dunn: Lee Corso was the defensive backfield coach and he tells the story that if he wasn't such a good pass defense coach I'd have had to throw the ball, and I wasn't good enough to hit them so they'd have beaten us.
Dunn scores one of his two TDs.
Dunn scores one of his two TDs.

The second half descended into a defensive struggle that put no more points on the scoreboard.

  • Early in Q3, Dunn pounced on Renn's fumble at the FSU 31. The Gators pushed to the 13 where Booker tried a FG on 4th down that misfired.
  • Prinzi never returned after throwing the INT in Q2, but FSU showed some life behind Majors' arm. Carl Meyer snared one aerial for 13 and another for 6 to the UF 46. But Whitehead fumbled, and Arfaras gathered in his second recovery of the day.
  • When Florida couldn't move, Ellenburg punted out on the 8. On a fake-kick, Renn passed 24y to Espenship at the 34. But a 15y holding penalty blunted the momentum, and Renn quick-kicked to the FSU 42. However, a personal foul set UF back to its 42.
  • The Seminoles got a break when Jack Westbrook fumbled, and John Craig covered it at the FSU 45 on the last play of Q3.
  • Majors connected with Tony Romeo for 26, but four incompletions turned the ball over to the Gators.
  • A bit later, Pickard returned Green's punt to the FSU 47. Majors hit Bob Kavanaugh and Renn to the 36, and E Bill Kimber to the 23. But Joe's next toss went into the hands of Russell Dilts in white at the 6.
  • After that, the only semblance of a threat came in the last minute and a half when Majors' running and pitching moved FSU to the UF 44. Gene McCor­mick came in and threw a pass to Pickard to the 34. But time ran out shortly afterwards with FSU on the UF 39.

The Seminoles actually outgained the Gators 286-238 but four turnovers made the difference.

  • Dunn recalls: I intercepted a pass in that game. What made it so great is that you played all the time so you had so many opportunities to make plays. It's funny, in 1957 I had six interceptions and nobody threw the ball. If I had played today, I might have had 20. Not really. It's a totally different game. ... I was awarded the MVP for the game and I wondered what Tom Nugent was thinking. I didn't say anything but I knew it felt great.
  • Woodruff was asked if he was relieved to win the game. Not any more than any other game. All games are very important to Florida.
  • Nugent: We have no excuses or alibis. We played well; Florida played better.
  • Dunn again: I had some other big games, but that's the one that stands out. Everybody knew that we couldn't let them beat us, even though they brought their program along in such a short period of time. We couldn't let them, and there was a feeling of relief after the game.

Florida's victory impressed neither the pollstars nor the Orange Bowl committee.

  • The Gators dropped to No.14 in the AP poll.
  • The Orange Bowl chose Syracuse to play #4 Oklahoma.
  • So UF had to settle for the nearby Gator Bowl where they lost to Ole Miss 7-3.

The Seminoles also received a bowl bid.

  • They faced #17 Oklahoma State in the Bluegrass Bowl in Louisville KY.
  • The Cowboys jumped out by 15 in freezing weather before a late FSU TD made the final a more respectable 15-6.
Reference: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Game of My Life: Florida Gators, Pat Dooley (2011)

 

FSU QB Vic Prinzi
Vic Prinzi

FSU FB Fred Pickard
Fred Pickard

FSU Coach Tom Nugent
Tom Nugent

Florida Coach Bob Woodruff
Bob Woodruff

1958 FSU-Florida Program Cover

FSU HB Bobby Renn
Bobby Renn

FSU HB Jack Espenship
Jack Espenship

FSU B Bud Whitehead
Bud Whitehead

FSU QB Joe Majors
Joe Majors

John Craig, FSU
John Craig

Tony Romeo, FSU
Tony Romeo

Bob Kavanaugh, FSU
Bob Kavanaugh

FSU E Bill Kimber
Bill Kimber

Jimmy Dunn receives MVP award.
Dunn with MVP Award

Seminole First: Florida State @ Michigan 1986
Florida State made its first visit to The Big House in Ann Arbor on September 27, 1986.
  • The matchup paired the Seminoles, #20 in the AP poll, against #5 Michigan.
  • The Noles beat Toledo 24-0, lost at Nebraska 34-17, and tied North Carolina in Tallahassee 10-10 when they missed three FGs, including a 36-yarder with 11 seconds left.
  • In the off week between the Nebraska and UNC games, the Seminoles had to deal with the death of senior OT Pablo Lopez, who was killed by a shotgun blast in the parking lot outside a campus dance.
  • Bo Schembechler's Wolverines had won a squeaker at Notre Dame 24-23 and bopped Oregon State at home 31-12.
  • UM entered the fray as a 9-point favorite. Those who took the points would be rewarded.
  • WTBS televised the game on its national cable channel as part of its "Super Football Saturday" schedule.

The home team enjoyed an advantage at QB.

  • Jim Harbaugh ranked third among the nation's signal-callers, having hit 29 of 41 for 410y and three TDs in two games. One of his major weapons, TE Paul Jokisch, was doubtful because of a groin injury.
  • The offense might have to score plenty to offset the suspect injury-riddled D that allowed 455y against the Irish and 339 passing yards to the Beavers in a game in which OSU's Erik Wilhelm set a Michigan Stadium record with 39 completions.
  • The FSU staff decided to stay with sophomore Chip Ferguson under C instead of freshman Peter Tom Willis, who took over in the first half against UNC when Chip was ineffective.

Bobby and Bo had known each other for several years but had never coached against each other.

  • Bowden, an Alabama native, was a natural good 'ole boy whose infectious wit seemed to have rubbed off on the sometimes dour Michigan coach during game week.
    Bo and I are friends. We've got a mutual friendship. I like him, and he can't wait to play me.
    Michigan is content to pound you for three quarters and then beat you in the fourth. They just keep pounding. That's why Bo and Woody Hayes had so many great battles. They both had that same philosophy.
    I wish we had seven weeks to get ready for Michigan. That's probably about what we'd need.
    I've had a lot of people ask me about our success on the road, and I haven't been able to put my finger on it. When Nebraska whipped us a couple of weeks ago, that put a stop to a lot of those questions.
    My philosophy of playing powers on the road is, after ten years of it, let's don't do it anymore. I'm tired of this "let's go to your place and you pay us to beat us."
    This is by far the biggest game of our season so far, not just because it's the next game but because it's Michigan. They don't get any bigger than that. Can you imagine going up there and playing in front of 105,000 people? That's as big as they get.
  • Schembechler countered with these observations:
    Bobby did one of my clinics a couple years ago. He knows football. He says, "You got good dogs, you let 'em hunt." I know exactly what he's talking about.
    I've got a feeling we'll see Florida State run more and go to the I-formation. I'm probably wrong, but you've got to have a feeling.
    We have got to get better in all phases of the game. If you look at Miami, Florida, and Florida State, they're all in the Top Twenty, and they're all superbly talented.
    The thing that sets them apart from other teams, they're tough, physical teams, but they also have great speed. We haven't coped with that kind of speed all season.
  • Michigan set the game as its homecoming, which didn't bode well for FSU since Schembechler was 17-0 in homecoming games.
A shirt sleeve throng of 105,507 saw a competitive game on a partly cloudy afternoon.

First Quarter

  • Michigan took the kickoff and, a few plays in, got a break when sophomore CB Deion Sanders was called for interference on F Greg McMurtry when their feet got tangled up.
  • Running TB Jamie Morris repeatedly up the middle, the Wolverines drove into FG range. But Pat Moons from Fort Lauderdale missed wide left on a 35y try after 3 1/2 minutes of play.
  • But on FSU's first snap, Mark Messner recovered a fumbled pitch byredshirt freshman TB Sammy Smith at the 17.
  • Morris knifed to the 13, then to the 4. On 1st and goal, Harbaugh ran the option play to the left and pitched to FB Gerald White who loped untouched into the EZ with 9:32 showing. Moon's PAT made it 7-0.
  • Florida State responded with a drive sparked by Ferguson's 16y pass to 5'7" WR Darrin Holloman. Schmidt booted a 31y FG with 5:44 left to cut the lead to 7-3.
  • After a UM punt, FSU cranked up a mini-march that ended with Schmidt missing a 49y FG try.
  • Right before the quarter ended, Morris scampered 16y to his 36.

Second Quarter

  • Harbaugh ran right to escape the rush and threw on the run down the sideline to John Kolesar to the FSU 39.
  • Then it was Morris for 5 and, out of the wishbone, FB Bob Perryman for a first down to the 25.
  • When the drive bogged down, Moons pushed the lead back to 7 with a 26y FG at the 8:45 mark.
  • FSU drove to tie the score when Tanner Holloman (Darrin's 5'11" brother) took a swing pass from Ferguson in the right flat and fell into the EZ with 4:08 remaining before halftime. Schmidt converted to tie the game at 10.
  • The TD was the fifth allowed by Michigan in less than three games, matching the total they surrendered in eleven regular-season games in '85.
1986 FSU-Michigan Action
Victor Floyd carries against Michigan as Ronald Lewis blocks.
Third Quarter
  • Just as they did in Q1, the Seminoles turned the ball over on their first snap of the half. After the kickoff was returned to 31, SS Ivan Hicks stepped in front of Ferguson's slant-in pass to Ronnie Lewis at the 37, returning it to the 28.
  • Morris rumbled to the to 20. But, facing 4th-and-inches at the 18, Michigan lined up in the wishbone. Harbaugh handed to Perryman, who was stopped cold.T
  • Getting the ball back later, UM launched a 54y drive sustained by pass interference penalty against junior CB Derek Williams on 3rd-and-5. Harbaugh followed with a 26y strike to White to the19.
  • A clipping penalty forced Michigan to settle for Moons' 32y FG with 1:18 left.
  • So the home team led 13-10 heading into the final 15 minutes.

Fourth Quarter

  • After Hicks plucked his second INT of the day at the UM 42, Harbaugh immediately passed to SE Ken Higgins to the FSU 43.
  • Schembechler inserted Thomas Wilcher at TB for the first time all day. The NCAA 55m hurdles champion in 1985 brought fresh legs.
  • The rest of the drive sounded like a broken record: Wilcher to the 35, Wilcher for 6, Wilcher to the 21, Wilcher to the 9. Finally, from the wishbone at the 7, Wilcher took a handoff and burst up the middle for the TD with 1:27 remaining. In all, he gained 53y on nine carries during the march.
  • With Ferguson just 6-of-19 with 3 INT, Bowden inserted Danny McManus at QB. The junior led the Seminoles 67y in six quick plays, completing 4 of 6 for 67y. The last 20 came when Danny scrambled to his right and fired a strike to SE Herb Gainer just inside the right edge of EZ with 16 seconds left. McManus then tossed to Pat Carter for the two-point conversion. His performance would earn Danny the starting nod the following week.
  • With two chances to win, slim and none, the Noles tried an onside kick but the ball went out of bounds.

The statistics reflected the score.

  • Michigan's D, led by Hicks, returned to the form that made it one of the best in the country the year before. The Wolverines held the speedy Seminoles to 285y.
  • UM amassed 332 total yards, most (210) coming on the ground.
  • Morris led all rushers with 99y on 19 attempts with 80 coming in first half.
  • Harbaugh completed 9 of 16 for 122y for no TDs but, most importantly, no INTs.
  • FSU's Smith gained 75y in 13 carries but had only one attempt after intermission for 9y.

Post-Game Comments

  • Bowden said he'd switch QBs sooner if he had to do it over again.
    I should have been smarter. It was my fault.
    He singled out Wilcher for praise.
    They put a fresh back in there. He hurt us in the second half. He had a lot of zest and power. We slowed those other two, but they had one more to go to. I thought the extra power and speed made a difference in their offense.
    The key to the game was who would improve most after halftime - our offense or their defense.
    On the failed onside kick at the end:
    We must have been offside. I don't honestly know what happened. I had the worst seat in the house.
    On playing before more than 100,000:
    To be honest, we were not intimidated. You get intimidated more in the South than the North. They have little stadiums down there and they throw things at you ... we're not used to civilization.
  • Schembechler: We're better defensively but not where we have to be. The cutbacks hurt us badly in the first half. Once we got the cutbacks shut down, our defense was better.
    Wilcher came in and sparked us on the drive, but we probably scored too quickly. we scored on second downs. We should have waited until fourth downs, I guess.
    Taking everything into consideration, this is a very, very pleasing victory to me. Florida State is a heck of a team, a Top 20 team. They're gonna be 9-2-1 or 8-3-1 at the end of the season.
  • Harbaugh: People who play Florida State from this point on better be aware of their defense. This is the type game we needed.
    Coach said to us that we'll find that this game will tell us where this team is at. We definitely have more confidence, beating one of the top 20 teams in the country.
  • Hicks: We were faking blitzes. We knew we had to come together.

Back in Tallahassee a few days after the game, Bowden revealed he wasn't enchaned with the officiating in Ann Arbor.

  • Another official warned us about one of their guys before we went to Michigan. The official who talked with us said he had worked with the particular Big Ten guy before.
  • Referring to calls made by that official during the game, Bowden remarked, It was ridiculous.
  • The Seminoles were penalized eight times for 84y while Michigan was flagged nine times for 88. But some calls are more damaging than others.
  • More than one FSU drive in the second half was adversely affected by penalties.

The '86 Seminoles fell short in fulfilling Bo's prediction for their season.

  • FSU lost to archrivals Miami and Florida to finish 6-4-1.
  • The Seminoles ended with a 27-13 victory over Indiana in the All AmDerekan Bowl in Birmingham.

Video highlights of the 1986 FSU-Michigan game

Reference: Seminoles: The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)

FSU Coach Bobby Bowden
Bobby Bowden

Bo Schembechler 1986
Bo Schembechler

Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh

FSU QB Chip Ferguson

1986 Florida State-Michigan Program

Michigan TB Jamie Morris
Jamie Morris

FSU TB Sammy Smith
Sammy Smith

FSU WR Darrin Holloman
Darrin Holloman

FSU K Derek Schmidt
Derek Schmidt

FSU WR Tanner Holloman
Tanner Holloman

Michigan TB Thomas Wilcher
Thomas Wilcher

FSU QB Danny McManus

FSU WR Herb Gainer
Herb Gainer

FSU WR Pat Carter
Pat Carter

Maybe the Video Wasn't Such a Good Idea

Jimmy Johnson


Steve Walsh passes against the Seminoles


Tracy Sanders


Steve Gabbard


Chip Ferguson


Richie Andrews


Rob Chudzinski receives between Deion Sanders (2) and Leroy Butler (6)


Sammy Smith

The 1987 Florida State Seminoles lost only one game, to Miami 26-25, and finished the regular season 10-1.

  • After beating Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl, the Seminoles finished #2 in the final AP poll behind only their conquerors, the Hurricanes.
  • A couple of weeks later, Bobby Bowden gathered his returning players for the first meeting of the 1988 season. As he recalls, I told the team we were probably going to be ranked number one in most of the preseason polls. I warned my players of the consequences that came with being so highly regarded. "Never before has an FSU squad entered the season with so much expectation," I told them. "We are going to face the most demanding pressure ever. We will be under the media's eye every minute. The national media will be waiting for us to screw up. Do not give Miami bulletin-board material this summer!"
  • He was referring to the opening game of the '88 season in the Orange Bowl. The Canes had prevailed in the rivalry three straight times.
  • But while Bobby and his wife Ann traveled in Europe during the summer, an FSU booster came up with what he thought was a great idea. He got my players together, and they decided to produce a rap video, kind of like the "Super Bowl Shuffle" the Chicago Bears made during their Super Bowl-winning season in 1985. When I came home from Europe, the boys wanted me to appear in the video. But I wanted no part of it. I could have killed it right there, but I was afraid I might ruin team morale. ... The kids were very excited about the video, so I let them do it. When I saw the video, the dadgum thing was about four minutes long. The lyrics went something like this:
    We are the Seminoles of Florida State,
    We know we're good; some say we're great.
    Our goal is simple - best in the land.
    Rockin' to the bat of the Marching Chiefs Band.
    On Saturday night, we'll show our stuff,
    We'll show the nation how we're tough.

    Watch the five minute 30 second video here ...
  • Bowden didn't like the video one bit and regretted his decision not to participate. I was terrified of it. I just knew Jimmy Johnson was down in Miami playing the video in his team's locker room every miinute of every day ... He told the players they might be forced to "eat" the video.

Bobby was exactly right.

  • Johnson played the video for his team two days before kickoff.
  • Having lost a record twelve players to the NFL draft, he would start five newcomers on offense and five on defense. He needed all the extra motivation he could find.
  • The video had the effect Johnson intended for his team. The 'Canes were particularly infuriated by "Neon Deion" Sanders prancing about as a lead vocal.

The two schools had fielded the most dominant teams of the previous five seasons.

  • The Seminoles had averaged 433.7ypg to trail only BYU, Nebraska, and Iowa, none of whom played as demanding a schedule as FSU.
  • However, the Hurricanes' 52-9 record over the same period topped all of college football.

A boisterous crowd of 77,836 and a national TV audience watched as the game didn't go at all the way everyone expected. Watch the CBS introduction to the game ...

  • Junior QB Steve Walsh, who had played with so much poise in the 'Canes' victory in Tallahassee the year before, led his offense into FSU territory on the opening drive. A 21y pass to Cleveland Gary and a 25y gain by TB Leonard Conley on a trap highlighted the march to the 25. But the defense stiffened and forced Miami to settle for a 39y FG from Carlos Huerta.
  • After forcing a three-and-out, the home team moved quickly back into enemy territory until CB Tracy Sanders caused a fumble that DT Steve Gabbard recovered for the Noles on their 15.
  • But it didn't take long for FSU to return the favor. Senior QB Chip Ferguson was intercepted by Bobby Harden, who returned 17y to the 20.
  • The period ended after Walsh completed a pass to the 11. So far, Miami showed all the earmarks of being the #1 team, not FSU.

The second 15 minutes brought more of the same.

  • Gary scored from the 2 on the second play of the period to move the score to 10-0.
  • After Florida State went nowhere, the Canes moved into enemy territory again. But the possession ended when Huerta missed a 59y FG attempt.
  • Given good field position for a change, the Seminoles moved into UM territory for the first time but Richie Andrews' 47y try sailed wide.
  • Wonder of wonders! Miami had to punt, but the Noles couldn't stand prosperity and fumbled the ball back near midfield. This time, Huerta missed from 37y out.
  • With time running down in the half, FSU got off a poor punt that gave the Canes the ball on the visitors' side of the 50 again. Facing 4th down at the 37, Miami first lined up to punt but, after a timeout, Johnson sent his offense back on the field. Walsh passed 6y to Dale Douglas to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, with only 0:15 on the clock, TE Rod Chudzinski snared a 19y TD pass that sent Miami to the locker room with a stunning 17-0 advantage.
  • The Canes had run twice as many plays as FSU (46-23) and outgained the Seminoles 239-91.

Any hope the Noles had of getting back in the game disappeared quickly in the second half.

  • Ferguson ended the opening possession with his second INT.
  • Later in the period, Miami drove deep into FSU territory. But Sanders knocked the ball from Randal Hill after the latter had received a pass. But on an evening when everything went right for the Canes, the ball rolled toward the goal line until Douglas fell on it at the 5. Walsh then passed to Conley to make it 24-0.
  • Both coaches changed signal callers in Q4 but for different reasons. With Ferguson unable to move the team, Bowden sent in Peter Tom Willis. On the other side, Johnson gave Walsh a well deserved rest after he hit 18-of-37 for 228y and 2 TDs without an INT.
  • When Willis did no better than Ferguson, FSU tried freshman Casey Weldon in the closing minutes. The trio combined to throw five INTs as the Hurricanes handed the Seminoles their first shutout, 31-0, since Bowden's second game as coach in 1976 on the same field, 49-0.
  • His QBs had an excuse for their poor play since their running game was nonexistent. Sammy Smith, touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, carried 10 times for a measly 6y, 183 less than he racked up against Miami in '87.

Postgame

  • Bowden: I've had nightmares about this game since last May. Every time I woke up and thanked God I was asleep. My nightmares weren't as bad as this game. I can't believe we were this bad.
  • Johnson tried to downplay the victory. All this talk about rankings - a year ago is history. All we've done is won one more game and nothing more. I told the team all this means is the worst we can end up is 1-10. He didn't mention, probably because he didn't realize it, that Miami had defeated the preseason No. 1 for the sixth straight year.
  • Miami CB Donald Ellis: What really annoyed me about the rap was if we'd done all this crap, the entire country would be on us like we'd short the president. It would be, "Oh, Jimmy Johnson has no control over his team." But Bobby Bowden's team does it, and it's, "Oh, how nice. Let's sell it." That was the last straw. It's just that for the last three months all we've been hearing about is Florida State. The verbal abuse went too far. And now here comes this rap about how good they are.

The next day, back in Tallahassee, Bowden reflected further on the disaster.

  • We couldn't get our skilled athletes in positoin to do their thing. Again, I was amazed at the speed of Miami.
  • He undoubtedly didn't know about Johnson telling his team that all the victory meant was that they couldn't do worse than 1-10.
  • If he had, Bobby could have told his boys not to overreact to the defeat. All it meant was that the best they could do was 11-1.

And that's exactly how the Seminoles finished the '88 season after annihilating Florida 52-17 in the annual finale and edging Auburn 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl.

  • That produced a #3 ranking in the final AP poll, the third year in what would become an amazing streak of 13 straight top four finishes.
  • As for the Hurricanes, whose roster included 17 players who would sign pro contract, they lost only to Notre Dame 31-30 in the "Catholics vs. Convicts Bowl" midway through the season to end up #2 behind the Irish.

Bobby Bowden never approved another rap video.

References: Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football, Bobby Bowden with Mark Schlabach (2010)
'Cane Mutiny: How the Miami Hurricanes Overturned the Football Establishment, Bruce Feldman (2004)
Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
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Memorable Game: Live by the Rooskie, Die by the Rooskie

Auburn QB Stan White
Stan White

1990 Auburn-FSU Program


FSU DB Errol McCorvey
Errol McCorvey

Auburn RB Tony Richardson
Tony Richardson

FSU QB Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

FSU QB Casey Weldon
Casey Weldon

FSU RB Amp Lee
Amp Lee

FSU FB Edgar Bennett
Edgar Bennett

Auburn WR Herbert Casey
Herbert Casey

Auburn exults after winning FG.
Jim Von Wyl exults after
kicking winning FG.

Auburn coach Pat Dye
Pat Dye

Auburn's list of miracle plays to win football games didn't begin with the Georgia and Alabama games at the end of the 2013 season. They pulled one against Florida State October 20, 1990, with the aid of a rare Bobby Bowden miscalculation.

  • The #7 Seminoles traveled to Auburn two weeks after losing to Miami 31-22 to drop their record to 4-1. The Noles used a well-placed off week to lick their wounds.
  • The Tigers' only blemish in five outings was a 26-26 tie against Tennessee. Uncharacteristically, AU was the leading passing team in the SEC behind redshirt freshman QB Stan White.
  • FSU had won three straight in the series.
    The Auburn series held special meaning for Coach Bowden because the university in his native state had tried to hire him after his fifth season at FSU when alumnus Vince Dooley declined their offer in order to stay at Georgia. Bobby later recalled: If you had said to me years earlier, "Bobby, someday you are going to be offered the head coaching job at Auburn and you are going to turn it down," I would have told you, "There's no way I'd turn that one down. You'd better get your head examined."

A sellout crowd of 82,214 under the lights saw their heroes jump out front.

  • The first points of the game were set up when Terrell Buckley dropped Richie Nell's punt, and Al Nash recovered for Auburn at the FSU 46
  • Casey Danley ran for 6, then 4 more. At the end of the second play, CB Errol McCorvey clamped his foot on WR Greg Taylor's face as Taylor lay on the ground. The personal foul gave the Tigers a first down at the 22.
  • Five plays later, Tony Richardson ran to the 5 on a counter, then skirted wide into the EZ on the next play with 3:34 left in the period. Jim Von Wyl's PAT made it 7-0.

The Seminoles exploded in Q2.

  • Casey Weldon came off the bench for the last series of Q1 to replace ineffective starter Brad Johnson (3-for-5 for 14y and 1 INT).
    Weldon recalled years later: I was going into the game and getting a series in the second quarter, whether it was three plays and out or a touchdown drive. ... I think what got Brad in trouble ... was he was very conservative and was dinking and dunking, which wasn't too much to Coach Bowden's delight. I was a guy who threw it down the field. I went into the Auburn game for my series at the end of the first quarter, and it was third down and eight on my first drive. Edgar Bennett made an unbelievable catch on the sideline for me on what was a pretty bad throw ... and we went down and scored. They left me in the game, and we went down and scored again.
    Casey led a 10-play, 48y drive to put FSU on the board. The march started when McCorvey intercepted White's pass at the FSU 35 and returned it 12y. Soon after, the Noles enjoyed a first and goal at the 9. Then WR Shannon Baker ran five yards on a reverse to the 5. Weldon, however, threw two incompletions. So Richie Andrews toed a 22y FG with 12:02 remaining to make it 7-3.
  • That seemed to spark the Nole D, which held Auburn to only one first down the rest of the half. In the meantime, FSU scored TDs on its next two possessions.
  • After an Auburn three-and-out, the Seminoles were back in business at their 34. Weldon's 30y strike to Baker to the AU 32 sparked the TD drive. After an 8y run by Amp Lee, Weldon found Baker again, this time for 11y to the 24. Two plays later, Lee ran 5y for a first down inside the 1. FB Bennett plunged up the middle to give FSU the lead with 7:19 left.
  • Again forcing a punt, the Noles struck like lightning in the final minutes of the half. On second and seven from his 48, Weldon tossed a screen pass to Lee in the right flat. Amp split four defenders, and raced untouched for a 17-7 lead with 1:40 left. The drive covered 78y on seven plays.
Auburn closed the gap a little bit in Q3.
  • The defenses dominated these 15 minutes.
  • The only scoring came on Von Wyk's 37y FG with 1:25 on the clock to culminate a 35y drive that took nine plays.

The stage was set for a wild and wooly final period.

  • FSU faced 3rd-and-17 at the AU 41. Bowden decided the time was ripe for the "fumblerooskie." After all, Bobby had cemented his reputation as the Riverboat Gambler with the "puntrooskie" that won at Clemson two years earlier. The "fumblerooskie" begins with the QB taking the snap and putting the ball down behind the center's legs. The QB carries out a fake that is supposed to fool the defenders into chasing him as he rolls out quickly to his left. An offensive G then picks up the ball and runs for a TD or at least a long gain.
  • But in this case, Auburn NG Walter Tate fell on the "fumble" at the 43. He had an interesting reaction. I just laid there and giggled when I got it.
    Bowden had the team practice the fumblerooskie all week, and he was certain it would fool the Tigers. But what he didn't realize was that Auburn had prepared for the play. They'd seen it on film and suspected Bobby would try it.
    Some say the FSU offensive players knew the ruse was doomed. Seminole S John Davis remembers teammates warning the defense to get ready. I recall a couple of offensive players running down the side to where we were and saying, "You guys get ready to go on the field. The play we just called isn't going to work."

The energized Tigers began driving from there.

  • Suddenly looking like a fifth-year senior instead of a rookie, White connected with a leaping Herbert Casey for 17y. Then two plays later, the Noles received a 15y penalty to the 30 for Leon Fowler's late hit on receiver Dale Overton out of bounds after an incomplete pass.
  • Shortly after, Richardson scampered 19y to the 2. Danley dove over from there with 3:47 to go. Von Wyl's PAT made it 17-17.

Just when it looked like the game would end in a tie, Auburn produced two more big plays.

  • After receiving the kickoff, FSU drove past midfield. On third down, Weldon broke free and headed for a first down, but Eric Ramsey stripped the ball from him. Weldon recovered but lost the first down at the AU 37. Needing at least one more first down to have a shot at a winning FG, the Noles went for it. But OLB Ricky Sutton shot through to hit Weldon, who stumbled away from the line of scrimmage while trying to keep his balance before falling. Instead of placing the ball where Sutton hit Weldon, the referee marked it where Casey fell for a whopping 22y loss to the FSU 41 with 1:04 to play.
  • After three plays netted only 2y, the Tigers faced fourth-and-8 with 38 seconds left from the FSU 39 - too far for Von Wyl against a stiff wind. Auburn called timeout and plotted strategy. White found WR Casey running free in the middle of the secondary and hit him for 21y to the 18. White ran one play into the center of the field and let the clock run down to 0:06 before calling timeout. Von Wyk trotted out for a 38y FG. It was deja vu for the junior walk-on since he booted a 30-yarder to beat Louisiana Tech 16-14 two weeks earlier. The football sailed through the uprights.
  • The crowd cheered wildly and teasingly taunted FSU's haunting Tomahawk chant.
  • Once again, Bobby Bowden lost a game on a last second kick, this one made by the opponent rather than missed by his kicker.

Video of last two minutes

Postgame

  • Auburn coach Pat Dye, who just saw his squad come from behind for the fourth time that season: I've named this team the Fourth Down Heroes. This is a win by the heart, soul, and spirit of all Auburn. We didn't play as well as we could have, but we kept on fighting. ... That's not the first time Stan White and Herbert Casey have connected on big plays. Although Stan didn't have a great night [12-for-28 for only 97y with 3 INTs], when the game is on the line, I'll have Stan back there at QB.
    In his 1992 autobiography, Dye recalled his feeling after the victory. I was ... getting ready to do my post-game radio show. I was changing into my street clothes. I remember saying, "The good Lord wants us all to be happy. But it's a sin to be as happy as I am right now."
    He praised the fans. Our home crowd lifted us up. I don't know if I have ever experienced a greater home crowd advantage. Maybe in the Alabama game the year before. He was referring to the historic first appearance of the Crimson Tide at Auburn for a football game.
    Pat explained part of the reason for his elation. By the end of the year, maybe they [FSU] had the best team in the country. Maybe it was the best team we have beaten since I've been at Auburn. It was a damn good one.
  • Von Wyl: That was the biggest kick I ever made. The closest to that was Louisiana Tech, and that doesn't compare to tonight.
  • White: I learned a lot today. You have to give Florida State credit. I've never been associated with a better win. It wasn't pretty, but we got the win.
  • Bowden, who failed for the second straight time to gain his 200th career victory: We have to play every minute for 60 minutes, just like whenever we come up here. I thought our kids played a courageous game. We fought our hearts out. We had our chances to win the game. I thought we might have outplayed them.
    Concerning the failed fumblerooskie, which makes the coach a genius when it words, Bobby said, That's just poor coaching.
    Bobby was not happy with some of the officials' calls and couldn't wait to see the film on some of the personal fouls.
    He also second-guessed himself on going for it on 4th-and-5 when Sutton got the big sack. If I punted, they would have had the ball at their 10. When we gave up the field position, it was all that they needed.
  • Weldon, who completed 20-of-30 for 244y: I'm crushed. This is the game that I wanted to win all season, especially for the seniors. He was referring to the fact that the seniors had never lost to Auburn.
  • FSU LB Kirk Carruthers: In my opinion, the officiating stunk and favored Auburn. The refs have been intimidated by all the bad calls in recent weeks; so they are flag happy. FSU was penalized 14 times for 134y while the home time drew nine flags for 91.
  • CB Buckley: We didn't do anything special to try and shut down their passing game. We played the way we did, and if they made the play, then they made the play. The best man won.

Aftermath

  • Despite losing any chance to the national championship after their second loss, the 1990 Noles, with Weldon starting the rest of the way, captured their remaining five games and defeated Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl 24-17.
    Brad Johnson eventually confided his feelings about losing the starting job. Coach Bowden made a switch after I started six games as a junior. I didn't think what happened to me was deserved or was handled well, but I never went in there and complained about playing time, which is very common. ... QBs coach Mark Richt ... said the team just needed a spark and something different. Casey brought a little flair to them, and it ended up being a good decision. ...
    At the time, I had the thought of transferring as a junior. I would get just one more year if I went to another school. I thought the best bet at the end of the day was to stay because of my original goal of being seen at Florida State by scouts.
  • The FSU victory seemed to take a lot out of Auburn. They lost three of their last five before winning their Peach Bowl clash with Indiana 27-23.
References: Where Tradition Began: The Centennial History of Auburn Football,
Wayne Hester (1991)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Pure Gold, Bobby Bowden as told to Steve Ellis and Bill Vilona (2006)
Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty, Mike Freeman (2009)
In the Arena, Pat Dye with John Logue (1992)
Profile: Jameis Winston

This is written right after FSU clobbered Clemson 51-7 on 10/19/13 to vault into the BCS Championship discussion.

Redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston from Hueytown AL is one of those players, like Johnny Manziel in 2012, who seems too good to be true.

  • Adept as a runner as well as a passer, he was rated the nation's top QB prospect in the class of 2012, having made the USA Today 2011 All­USA first team and the 2012 Parade All-American team. He was also se­lected the 2011 Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year after amassing 2,424y passing and 1,065y rushing for 42 TDs as a senior.
  • But he was also considered a baseball prospect in the 2012 MLB Ama­teur Draft. He wasn't selected until the 15th round because he had ex­pressed the desire to play football and baseball at FSU.

Winston bided his time during his redshirt freshman season.

  • He watched senior E. J. Manuel lead the Noles to a 12-2 record to earn the ACC and Orange Bowl championship trophies.
  • He didn't sit out the baseball season, playing the outfield and pitching. A switch-hitter, he batted .235 in 41 games and compiled a 3.00 ERA in 17 games, all in relief. He accounted for nine assists with his rocket right arm. His best mound outing came at Miami on April 6 when, after practicing with the football team in the morning, he hopped a plane and pitched three perfect innings of relief against the Hurricanes, reguarly hitting 95 on the radar gun.

From an early age, "Jaboo," as his mother has called him since he was a baby, has impressed his peers and elders not only with his physical abilities but also with his intelligence and leadership skills.

  • Matt Scott, the new football coach at Hueytown High in 2009, installed a pro-style offense to replace the wing T the team had run the previous year. During a summer session, a receiver dropped a pass from a rising sophomore. The QB grabbed the receiver by his shirt and told him, Catch the ball. You're a senior.
  • However, Jameis's passion had a down side. With no patience for fail­ure, he would often erupt on the field, sometimes drawing flags from the refs. Scott threatened to bench his QB if he couldn't calm down. Ev­ery Friday night, he was the meanest son of a gun out there. I've never been around anyone as competitive as he is. People say QBs shouldn't get too high or too low, but I mean to tell you, when he's in a rage, he's pretty good.
  • The same intensity flared up on the sidelines in 2012 during the Semi­noles' second half meltdown at North Carolina State. As the Wolfpack whittled away the 16-0 halftime lead on their way to a last minute vic­tory, Winston confronted his teammates, urging them to wake up and stop the comeback. Jimbo Fisher learned how much his redshirt QB hated to lose. He was getting on guys. It was natural for him to bark out and command, even though he was a pup.
  • Jameis helped the 2012 Seminole gridders by serving as a scout team QB who helped the highly-ranked D practice defending dual-threat spread formation signal-callers.
  • Baseball coach Mike Martin has his own example of Jameis's outspok­enness. The Seminoles seemed disinterested during a 10-0 loss in the first game of a doubleheader. Even though he wasn't in the lineup, Winston laid into his teammates for their lackluster effort. He had seen enough, says Martin. He felt like something needed to be said. When ask­ed if the players responded to the freshman's message, Mike replied, Well, we won the next game.
  • On the day of FSU's 2013 spring football game, the baseball team had a doubleheader. Jameis began in his football uniform, throwing a 58y TD on his first pass on his way to 12-for-15 for 205y. Then he jogged across a parking lot and changed into his baseball uniform for the nightcap. Martin recalls: I asked him how the spring game went. He said, "Alright." I asked if he completed one, and he said, "A few."
  • OT Cam Erving was assigned to mentor Jameis when he arrived on campus in the summer of 2012. Cam remembers thinking, This is the No. 1 QB in the country? This kid is so goofy. But after going through a football season with him, Erving proclaims, He has the it factor. You can't explain the it factor. It's just it. Coaches and teammates also rave about Winston's "football IQ" and mentality.

Jameis has already been compared to three great athletes.

  • Because he excels in both baseball and football, Winston has been likened to Bo Jackson, who hailed from Bessemer just 5 miles from Hueytown, and to Seminole great Deion Sanders, both of whom played pro football and baseball simultaneously.
  • As a QB, Jameis has already drawn the label of "the second Charlie Ward," another two-sport star (football and basketball) who won the 1993 Heisman Trophy.
  • Winston met Ward in the spring of 2013. Jameis's reaction: Me and Charlie Ward are complete opposites. He's quiet. But he has that it fac­tor. Charlie Ward was looking me directly in the eye. I know how he led the Seminoles to a national championship.

Tidbits about Jameis Winston

  • His mother Loretta nicknamed him "Jaboo" at birth, and the family still calls him that.
  • From a very young age, he never seemed to need much sleep.
  • He has always been an excellent student.
  • His childhood dream was to be a podiatrist. While both his parents un­derwent foot treatments, Jameis would look over the doctor's shoulder asking question after question.
  • His youth coach Fred Green will never forget the way the tiny kid wear­ing a helmet two sizes too big fearlessly competed against older boys. Game time, he never flinched. He'd play his heart out, and he'd do just what you'd tell him.
  • His boyhood idol was Randall Cunningham.
  • By fifth grade, Jameis worked with a baseball and football coach his dad knew.
  • At age 12, he compiled a notebook in which he listed the characteristics of a good QB and ways to attack a Cover 2 defense.
  • Jameis's best friend, Richard Rabb, remembers when they played NCAA Football 12 for an entire day. Fifteen times Rabb beat Winston, and each time Jameis asked for a rematch. When Winston finally won, he suddenly had to go home.
  • As a ninth grader, he ran the 40y dash in front of the Alabama football staff but clocked only a 4.8. So he worked with a former NFL player who gave him a crash course in running fundamentals as well as some strength exercises. Three weeks later, he returned to Tuscaloosa and ran a 4.6. Not believing the time, Nick Saban made him run the 40 twice more, and he hit the lower mark both times. It literally takes me a year to get kids to understand the fundamentals of running, said Leve­rette. He picked it up in three weeks.
  • So many colleges pursued him that he changed his cell phone number multiple times his senior year.
  • His main frustration from that season was Hueytown losing in the 5A finals. I don't care if I broke all the records and was the best player in his­tory. I'm still so mad about not winning.
  • When Winston chose Florida State over Alabama, his high school baseball coach told him, People can come see you play easier in Alabama versus Florida State. Jameis replied, Coach, if they want to see me, they'll come to Florida State.
  • When asked why he continues to play baseball, Jameis replied that he hopes to play both sports at the pro level a la Deion Sanders, his fellow Seminole, and Bo Jackson, a fellow Alabaman. He contends that each sport makes him better at the other. Baseball is a game of failure. You can't be stressing every single day when you mess up. Baseball, you go 0-for-3? That day's over. That helps me out with football. I can't get overexcited if I throw a TD. The next play could be an interception. You have to stay loose.
References: "Living Up to It,"Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated 10/21/13
"Is this kid serious," Mark Winegardner, ESPN the Magazine, 11/25/2013

Florida State QB Jameis Winston
FSU QB Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston, Hueytown HS QB
Winston at Hueytown HS
(above and below)

Jameis Winston, Hueytown baseball

Coach Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston
Jimbo Fisher and Winston

FSU OF-P Jameis Winston
OF-P Jameis Winston

4-year-old Jameis Winston
Jameis at age 4

Winston's notebook page

First Undefeated Season - I

Indiana Coach Bo McMillin
Bo McMillin

Assistant Coach Bob Harbison

FSU President Doak Campbell
President Doak Campbell

1950 Cigar Bowl Program

Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State 1950
Doak Campbell Stadium in 1950

Early Florida State helmet
Early FSU Helmet

Jim Arnold 1950
Jim Arnold
Bainbridge GA

FSU RB Tommy Brown
Tommy Brown
Tallahassee FL

PK Ernie Huggett 1950
Ernie Huggett
South Bend IN

FSU B Dick Peterson 1950
Dick Peterson
Chicago IL

FSU FB Mike Sellers
Mike Sellers
Barberton OH

FSU FB Dick Turk
Dick Turk
South Bend IN

1950 Florida State-Randolph-Macon Program

FSU DB Harry Bringger
Harry Bringger
Winter Haven FL

Preston Bradley 1950
Preston Bradley
Lake Wales FL

Seminole fans remember Glorious '99 when FSU became the first - and still only - team to be #1 in the preseason polls and retain the top spot throughout the season. But how many know that 1999 was not the first undefeated season in school history?

  • That distinction belongs to the 1950 Seminoles, the university's fourth gridiron squad.
  • Don Veller's team won the Dixie Conference with a 4-0 record.
  • The '50 season also marked the debut of Doak Campbell Stadium.

Veller had taken over the fledgling program in its second year, 1948.

  • Don had been a backfield star at Indiana, where his accomplishments included a 82y run to help upset rival Purdue. He had also been a teammate of Michigan C Gerald Ford, the future president, in the East-West Shrine game.
  • Don's first coaching experience consisted of seven years at Elkhart (IN) High where he won 80% of his games with two unbeaten seasons.
  • After finishing four years of wartime service in the Air Force with a rank of major, he served as head football coach at Hanover College (IN) in 1946. He left there to work on his doctorate at his alma mater, Indiana, while assisting his old coach, Bo McMillin.
  • When Florida State began looking for a permanent coach after a makeshift maid­en voyage in 1947, basketball coach Don Loucks, who grew up three blocks from Veller in Indiana, recommended Don.
  • Howard Danforth, FSU's first AD, hired Veller with the agreement that we wouldn't have to move to Tallahassee until August 1948 so that he could con­tinue his year of residency at Indiana for his doctorate.
 Coach Don Veller and staff members
Coach Don Veller (center) and staff members

The Seminoles experienced success immediately under Veller.

  • Don assembled a small coaching staff called the "Hoosier Hot Shots" because all three had played at Indiana. One, Bob Harbison, would remain on the FSU staff for 37 years.
  • As you'd expect from a doctoral candidate, Veller was an assiduous student of the game of football. He was well organized and paid attention to the details that can win or lose games.
  • The staff taught the players the "Cockeyed T" that McMillin had used at IU. Assistant Charley Armstrong recalled: You used an unbalanced line, lining up the QB underneath C - and either the WB on the wing, or back in a three-back set that was similar to the straight T-formation. But, with the wing out, you would also shift the QB from underneath C to set for a direct snap. In other words, the Cockeyed T tried to combine the best of the new T formation and the old single wing, with quick shifts from one to the other.
  • Veller: It was a new system - with that Cockeyed T kind of a mystery to most opponents. But the big thing was we had those young coaches working their heads off. We had a lot of spirit.
  • Taking over a team that included a number of older military veterans, Don also invoked a no-swearing rule. Veller: It was a rule I picked up playing for Bo Mc­Millin. .... Bo's rule was that anyone that swore had to take a lap around the prac­tice field. It wasn't so much the lap as the embarrassment. The rule worked just great at Florida State, and I was real proud of it. That first year we had a lot of laps run. Then each year the laps decreased until there were practically none. I think the rule sort of set the pace for other favorable things, training generally.

With the support of FSU President Doak Campbell, the new coach quickly developed the football program.

  • After going 0-5 in '47, FSU won seven and lost only one in Don's first season.
  • The Noles did even better in '49, winning eight of nine to earn the right to play in the school's first bowl game, the Cigar Bowl in Tampa, where they defeated Wof­ford 19-6. Watch video of the Cigar Bowl...
  • Players took note of FSU's success, high schoolers as well as transfers from other schools, including Indiana.
Veller's teams won the first two Dixie Conference championships.
  • The brainchild of FSU AD Danforth, the conference was formed in May 1948.
  • The original nine members were Florida State, Stetson, Tampa, Mississippi College, Millsaps, Mercer, Howard, Lambuth, and Oglethorpe. The last three schools did not play football.
  • League bylaws prohibited athletic scholarships but allowed freshmen to play varsity sports and transfers to be eligible immediately at their new school.
Centennial Field, Tallahassee
Centennial Field, Tallahassee

FSU's gridiron success provoked demand for a football stadium.

  • Home games the first three seasons were played at Centennial Field between the campus and the state capitol. Veller: Centennial Field was made for baseball, and the lights were always poor. There were parts where you could not see - where players were just about in the dark. Then, too, we never had any dressing room faci­lities there.
  • President Campbell, about whom Veller later said, Had it not been for Dr. Camp­bell, I would have resigned within my first three years, formulated plans for a 15,000-seat stadium on campus. Campbell said, We don't know what the future holds, but we are determined to give amateur football every chance.
  • The Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the fund-raising drive, forming the Tal­lahassee Athletic Council to coordinate the effort. A large portion of the money came from the sale of five-year season tickets for $50 each. Over 1,000 tickets were sold in six weeks.
  • Built at a cost of $250,000, the stadium was ready in time for the 1950 season. The players helped paint the stadium, working for $1 an hour. Veller convinced the Council to name the stadium after Campbell.
  • However, the field was hardly ideal. Veller: The turf that first year had not had time to grow properly. They put down sod from the university's dairy farm, and that stuff just got harder and harder. There were several injuries.
  • Another problem at the beginning was a lack of dressing rooms. Veller: Before the game and at halftime, we would huddle the team underneath those stands. There would be people running around those steel stands up above while you were trying to talk to the team. The noise was terrible - sometimes really deafening.
  • Still, compared to Centennial Field Doak Campbell Stadium was heaven.

Florida State began the 1950 season September 30 on the road at Troy State Teach­ers College.

  • The game set the tone for the season: defense. The Seminoles held the Red Wave to seven points while scoring 26 themselves. The FSU offense was typical of the day - mostly runs with passes interspersed to "keep the defense honest."
  • Midway through Q1, "little" Jim Arnold, a 152 lb freshman, turned the tide in fa­vor of FSU by blocking a punt to give FSU the ball on the Troy 13. Three plays later, Tommy Brown, who had starred on some of Army's best teams, took a reverse and sped in from the 2. Ernie Huggett converted to make it 7-0.
  • Seven plays later it was 13-0 as FSU forced a punt and took over on their 47. Senior HB Dick Peterson fired a pass to Brown for a 49y TD. Troy blocked the PAT.
  • Mac Huey's INT set the Seminoles up in Q2 at the Wave 23. FB Mike Sellers, one of the long line of Indiana transfers, pushed up the middle for repeated gains, but a series of offside penalties proved to much to overcome and Troy finally took over on the 4. But FSU took the subsequent punt at the Troy 31 and got the TD, Sellers bulling the last 24y in one rambling run. Another blocked EP try kept the score 19-0 with two minutes left in the half.
  • The FSU defense continued to dominate, not letting the Red Wave out of their territory until the last minute of Q3. In the meantime, Arnold struck again, block­ing another punt. A quick 20y drive culminated in a 1y dive by FB Dick Turk. Hug­gett managed to get his kick through the uprights for a 26-0 lead.
  • The Seminoles drove to the Troy 10 in the final period before an INT halted them. Brown's 40y dash highlighted the thrust. The home team finally cranked up a scoring drive, covering the 90y methodically until a 1' plunge avoided the shutout. FSU drove 63y after the kickoff until time ran out on the Wave 1.

Now came the first game in the new stadium. The opponent was Randolph-Macon College from Ashland VA.

  • A record crowd of 9,676 fans saw the Seminoles thoroughly outclass the visitors 40-7. The victory ran Veller's record at FSU to 18-2.
  • The Indians (as the Tallahassee Democrat writer referred to the Noles) rolled up four TDs in eight scant minutes of play in Q2.
  • FSU led 6-0 after the opening 15 minutes. After the teams traded three turn­overs in the opening minutes, the Tribe went 61y after a fumble recovery to break the scoring ice. Sellers and Brown did the heavy lifting, with Mike doing the honors from the 7.
  • After forcing a punt, FSU started a drive from their own 43 that carried over into Q2. Sellers continued to blast the middle, and Peterson passed to HB Eddie Gray from Leon HS in Tallahassee to the 4. Sellers cracked over RG from there. Huggett converted to make it 13-0 two minutes into the period.
  • The Yellow Jackets no sooner received the kickoff than they fumbled it away on their 31. Turk rambled for 10, Gray for 14, and Peterson for 7, and just like that it was 20-0 after Huggett's kick.
  • Before you could draw a deep breath it was 27-0. On the first play from scrim­mage, T Dwight Osha from Lincoln IN flopped on a fumble on the 17. Turk took care of business in two runs of 15 and 2. 27-0 with 10 minutes to go.
  • But FSU wasn't through yet. HB Harry Bringger snared an errant pass on the third play after the kickoff on the RM 48. Sub backs Preston Bradley and Nelson Italiano did the work this time, Nelson wriggling over from the 1' line. 34-0 with five minutes to go in the half.
  • The visitors finally struck gold when Ted Keller ran 66y to pay dirt after going back to pass and failing to locate a receiver. 34-7 at the intermission.
  • With Veller flooding the field with subs, the second half saw only one more TD which came on FSU's drive with the kickoff. Gray covered the last 25 of the 70y on a screen pass from Peterson, running wide to the right and cutting back sharply up the middle.
  • The Noles outgained their guests 438-191, including 348 on the ground. Sellers topped the ball carriers with 110y on 14 carries.
Action in first Doak Campbell Stadium game
Nelson Italiano (42) runs against Randolph-Macon in first game in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Continued below ...

References: Seminoles! The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
First Undefeated Season - II

The 2-0 Seminoles hosted Dixie Conference foe Howard College of Birmingham (now Samford) on October 14, 1950.

  • The 5,537 fans who gathered after sundown for the second game in brand new Doak S. Campbell Stadium saw the lightly regarded invaders take a 6-0 lead in Q2 before the Seminoles finally began to roll.
  • Q1: Facing Howard's seven-man defensive line, the Noles took the kickoff and drove smartly to the enemy 22 before T. Smith intercepted Bill Driver's pass.
    Another INT stopped the next FSU advance on the Howard 39.
    QB Bobby Bowden hit H. Foote on the Seminole 30, but 5'8" Jim Arnold grab­bed the next heave on the 24 to end the threat.
    An exchange of kicks found the visitors taking over on their own 41 in the last minutes of the period. The Bulldogs immediately moved into FSU territory on a Bowden-Banks pass to the 41. Two successive 15y penalties moved the pig­skin to the 10, and Simms gained 2 as the period ended.
  • Q2: After two plays netted nothing, Bowden, in a move that portended his gambling ways as FSU coach decades later, took the 4th down snap on the 8 and completed a pass to Cutcliffe who fought to the 2 1/2 for first-and goal. George Pappas dove into the EZ from there. The conversion sailed wide to leave the score 6-0.
    FSU bounced back to tie the score with the aid of a pass interference penalty in the EZ. The crucial play was set up by Dick Peterson's 25y completion to Eddie Gray to put the ball on the Howard 33. After a gain of 2, Gray threw a high, wobbly pass toward Norman Eubanks in the back of the EZ. DB "Spud" Wallace interfered with the big Indian E, giving the Noles the ball on the 2. Mike Sellers bulled to the 1, took a breath in the huddle, and smashed over on the second try. Ernie Huggett's kick failed to break the tie.
    FSU stopped the Dogs and started their next possession from their own 41. Peterson swept the ends for 13 and 15y to the 28. Three plays later, Gray's 7y run earned a first down at the 12. Soon after, FSU faced 4th down and 9 at the 11. Nelson Italiano, behind great blocking, ran wide to the right, then cut back to the 1. Nelson dove over the top of the pile on the next snap to break the tie. Huggett's PAT mde it 13-6.
    The half ended on Bowden's 17y run to the 11 after being trapped trying to pass.
  • The Florida State band put on a lively halftime show. Lacking a fight song, the band used the "Notre Dame Victory March" and "On Wisconsin" as spirit rousers. (However, someone was busy creating a unique tune for FSU that would be unveiled at the next home game.) Students carried a banner around the field proclaiming, "Bring on Florida."
  • Q3: An INT gave the Seminoles possession on their own 43. Another Peter­son-Gray connection gained 43y to the 7. But a penalty slowed the drive, which fizzled out on the 15.
    After an exchange of punts, FSU got a break when E Ted Hewitt intercepted Cutcliffe's pass on the Bulldog 27. But the Seminole air attack failed, and Howard took over on the 23.
    T Duke Maltby fell on a third-down fumble on the 28 to put FSU back in busi­ness again.
    After a 2y loss on first down, the Noles gave the ball to Sellers five times, and he gained 28 of the 30y to pay dirt, the final lunge coming from a mere foot shy of the goal line. Huggett converted to make it 20-6 with two minutes to go in Q3.
  • The only FSU excitement of the final period came on the first play when Itali­ano raced 52y to the EZ. But a 15y penalty negated the score.
    Later, Bowden hit Russ Banks with a completion good for 26y to the FSU 31. The same combo struck again to the 18. But when two passes into the EZ failed to connect, FSU took over on the 14.
    Howard forced a punt and came right back knocking on the door again. But the drive ended when Bowden, back to pass, was smothered on the 25.
    The Noles then ran out the clock.

Florida State next traveled to Newberry SC for a non-conference game against Newberry College, a small Lutheran liberal arts college founded in 1856.

  • A steady drizzle that produced a muddy field slowed down the Seminoles as did 190y in penalties (probably not home cooking since Newberry was set back 110y), but a solid defensive effort shut out the Wolves and spoiled homecom­ing for the crowd of 1,200.
  • Q1: Taking the kickoff, the Noles overcome two penalties to score on an 80y pass play. Italiano faded back and spotted Gray breaking behind the secon­dary. Taking the ball over his shoulder on the 45, Eddie outraced the opposi­tion to pay dirt. Hewitt's kick split the upright, but the Noles were penalized back to the 17. The try from there missed. Generating a little steam of their own, the home team drove to the FSU 40. But Wayne Benner stole a pass on the 12 and returned it 7y to halt the threat. Neither team mounted a threat the rest of the period.
  • Q2: FSU drove 75y to the 8 before a penalty set them back; they turned the ball over on downs on the 10. The Wolves kicked out to Harry Bringger on the 45, and he returned it to the 33. Italiano sliced off RT, shook off two tack­lers at the 20 and 17, and galloped into the EZ. Huggett's wide boot left it 12-0 in the waning minutes of the half.
  • Q3: FSU immediately forced a punt, Bringger bringing back the boot from his 25 to the enemy 40. Italiano and FB Dick Turk alternated thrusts through the line to the 5. It took several tries, but Turk slammed over from the 1. Huggett again missed. FSU 18 Newberry 0
  • Q4: Nothing much happened until a few minutes into the final stanza when Don Linton intercepted a pass on the Wolf 20 and returned it 5y. Still another penalty moved the Noles back to the 30. Three plays later, a penalty nullified an INT and put the ball on the 20. Italiano then threw to E Clint Thomas in the EZ for the final TD of the evening. Huggett finally made a kick only to have a penalty nullify it. His placement from the 17 fell short. The game ended shortly afterwards with the scoreboard reading Florida State 24 Newberry 0.

The Seminole defense had allowed only 20 points in four games.

Continued below ...

References: Tallahassee Democrat articles reproduced on nolefan.org



Bill Driver

Eddie Gray

Norman Eubanks

Nelson Italiano

Ted Hewitt

Duke Maltby

Wayne Benner

Don Linton

Clint Thomas
First Undefeated Season - III



Dedication Day at Doak Campbell Stadium


Dedication Parking


Bob Wodrich

The Seminoles took a 4-0 record into the game with Sewanee on October 28, 1950. The contest was significant for several reasons.

  • It was homecoming.
  • Doak Campbell Stadium was officially dedicated.
  • The FSU band took the field for the first time under their new name of the "Marching Chiefs" after a name the band contest. They also introduced the new fight song written by Professor Tommy Wright that replaced "On Wisconsin" and the "Notre Dame Victory March" that had previously been used to rouse the fans.
  • A record crowd of 12,033 turned out on a beautiful afternoon.

The 1-3 Purple Tigers didn't play in the first half like a team rated as a three- to four-TD underdog.

  • Q1: FSU's Ernie Huggett kicked off to Jones who returned 6y to the 31. The Bengals started moving immediately. McKeithan completed two straight passes for first downs to the FSU 39. But Ted Hewitt stole the next pass at the 25 to end the thrust.
    The Seminole attack couldn't get in gear, with junior HB Nelson Italiano throwing an INT.
    The home team finally gained their initial first down on Italiano's 14y ramble around RE.
    After another pass for the visitors' third first down before another INT, this time by Jim Arnold to give FSU possession just 17y from the goal. But the drive died at the 9.
  • Q2: The Noles moved the chains for the second time when Mike Sellers threw a jump pass to E Norman Eubanks on the Sewanee 30. But four snaps failed to produce another first down.
    After attaining one first down, the visitors punted. A 15y penalty gave the Tribe a first down. But three long passes fell to the turf, forcing still another punt.
    DB Wayne Benner secured FSU's fourth pick of the half, but the turnover led nowhere.
    The half ended scoreless.
  • Q3: The Noles caused a buzz with a jump pass on their first play from scrimmage, Italiano to Eubanks to the enemy 42. When Nelson gained 5, the crowd began to think their real team had arrived. But a penalty killed the momentum.
    FSU moved to the 29 on their next possession, but an INT took the air out of the balloon.
    The next Sewanee punt brought disaster. Wakefield kicked a high spiral that Harry Bringger tried to field at the 9. But the ball got away from him into the EZ. When he went in to retrieve it, he fell down for a safety.
    Late in the period, Hewitt intercepted another Tiger pass on his 46 and raced 54y to put FSU in front 7-2 after Huggett's perfect placement with three minutes left.
    The fired up Seminoles kickoff team got the ball right back, Bob Wodrich recovering a fumble on the Tiger 35. But the offense could advance no further than the 23.
  • Q4: The Seminoles churned out three more first downs before the defense braced and took over on their 12.
    After one first down, Sewanee punted to Wayne Benner who took it on the 45 and hauled it back to the 20. It took FSU only two plays to take advantage of the great field position. Reserve FB Dick Turk knifed off tackle for 7. Then Italiano skirted LE, picked up a nice block from Turk on the 6, and dove into the coffin corner, barreling through a defender at the goal line. Huggett promptly made it 14-2.
    But the Tigers didn't fold. After failing to gain ten, they punted to Hewitt who broke off a good return from his 26 to the Sewanee 48 where he fumbled and TB Dave Wendel recovered. Dave then went to the airways starting from his 42, completing four in six plays to score. Dave connected with E Bill Porter who snatched the ball from two Indians for a 33y gain to the 5. From there, Wendel threw to Caywood Gunby from DeLand FL, who caught the ball in the EZ after it had deflected off the hands of a Seminole.
    The hard-fought 14-8 triumph, FSU's tenth in a row over two season, ended right after the kickoff.
    The game produced an incredible nine turnovers, seven of which were INTs.



Hatters QB Bill Johnson


Don Veller


Stetson Municipal Stadium in the 1950s
After a rest week, Florida State hit the road again to Deland FL to face Stetson on Friday night, November 10.
  • Q1: For the second game in a row, the Noles played in front of a record crowd, in this case 6,000, 1,500 more than Stetson had ever drawn.
    Learning from their sluggish start against Sewanee, FSU bolted out of the starting gate with two TDs in four minutes.
    Eubanks returned the opening kickoff from his 15 to the 36. Using some new plays installed during the off week, the Noles spread out flankers and caught the Hatters' defense bunched in.
    Italiano fired to Bill Driver for 22y on the flank to the Hatter 42. Then Nelson slashed off tackle for 22 to 20. He kept the momentum going with a 15y pass to Eubanks, then threw again to Driver on the left flank, and he angled into the EZ. Huggett converted. 7-0 only 2 1/2 minutes into the fray.
    On the third play after the kickoff, Hewitt intercepted a pass from highly-regarded QB Bill Johnson and raced all the way to the 1. Sellers bulled through RG for the score and, presto, it was 13-0 with only 4 1/2 minutes elapsed.
    The Mad Hatters came back before the period ended after Tommy Brown fumbled a punt on the FSU 27. With Johnson's deft ball-handling confusing the Noles defenders, Stetson scored on three straight runs, the last from the 14 by Jerry Gallagher. The PAT made it 13-7.
  • Q2: Stetson roared to the 14 but failed to score. They also recovered two fumbles but couldn't take advantage.
    Finally, the Seminoles scored on the last play of the half. Brown set up the score by intercepting Bowden's pass on his 12 and running it to the FSU 43.
    With time running out, Italiano nailed Bringger on the 22, from where he outran two pursuers to pay dirt. Huggett's kick made the scoreboard read 20-7 at intermission.
  • Q3: Apparently content to rest on its lead. FSU reverted to "straight" football, failing to threaten during the quarter.
    Meanwhile, the Hatters drove twice, once to the FSU 31 and again to the 7. On the latter thrust, Johnson lofted three passes over the EZ so that big E Jim Yonge could leap and snare. But none connected.
  • Q4: Early on, a punt put FSU in a hole to their 1.
    But the Noles not only got out of danger but made it all the way to the Stetson 21 before running out of gas.
    On the first play after taking over on downs, Johnson launched a pass that Brown snared at midfield and returned to the 14. Driver, lined up at TE, took an end around to the 2. Sellers, perhaps as a reward for making 16 tackles, got the call and pushed over from there. 27-7 FSU
    Before the game ended, Brown snagged his third INT of the evening.

It was no coincidence that the Seminoles played good defense.

  • Coach Don Veller: I always loved defense and devoted more time to it. Some members of our staff, wanting more offensive time, used to complain of too much attention to defense. And I would say, "Well, how are we doing winning and losing?" The fun of the game was defense. I loved to scre up offenses.
  • His club had surrendered only five TDs in six games and had snared eight INTs in the last two games.

Continued below ...

References: Tallahassee Democrat articles reproduced on nolefan.org
First Undefeated Season - IV



Gary Folsom


Cliff Powell


Dub Kendrick


Don Gladden


Holland Aplin


Bob Schmelz

 

 

 

The Seminoles finished the 1950 season with two home games.

  • First came Mississippi College, whom FSU had defeated the previous two seasons.
  • The Choctaws came to town riding a six-game winning streak.

The chilled crowd of 5,000, including three Gator Bowl scouts, saw the Choctaws play a spirited first period.

  • Q1: With MC employing a seven-man line, FSU did most of its damage through the air.
    The Seminoles took the lead on a 76y screen pass from Nelson Italiano to Harry Bringger, who took the ball 4y behind the line of scrimmage, broke to the sidelines, and outran the defenders.
    Led by 168 lb FB David Lee, the visitors mounted a 76y advance that car­ried to the 8 before dying out.
  • Q2: Tommy Brown's 45y punt return to the 8 set up the second tally, which Mike Sellers scored on a bull run on the next play.
    Late in the half, the Italiano-Bringger combo struck again, this time for 49y. Harry gathered in the ball over his shoulder on the 20 and continued to the Promised Land.
  • Q3: Brown again showed his kick return prowess, weaving 24y to the MC 35. FSU drove methodically to the 2, from where Dick Turk crashed over.
    Coach Don Veller started clearing his bench, playing 51 lads altogether. Still, the onslaught didn't stop.
    Gary Folsom's 16y wobbler to a diving Cliff Powell in the EZ ended a 66y drive.
  • Q4: Even with the Tribe reserves playing, most of the action early in the period took place in enemy territory.
    Finally, the Chocs mustered a 58y drive that reached the 10 before time expired.

The victory clinched a third straight Dixie Conference title and ran the Noles' streak to 11 dating back to 1949.

  • However, it was costly. Three FSU regulars were injured - E Norman Eu­banks (separated shoulder), T Dub Kendrick (knee), and QB Don Gladden (knee).
  • Any or all might miss the finale against Tampa.
Only the 5-3 Tampa Spartans, whom the Noles had beaten in both their previ­ous meetings, stood between them and an undefeated season.

The crowd of 2,500 assembled on a frigid 16° afternoon.

  • Coach Veller recalled: There was ice everywhere. I remember an old water tower, by the railroad tracks down there near the stadium, had huge icicles hanging down.
  • Tampa coach Frank Sinkwich, a Heisman Trophy RB at Georgia, proposed that the game be canceled and shifted to Tampa. Naturally, Veller declined the offer.

Whether it was the weather or the inspired play of the Spartans, FSU couldn't pull away until the final period.

  • Q1: The Seminoles received but, after one quick first down, were thrown back to the 16 and had to punt. With a strong wind at his back, Brown boomed a kick that hit the ground on the Tampa 30 and bounced all the way to the EZ. The 84y boot remains to this day as the longest in Florida State history.
    After an exchange of punts backed up the visitors on their 8, disaster struck the Spartans when Ray Jackson , trying to spin away from a tackle, fumbled, and FSU's Bob Schmelz fell on the oval at the 5.
    Sellers made fans' hearts flutter by fumbling on the first play, but Bill Dri­ver recovered back at the 10. Sellers made up for his bobble, first blasting into RG to the 5, then bulling his way into the EZ on the next snap. Ernie Huggett's PAT made it 7-0 with 5:32 remaining.
    Tampa's next possession produced a strange play. Facing 4th-and-8 at the 32, big E Holland Aplin dropped back to punt. But his try into the find went straight up to the 26 where a Spartan caught the ball on the fly. That brought a 5y penalty and gave FSU the ball at the 21.
    But two runs and two passes failed to gain 10y, and Tampa took over on its 17.
  • Q2: The Spartans reached the FSU 39 before Aplin again went into punt formation. But he tried to turn RE but was stopped well short.
    The Noles couldn't move and punted to the 33. Two plays later, they got another break, Brown recovering a bounding fumble on his own 45.
    However, the Tampa D forced a punt to the 11. After three futile snaps, Aplin tried another punt, this time with the wind. But the ball went out on his 31.
    From there, FSU struck swiftly for its second score. Sellers gained 4, then Italiano hit Bringger at the 3 as he headed into the EZ. Huggett missed the try to keep it 13-0 with 5:19 remaining in the half.
    That was plenty of time for Tampa to get back in the game. Three plays after the kickoff, Jackson fired a pass to Aplin near the west sideline and he raced 64y to pay dirt. The try failed, making the score 13-6 at the half.
    Veller: At halftime we went to our bus because it was warm. We had the bus there to go over to old West Campus later, where we still dressed.
  • Q3: Receiving the kickoff again, FSU started a drive that ended with Itali­ano losing a fumble at his 43.
    Deciding that the airways offered a better chance to advance the ball, the visitors quickly tied the score. Jackson hit Aplin for a first down on the 32, and Lou Sequella gained 5. After an incompletion, Jackson threw toward the corner of the EZ where Brown jumped for an INT only to have the ball bounce off his hands and into the waiting arms of Charlie Harris for a TD. The EP made it 13-13 with 11:19 on the clock.
    The crowd got more nervous when the Noles stalled after driving from the 16 to the 41. Brown picked a bad time to shank a kick, the ball heading out of bounds only 5y beyond the line of scrimmage at the FSU 46.
    Jackson eluded the rushers for a first down at the 35. After two more plays put the ball on the 25, the Spartans were penalized 15y for unne­cessary roughness. That led to Aplin's punt into the EZ.
    After the Noles punched out a first down on the 32, Italiano broke loose over T on a fake pass play and ran 60y to the 8 before being run down from behind. But three plays gained only 3y, and Italiano was smeared on the 8 while trying to skirt RE.
    The Noles received a punt and worked to the Tampa 34 as the period ended.
  • Q4: Now began one of the most explosive final quarters in FSU history - 28 points between the two teams.
    On the second snap, Italiano shot a pass over the middle that went off a defender's fingertips into the hands of Bringger who took it on the 12 and raced to pay dirt. The play gave Harry an unusual record - all five of his receptions during the season went for TDs. Huggett split the uprights to make it 20-13 only 16 seconds into the final 15 minutes.
    The Spartans had trouble with the kickoff and started their possession from their 8. After three plays gained only 2y, Aplin punted into the wind to Brown who returned 5y to the 30.
    After a 3y gain, Italiano burst off RT, cut back, and ran to the EZ. 27-13
    Again, Tampa started deep in their territory, this time at the 13. Jackson was trapped at the 5 trying to pass. Then Aplin got off another high but short punt to the 11 where Wayne Benner grabbed the bounding ball on the sideline and streaked to pay dirt. 33-13 just like that.
    Huggett got off another good kickoff to the 8, but this time Vince Chicko, who had trouble with the earlier ones, swung to the sidelines, sped upfield to the 35, then cut to the opposite side on a journey to the EZ. 33-19 after four TDs in the first 5:37 of the period! Tampa had now scored more points on FSU than any other team all season.
    The game settled down as the teams traded punts.
    Finally, with the ball on the Spartan 20, ill-starred Mr. Aplin tried to punt, but Bob Wodrich blocked it. Aplin ran back and picked up the pigskin in the EZ but was tackled by Schmelz for a safety to make it 35-19.
    Two plays after the free kick, the game ended.

The Seminoles thus became the first college eleven in the state of Florida to complete an "official" season undefeated and untied.

  • Both the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando and the Cigar Bowl in Tampa, two bowls that annually pitted "small schools," extended bids to FSU.
  • They also received bids from the Refrigerator Bowl at Evansville IN and the Pythian Bowl at Salisbury NC.
  • School officials postponed a decision on any post-season game until a squad meeting the following Tuesday afternoon.
  • When the team met, the players voted 31-10 to turn down all bids. They preferred to go home for Christmas and/or work during the holidays rather than stay on campus and train for a bowl game. Remember that none of the players was on an athletic scholarship.
  • Also, the players had been promised watches for winning the Cigar Bowl the previous year, but none were forthcoming.
1950 Florida State Seminoles
 
References: Tallahassee Democrat articles reproduced on nolefan.org
Seminoles: The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
"The Zaniest Game in Miami's History"


Bobby Bowden with Burt Reynolds


Jimmy Johnson


Danny McManus


Sammie Smith


Dexter Carter


Deion Sanders


Warren Williams


Brent Musburger


Ronald Lewis


Marty Riggs


McManus and Shannon chase bad snap on FG attempt


Derek Schmidt


Dayne Williams


Bubba McDowell


Steve Walsh


Jeff Feagles


Martin Mayhew


Alphonso Williams


Daniel Stubbs


Pat Tomberlin


Lawrence Dawsey


Edgar Bennett


Bennie Blades


Dedrick Dodge


Herb Gainer


Pat Carter


Mickey Andrews


John Dockery


Sports Illustrated cover the following week

Edwin Pope, the longtime sports editor of the Miami Herald, used those words to describe the October 3, 1987 clash between the #4 Seminoles and #3 Hurricanes in Tallahassee.
  • Both teams entered the fray undefeated:
    Florida State had downed Texas Tech (40-16), @East Carolina (44-3), Memphis (41-24), and @Michigan State (31-3).
    Miami had taken the field just twice but won convincincly both times, over Florida (31-4) and Arkansas (51-7).
    The slaughter of Arkansas - Johnson's alma mater no less - raised questions again about his running up the score on opponents. He received widespread condemnation for the Canes' 58-3 thrashing of Notre Dame in 1985, hapless Jerry Faust's last season as Irish head coach. Some suspected Jimmy want­ed to punish his former school for passing over him as their head coach not once but twice.
  • Miami wouldn't be intimidated playing in Doak Campbell Stadium since they held an 8-1 advantage there.

An article in the Miami News the morning of the game gave an insight into what made Bobby Bowden an outstanding coach.

  • The piece focused on Art Baker, who became FSU's offensive coordinator in 1984. Baker described his meeting with the head coach before the first game of the season.

The other assistants call it "The Iffy Meeting." Whoever calls the plays from the press box meets with coach Bowden and he hits you with every situation known to man.
He wants to know, "What are you going to do on third-and-10 from deep in your territory? What are you going to do when we have to have a touch­down on fourth-and-goal from the five?" I had to be prepared, because I'd have been there all night if I wasn't.

  • QB Danny McManus talked about Bowden also. He's not one of those guys who's going to come out and do the same things every week. He'll throw it when you think he's going to run and run it when you think he's going to throw. Then, when you don't know what to expect, he'll run a reverse.
    McManus spent part of the week of the Miami game practicing his passing motion in his apartment from the feet up. He had completed only 53 of 106 passes in the four games with six TDs and three INTs. Right now, things aren't going that well for me, he explained. I'm the weakest part of the passing game.
  • Averaging 39 points per game, the Seminoles had yet to meet a defense of the caliber of Miami's, which had allowed only one TD in their two games.
  • Many considered the 1987 Seminoles the school's best team ever to that point, with an excellent chance of winning the national championship. Bow­den didn't downplay the important of the contest. I don't think there has been any game more important than this. Whoever get this one is going to be really visible in the polls.

The two coaches fell over themselves praising the other's team.

  • Bowden figured he knew how the game would be won. This game will be won by some great athlete making a great play. Causing a fumble, making an inter­ception, breaking a long run, catching a long pass ... a great play will make the difference. I just don't know who it will be because there are so many great ath­letes playing. He summarized the Canes succinctly. They look like a pro team out there. He added, It will be a hitting contest. They really come after you ... I think Miami deserves to be ranked where they are. ... this is basically the same team with a new QB. They're beating people so bad you wonder if they're beat­able.
    The 1986 Hurricanes won all eleven regular season games, including a 41-23 thumping of the Seminoles, before losing to Penn State 14-10 in the de facto national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • Bowden knew playing at home didn't carry much weight in this annual matchup. I never thought much of the so-called home field advantage. Usually the home field advantage is most effective when the home team has the best team. I don't think I'm the first person to say that.
  • UM coach Jimmy Johnson sounded the same theme. When I look at Florida State and I see players like Sammie Smith on the second team, Chip Fergu­son, the MVP of the Gator Bowl, on the second team, that tells you how much depth they have. They have a multitude of backs - so many I can't remember them all. He added: Florida State rushes the passer as well as any team we'll face all year. On top of that outstanding rush, they have some outstanding players in the secondary, so they're able to cover receivers better than most teams we play.
  • After suffering a knee injury 10 days before the opener, Smith took a back seat to sophomore Dexter Carter when the game started. Despite not starting, Sammie led the Noles in rushing, averaging almost 9y per carry.
    21 players on the roster of the 1987 Seminoles and 30 Hurricanes from that season would play in the NFL.

The game held special meaning for a pair of players, one on each side.

  • FSU junior DB Deion Sanders and UM's senior RB Warren Williams were teammates at North Fort Myers High School.
  • Naturally, they talked about the annual clash when they met up during the summer.
  • Williams: He told me they were really pumped up for us this year and that we better be ready when we come up there. I told him we're always ready to go.
  • Our high school coach has a big picture of Warren and me in his office, said Deion, whom some regarded as the best athlete ever to take the field for FSU. It's a pride thing. I get pumped up to play against him because I want to have bragging rights when I go home. Unfortunately, Miami had won both games since Sanders joined the Seminoles.
    Williams served as a prime example of the adage that "the only thing a 'Cane fears is an injury." When you went down, you might not get your job back. Williams hurt his leg during preseason practice in 1985. Miami was so loaded at RB that Williams didn't get a chance to be a feature back until he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

You couldn't ask for better weather for game day - sunny, 78°, but with a 15-20 mph north wind that would affect play.

  • Brent Musburger, CBS's main announcer for the nationally televised game, talked to both coaches before the game. He asked both coaches the same question. Would you play for a tie or go for two if the game came down to a conversion attempt?
  • Both Bowden and Johnson gave the same answer - kick the point. Jimmy, whom Musburger had chastised for running up the score on Notre Dame, told the broadcaster that Miami wasn't very good at two-point plays. Bow­den no doubt was influenced by what Tennessee coach Johnny Majors' de­cision a week earlier to kick for a tie against Auburn in a battle of nationally-ranked teams. After Majors was subjected to criticism, Bobby phoned him to assure him he had made the right decision.
    FSU's defensive backs had warned the Hurricane receivers to show up with their seatbelts fastened. But Michael Irvin shrugged off the baiting and stay­ed mellow. He walked through his warmups with boom box in hand. His atti­tude typified Miami's approach, which seemed too relaxed for a big game.

Many in the record Doak Campbell Stadium crowd of 62.561 wonder what tricks Bow­den has up his sleeve for the Hurricanes.

  • Q1: Bobby's first gamble doesn't pay off. FSU faces 3rd-and-3 at the Miami 45 after running the ball from its 17 behind the surprise starter at TB, Sam­mie Smith, on the game's opening possession. Bobby calls for one of his patented reverses. But WR Ronald Lewis, who rambled 56y to a TD against Michigan State the week before, gains only 1y, and FSU has to punt.

    Sammie Smith gets outside LB George Mira Jr.
    After forcing a three-and-out, the Seminoles hurry Jeff Feagles's punt, which goes out of bounds on the UM 41.
    However, the Noles can't take advantage of the excellent field position, stall­ing at the 22. So reliable senior kicker Derek Schmidt comes in to attempt a 33y FG. But as McManus kneels to receive the snap, C Marty Riggs hikes the ball prematurely. It sails into FSU territory, where DB and future Miami coach Randy Shannon tries ti scoop it up on the dead run at the 45. But he never has possesion of the ball and bobbles it into the hands of McManus hustling up from behind. Before Danny can get turned around to head the other way, he stumbles and falls at the 26 for a 51y loss!
    Neither the kicker, snapper, or holder could explain what happened. Schmidt: Our signal is "set," and Marty Riggs then waits a second and snaps it. Riggs said: I looked back and heard somebody say "Set." It sounded like Danny; so I snapped the ball. McManus: I was looking at the tee, waiting for Schmidt to give me the OK when I heard him yell. I looked up and the ball was bouncing down­field. Marty said he heard someone yell "Set." I have no idea who did it.
    The Canes make a first down before stalling at the 16. So Greg Cox boots them into an early lead - a six-point turnaround. Miami 3 FSU 0 (2:58 left in the period)
    Undaunted, the Noles ride the power running of Smith to take the lead. On 3rd-and-11 from the 19, Sammie starts up the middle, breaks two tackles, jukes another defender, and zig-zags 64y before being tackled from behind by DB Bubba McDowell. Three plays place the pigskin on the 1 as the period ends.
    The Noles end the period outgaining Miami 84-19 but trail by 3.
  • Q2: 230 lb junior FB Dayne Williams musclee into the EZ on the first play. FSU 7 Miami 3
    Mickey Andrews's defense continues to throttle QB Steve Walsh and his offense. Only once in the half do the Canes cross midfield on their own.
    Late in the period, Sanders returns a punt 17y to the UM 48. Shortly after­ward, Schmidt connects from 36y out with the wind. FSU 10 Miami 3 (2:37)
    The Hurricanes moved downfield before the half and reached the FSU 23. But the Noles stuffed Walsh for a 9y loss. Then an illegal procedure penalty nullified a 19y pass completion. Against the wind, UM decided against trying a long FG.
    At the break, the Noles have held Miami to a measly 8y rushing. If not for the botched snap, the lead would be 13-0.
    FSU ran the ball 31 times in the first half to only seven passes.
    Irvin chilled out at halftime. Was I worried? he asked after the game. No way. I came in and put my headphones on. I listened to a little music, "I'm bad. I'm bad ..." That's what I was thinking. I was partying a little bit. I was enjoying it.
    Johnson noticed the contrast between this team and his '86 squad. With the bunch we had last year, it would have been more likely for one of them to get up at halftime and make a speech. This year's group isn't like that. Last year, we would have relied on Vinny (QB Testaverde) to do it. This year, it's more of a team coming together and doing it together.
  • Q3: FSU's dominance continues. Electing to receive while Miami chooses to take the wind, the Noles come out running and push to Miami's 12 but again can't crash the EZ. So Schmidt sets up for a chippie. However, his boot into the wind drifts to the right after another low snap.
    Miami again goes nowhere thanks to Blades dropping a pass on 3rd down. So Jeff Feagles comes in to punt. But senior CB Martin Mayhew blocks the kick, and SS Alphonso Williams snags the bouncing ball on the 5 and run into the EZ. It is the Noles' fourth block in the last five games against Miami.

    Alphonso Williams tracks down the blocked punt for a TD.
    Schmidt misses the PAT to the left, his first failed conversion since his junior year of high school. FSU 16 Miami 3
    Schmidt swears to this day that his PAT try was good. It was ridiculous, he said right after the game. You kick 108 in a row, and you ought to know what they look like. He would finish his senior season as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer.
    Still no life from the UM offense as Walsh fails to connect on his first four second half aerials. With Miami concerned about another block, Sanders returns the punt 34y to the UM 44. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, FSU moves inside the 10. But again they have to settle for 3 points with 2:45 on the clock. FSU 19 Miami 3 (2:45)
    At this point, the visitors have gained just 90y (only 17 rushing) on 30 offen­sive plays and gone 3-and-out on five of their seven possessions. Pat Hay­den wonders on the tv broadcast whether Johnson will go to his highly-touted freshman QB Craig Ericksen.
    On Miami's next possession, Sanders tells Irvin, Michael, you might as well quit running so hard and blocking so hard 'cause it's all over for today. Take it easy, Mike. Don't hurt yourself.
    Irvin replied, Oh, no. We play Hurricane football all day. We're going to keep balling all day.
    The Canes finally crank up a drive. Six plays cover 76y. Walsh throws 11y to Brian Blades to the UM 35. Then an offside penalty against FSU on 3rd down gives Miami a first down at the 46. On 3rd down from the 49, Walsh, seeing double coverage on both flanks, throws over the middle to FB Melvin Bratton who splits the secondary and runs to the EZ. Walsh lobs a pass to Blades in the left corner of the EZ for a two-point conversion with less than a minute left in the period. FSU 19 Miami 11 (1:49)

    Odell Haggins sets his sights on a Miami ball carrier.
  • Q4: On the third play of FSU's next possession, McManus fails to loft a screen pass high enough, and LB Daniel Stubbs intercepts, returning 9y to the FSU 40. RT Pat Tomberlin failed to cut Stubbs on the play.
    McManus: The screen pass was just a pitiful pass on my part.
    Six snaps later, Walsh beats the blitz with a 26y loft to Irvin running doen the middle from the slot for the TD. Michael shakes loose from a third-string redshirt freshman, John Wyche, playing in the nickel secondary after Eric Williams hurt his foot. The Canes again go for two and make it again. This time, Walsh finds Warren Willliams, Sanders' high school buddy, wide open on a pass into the right flat to tie the score. FSU 19 Miami 19 (11:37)

    Melvin Bratton jumps over the top on 3rd-and-3 to keep the tying drive alive..
    FSU responds, driving into UM territory when Lawrence Dawsey hangs onto a 23y completion despite a hard hit by S Selwyn Brown. But four plays later, the Canes escape trouble when Schmitt misses his third kick of the after­noon, this one staying wide right from right hash at the 31 with 6:17 remain­ing. Hayden wonders why FSU didn't run the previous play toward the left hash, Schmidt's favorite angle.
    The Garnet and Gold defense forces a punt from the 26 and starts another drive from its 41. McManus opens with a 21y aerial to freshman RB Edgar Bennett. Three plays later, the Noles have a first down at the 26 - once again in range to take the lead with at least a FG. Smith gains 9 on 1st down. But the scoring opportunity is squandered when McManus mishandles the snap and kicks the ball forward to S Bennie Blades, leader of "Benny and the Jets" as the Miami secondary was called, at the 11 with 3:29 left.
    McManus on the fumbled snap: That's something we work on every day. You don't even think of fumbling at a time like that, but I guess it happens.
    Williams runs for 12, then 4. After an incompletion, Miami faces 3rd-and-6 from the 27. Walsh uses hand signals to change the play at the line from a 10y out to a deep one and hooks up with Irvin who runs past CB Mayhew, who fails to check him, and FS Dedrick Dodge, who takes a bad angle, down the right sideline for a 73y TD. Cox's PAT gives UM its first lead since 3-0. Miami 26 FSU 19 (2:22)

    Irvin outruns Dodd for a 73y TD to put Miami ahead.
    McManus atones for his fumble by leading a 73y, 8-play march. After two incompletions and a run, McManus finds Herb Gainer for 10 on 4th-and-8 from the 28 to move the chains. Danny then connects with Dexter Carter for 12 and for 31 to the 18. Next, McManus throws to Lewis, who makes a leap­ing catch in the back left corner of the EZ to pull within one with 0:42 on the clock.
    In today's football, the TD may have been overturned because replay shows that the toes of Lewis's left foot landed on the back line of the EZ.
    Bowden calls the last of his timeouts to decide what to do. He thinks back to 1980 when a failed two-point conversion at Miami in the final seconds pro­duced FSU's only loss that season. So he sends in the kicking team to tie the score.
    As the kicking team runs on the field, they tell the departing McManus, Tell him to go for two.
    By the time Danny reaches the sideline, Bowden has already changed his mind, as he explained in the dressing room a few minutes later. I was going to kick it. I was determined to take the tie. But then I got to thinking about missing all those field goals and missing those extra points. If we would have gone out and missed the thing, it would have been really awful.
    So Bowden sends the two-point unit onto the field. The play calls for McMan­us to roll to the right and look for 6'5" Pat Carter in far right corner of the EZ. As FSU lines up, Johnson calls his own timeout.
    The UM staff noticed that Smith wasn't lined up in the backfield with a two TE set. So they figured FSU planned a rollout to the strong side of the formation.
    The Noles stay with the call. Lewis lines up with Carter on the right side. McDowell has Lewis man-to-man. On the snap, Lewis runs to the middle of the EZ to pull McDowell away from the intended target. But the DB, noticing McManus looking to the right side for Carter, forgets about Lewis and moves over to help SS Brown with Carter. Not noticing Lewis running free, Danny follows the plan and lofts the pass toward his big TE. But the QB doesn't put enough loft on the ball, and it comes down short. McDowell jumps in front of Brown and knocks the ball down. Miami 26 FSU 25
    The Noles try an onside kick, but the Canes recovered. Walsh takes a knee twice to end the game.


McDowell and Brown both block Carter's chance for the 2-pt. conversion.

As soon as the game ends, Sebastian the Ibis, Miami's mascot, holds up a sign proclaming STATE CHAMPIONS. Irvin takes a turn walking the field with the sign.

Video of the game - 1st Half | 2nd Half

Statistics

  • Offensive plays: FSU 84 Miami 53
  • Time of possession: FSU 40:32 Miami 19:28
  • First downs: FSU 25, Miami 11
  • Rushing yards: FSU 225 Miami 52
  • Total yards: FSU 426, Miami 306
  • Return yards: FSU 187, Miami 27

The 426y the Hurricanes allowed is just 3 short of the combined total gained by Florida and Arkansas in the first two contests.

The victory extended Miami's nation-best regular season winning streak to 24 and its road winning streak to 17.

Postgame Comments

Florida State

  • Bowden immediately gathered his players in the locker room. The first thing I need to do is apologize to you. But his men overwhelmingly refused to accept the apologize.
    Nearly 20 years later, Pat Carter, the target of the errant pass, told Bowden biographer Mike Freeman: There is not a player I played with, still to this day, that regrets going for it. Coach Bowden did exactly what we wanted to do as a team, and you know unfortunately the play just didn't work.
    LeRoy Butler, a sophomore FS in '87, concurred. Going for it was the right call. I wouldn't have changed a thing. (Not even the play call?)
    But Bobby still regretted the decision. Knowing what I know now, I'd kick it. Back in those days, I had never gone for a tie, and I let that get the best of me. If we had kicked, we might have won a national championship. I ain't tying, and I ain't ever going to tie. It was just a macho kind of thing.
    On his apology: I felt like I had let them down. And they said, "Oh no, we want­ed to go for it." They made me feel a little better.
    Bowden also said of the 1987 Miami game: I've never been involved with a game where there was more talent on a college football field. Ten first round draft choices played in the game.
  • Bowden: I really don't know how we lost this one. I didn't think we deserved to lose it. If you would have told me Miami would have beat us because of the kicking game, I wouldn't have believed it. ... Our field goal and extra point teams did not produce. We would have wrapped up the ballgame if they had. I don't care how well Miami played, we could have wrapped it up where they couldn't have come back. Asked about the 2-point, the FSU coach immediately second-guessed himself. If I had it to do over, I'd kick it for the tie.
  • But McManus supported the decision. We don't practice ties. I didn't spend all that time sweating during two-a-days to play for a tie. Danny praised his unit. Our offense is a high-caliber offense. We were able to run, and we were able to throw, and we did that against them last year. Miami has a great defense ... But we have a great offense, and people sometimes forget that.
  • Smith, one of the players on the sideline who persuaded Bowden to change his mind: I know all the guyson this team would much rather have a win than a tie. It was the right decision, the only one to make. After gaining 189y on 30 carries, Sammie looked on the bright side. We proved a lot of things today. People said you couldn't run on Miami, but we showed we can run on anybody. I don't know where some of those holes came from, but there were some big ones today.
  • Schmidt: I was having a lot of trouble with the wind. I should have made all those I missed. But it's not something you can dwell on. If you do, you'll kill yourself. The wind was coming in strong from the open end, and I as having trouble judging it.
  • Mickey Andrews: We had three major mistakes, and they came away with 23 points. He was referring to the two Irvin TDs and the Braxton TD.
  • Dodge, victimized on Irvin's first long TD reception that turned the game around: It was like someone turned the lights off and turned them back on.
  • Mayhew, also burned by Irvin: Our defensive philosophy is just to make sure no team breaks the big play against us. No team is going to drive up the field on us. But Miami broke the big plays, and that's all they needed. We've got nothing to be ashamed. We played a good football game. We prove we are a real good football team, and we're going to be 10-1. We're not going to get down because of this loss. It'll just make us work harder.

Miami

  • Johnson: I'm so proud of our guys. They would not quit. We were down and pulled together. When that happens, no one can beat us. For the last three years, Florida State has had the lead on us at the half, and we've come back to beat them in the fourth quarter. ... I don't think about championships yet. But I know this win puts us on a different plateau. After FSU moved the ball on his team like no other this season, Jimmy rated his team's defensive perform­ance "way below par." I didn't have to look at the films to tell. When someone moves the ball on you like that, you know someething is wrong.
  • Irvin: There is no star syndrome on this team this year. This game is a confi­dence-builder and a character-builder for us. When we're down, we're up. We play so together - like a family. ... When they got ahead like that, the crowd was get­ting real wordy. But I just kept telling Steve to get me the ball. Steve's an in­telligent QB; he got me the ball. I know Steve has a lot of confidence in me. We worked out together all summer, and he knows what I can do.
  • Walsh: Every game I get a little more confidence. This win shows us a lot about this team. We've got a lot of good athletes on offense. It's just a matter of ma­king the plays. We all knew it was just a matter of time before things started going our way. Michael came through with the big plays.
  • Bratton: We knew this would make or break our season. If we lost, it would have been a big hump to get over in our other games.
  • Bennie Blades: We like playing under adversity. I just hope we don't get this much of it again for awhile.
At his customary meeting with reporters the morning after the game, Bowden ad­mitted this loss bothered him like no other. I don't believe I've lost one like that since I've been at Florida State, have I? ... It was one of those "Why me?" games. You can't explain why.
A few years later, Johnson, as he did on the field with sideline reporter John Dock­ery right after the game, contradicted what he told Musburger before the game and agreed with Bowden's two-point call. I would be surprised if any coach kicks the extra point. If you're to keep the respect of your players, you've got to go for two. He also recalled, We really went into the game overconfident. Just through sheer deter­mination and belief that we were the better team were we able to come back.

Florida State did not lose another game in the regular season to make Mayhew's prediction come true.

  • Ranked #3, they defeated #5 Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl 31-28.
  • The Hurricanes completed their regular season undefeated and ranked #1. They then beat #2 Oklahoma 20-14 in the Orange Bowl.
  • When the post-bowl poll came out, the Canes were a unanimous #1 while the Seminoles finished #2. This marked the first time since the Associated Press poll began in 1936 that the top two teams in the final rankings hailed from the same state.
  • We'll never know what would have happened if Bowden had kicked the point to end the game with a tie. Perhaps the Canes and Noles would have met again in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
References: 'Cane Mutiny: How the Miami Hurricanes Overturned the Football Establishment, Bruce Feldman (2004)
Sunshine Shootouts: The Greatest Games Between Florida-Florida State, Florida State-Miami, Miami-Florida,
Jeff Miller (1992)
Stadium Stories: Florida State Seminoles, Gary Long (2006)
Tales from the Miami Hurricanes Sideline, Jim Martz (2004)
Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty, Mike Freeman (2009)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
When Bowden Faced Saban

When Florida State met Alabama in the "River City Showdown" in Jackson­ville September 29, 2007, many story lines connected the two teams.

First of all, FSU Coach Bobby Bowden grew up in Birmingham and idolized the Crimson Tide as a boy.

  • Alabama was my school. I moved away from Alabama 40-something years ago, but that's always been my team, explained the 77-year-old coach.
  • After a standout prep career at Woodlawn High School, where he threw jump passes like Bama All-American Harry Gilmer, Bowden played freshman football for UA before moving to Howard College (now Samford). Later, as Howard's head coach (1959-62), he often visited Bear Bryant's practices.
  • In 1986, after Bobby spent ten seasons as head Seminole, the Ala­bama job came open when Ray Perkins, Bear's successor, left for the NFL. Bobby was strongly interested in the job, but the school administration looked elsewhere.
    Bobby felt his record at Florida State since taking over a moribund program in 1976 qualified him for the Alabama job. I was from there. I just thought that's where I was supposed to go. I thought that's the way God meant it to be, to end up back at my home. He told a promi­nent Tide booster that he would accept the position if offered but would not go through an interview process. When the UA president insisted he interview for the job like all the other candidates, Bobby said "Thanks, but no thanks." Recalling his unprecedented run of 14 straight 10-win seasons from 1987-2000, Bobby considered his in­terest in the Alabama job "the best move I never made." I was al­ways reluctant to follow Bear Bryant. I knew Alabama would never lose the Bryant thing. That's his. This is different down here. This is mine. Bobby's wife, Ann, added: Even today, look in the stands at an Alabama game. Whose hat is everyone wearing? It's Bear Bryant's checkered hat. ... They have not gotten over Bear Bryant. That will always be Bear Bryant's team, his program, and nobody will ever surpass it. (Ann could not know then that new coach Nick Saban would do just that.)
  • Adding to the interschool connections, Bowden's long-time D-coordina­tor Mickey Andrews played for the Bear.

A number of the Alabama players grew up as Florida State fans - and not just the ones from Florida.

  • Receiver D. J. Hall, from Fort Walton Beach FL, said, I grew up watching Florida State. I was a die-hard Seminole. But he went to Tuscaloosa when his beloved team didn't offer him a scholarship.
  • FSU also ignored returner Javier Arenas, a Tampa native. He said he didn't hold any grudges but wanted his performance in the upcoming game to stand for itself.
  • LT Andre Smith, widely regarded as Bama's best player, lived in a Florida State room in his Birmingham bouse. Heavily recruited by the Noles, he nearly committed there until his mom advised him to take all his visits. C Antoine Caldwell, from Montgomery, tried to emulate Pe­ter Warrick's moves. I enjoyed everything they did at Florida State - the colors, the spirits. But don't get me wrong. Alabama is where I want to be. DE Wallace Gilberry, from Bay Minette AL, who did the toma­hawk chop in his living room, expressed similar sentiments. To have the opportunity to play against these guys is definitely an honor, he admit­ted, but you never let that get in the way of the task at hand. LB Darren Mustin, a Brentwood TN native, explained: We were born in the '80s and started growing up in the '90s. It was Nebraska and Florida State. Nebraska's way out there, but Florida is, "Whoo, that's where we go on vacation." So we wanted Florida State (to win). When I was little, I ran around the house doing the tomahawk chop.

Although the 2007 Crimson Tide and Seminoles did not resemble the jug­gernauts of the Bryant or 1980s-90s Bowden eras, a record crowd was expected for the fourth meeting between the two schools.

  • Two years after a 21-0 defeat in Tuscaloosa, the 1967 Seminoles surprised the word by tying Bryant's Crimson Tide 37-37 in the sea­son opener. Bama also won an 8-7 struggle in 1974 on a FG with 33 seconds left after FSU took an intentional safety.
    Bowden had never coached against Alabama, although it wasn't for lack of trying. He told the press that one of the first things he did when he arrived at FSU in 1976 was to invite Bear Bryant to Talla­hassee for a round of golf. The idea was to get a game with Alabama, Bobby remembered. We were an independent back in those days. But coach Bryant said, "No, I'm not playing Florida State. As long as I'm the athletic director, I'll never play Florida State." So the Seminoles never got another game with the Tide until 24 years after Bear's death.
  • The two Shootout coaches had captured three national championships between them. Nick Saban, in his first year at the Capstone after a two year dalliance with the Miami Dolphins, had won the 2003 BCS Championship with LSU while Bowden's teams had finished #1 in the polls after the 1993 season before winning the 1999 BCS Champion­ship and losing in the title game two other times.
  • The '07 edition of the Seminoles started with a 24-16 loss to Clemson, then defeated UAB 34-24 and Colorado 16-6 before enjoy­ing an off week. Saban's bunch sported a 3-1 record and #22 ranking, the loss having come to Georgia 26-23 in Game 4.
  • The betting line listed FSU a 2-point favorite.

Pregame discussion centered on Florida State's stagnant offense and off­the-field distractions.

  • The Seminoles had reached ten wins only once in the past six sea­sons and was trying to rebound from a difficult 2006 season when Bowden's son, Jeff, was forced to resign as offensive coordinator in the face of relentless criticism from restless Seminoles boosters.
  • Further, news had just broken several days before the game that 23 FSU athletes were implicated in cheating on online tests. Two athletic department academic assistance employees resigned. (The scandal would eventually force the university to vacate eleven victories of the 2006 and 2007 football seasons.)
  • The Seminole offense had averaged only 22.6 points in the first three games.
  • Junior QB Drew Weatherford had started all three games but hadn't played well at Colorado, completing only 8-of-18 for just 126y. The Seminoles garnered just 10 first downs to 21 for the Buffaloes and converted just one of 13 third down opportunities. But the Garnet and Gold defense held UC to just two FGs and -27y rushing.
  • Alabama QB John Parker Wilson, also a junior, had not experienced that great a game in his last outing either. He had also completed less than 50% of his passes against Georgia (17-for-35) with 0 TDs. The Tide was a painful 3-for-15 in 3rd down conversions.
  • Which offense would shake the doldrums in Jacksonville?

Throughout the first half, the answer was, "Neither."

  • Q1: The Tomahawk Chop defense attacked from the beginning, con­trolling the line of scrimmage and stuffing the Bama rushing game. The pressure caused Wilson to throw too high to his receivers or to dump the ball off for short gains.
    The Tide went three and out on their first four possessions and punt­ed on their first ten. The eleventh ended with a fumble. Punter P. J. Fitzgerald would set a single-game personal high for kicks with 10.
    Unfortunately, the Seminoles didn't do much better, causing O-coordi­nator Jimbo Fisher, who had been Saban's coordinator at LSU and who turned down Nick's invitation to be his coordinator at Bama, ex­perimented at QB. Weatherford started, but, after the Noles gained a first down, freshman D'Vontrey Richardson took the shotgun snap and tried a draw for -1y. Late in the quarter, receiver Preston Parker took a shotgun snap and ran for a first down.
    With Alabama facing a 20 mph wind that affected passing and punting during the first 15 minutes, FSU had good field position throughout the period. With 4:47 left, after the Noles gained their second and third first downs, Gary Cismesia tried a 47y FG that sailed wide right.
    FSU ended the period with just three first downs but that was three more than the Crimson Tide.

L: De'Cody Fagg goes up for a pass; R: Greg Carr tackled after catching a pass.
  • Q2: Bama finally got its initial first down on their first possession of the period.
    When FSU received a punt with 10:34 left, 6'4" 234lb Xavier Lee took over for Weatherford, who was 7-for-11 for only 42y. With two weeks to prepare him, Fisher had tailored a spread offense for Lee, who hadn't played a down since his mistake-prone performance against Wake Forest the previous No­vember.
    Lee had been a 5-star recruit from Daytona Beach in 2004. After redshirting his first season, he played sparingly for two years, completing 89-of-178. That didn't prevent the Seminole faithful, frustrated with Weatherford's mediocre production, from calling for the dual-threat Lee to take over.
    Knowing that FSU had a QB controversy, Alabama had prepared for Lee. S Rashad Johnson: We were sure we'd see him. We definitely knew when he came in the game, he was a guy they ran the option with, the type to keep it instead of pitching it. We did some things and knew what he could and couldn't do.
    But Xavier didn't set the world on fire the rest of the half. His best play was a 9y run with 40 seconds left.
    Alabama finally crossed midfield late in the period but ended the half with three first downs and 78y. That was just 11 less than FSU.
    Interviewed as left the field, Bowden said, If neither team makes a mistake, the game's going to end up nothing-nothing.

Glenn Coffee tackled by ROger Williams (8)
  • Q3: Receiving the kickoff with the wind (Saban electing to have the advan­tage in Q4), Lee completed back-to-back passes to De'Cody Fagg and Greg Carr for 14 and 28 to put the pigskin on the Bama 25, FSU's deepest pene­tration thus far. Three more plays made it 1st-and-10 at the 15. Lee ran for 8, then, after a no gain play, fired a pass to Fagg in the left EZ to break the ice.
    FSU 7 Bama 0 (10:50 left in the period)
    During the drive, CBS commentator Gary Danielson pointed out that FSU took more precautions to hide their sideline signals to the QB. Three large players screened the Bama sideline while an assistant holding up a towel to block the view of anyone in the press box.
    Terry Grant ran for 13y on the first play after the kickoff, but the next three snaps gained only 6.
    On the first play after the punt, Lee fired a beautiful pass to Carr, who took it in stride down the right sideline for 58y to put the Noles back in business at the 29. But Xavier showed his inexperience three plays later when he threw a pass down the middle right into the hands of LB Prince Hall at the 7 to end the threat.
    The Tide then embarked on their longest drive of the game so far. Nine plays moved them to the FSU 25. But an 8y sack on 3rd down put them out of FG range against the wind, and Fitzgerald kicked into the EZ.
    At the end of the period, Alabama's offensive production consisted of seven first downs and 147y.

Everette Brown (99) celebrates Q3 sack of John Parker Wilson.

L: Letroy Guion tackles Roy Upchurch; R: Rashad Johnson tackles Xavier Lee.
  • Q4: After the teams traded punts, a sequence of four bad plays led to FSU's second TD. First, Arenas fumbled Graham Gano's punt out of bounds at his 13. On first down, Wilson was sacked for a 5y loss. On the next snap, he threw too long for Mike McCoy. Then came the most fateful mistake of all. FSU's Everette Brown beat RT Mike Johnson off the ball and flushed Wilson out of the pocket to his left. He had time to throw the ball away as he ran to his left until Brown caught up with him and forced a fumble that DT Letroy Guion covered at the 5.
    It took only one play to double the lead. Antone Smith ran past LB Hall around LE to pay dirt.
    FSU 14 Bama 0 (9:03)
    Somehow, the Crimson O finally came to life on the next possession even though it didn't start auspiciously. Arenas fumbled the kickoff and was tackled at the 9. In desperation, 29-year-old O-coordinator Major Apple­white went to a hurry-up, two-minute attack that produced a 13-play TD drive. Wilson completed 6 of 7, including a 7y connection on fourth down to DJ Hall, who leaped to snare the ball and just barely get one foot down in the back of the EZ to put Bama on the board.
    FSU 14 Bama 7 (5:04)
    The Seminoles put the dagger in the Tide on the first play after the kickoff. With the secondary in man-to-man defense, Lee threw a "hitch route" to Fagg. RCB Marquis Johnson went for the ball and missed. That allowed the receiver to stiff-arm him and sprint down the left sideline for a 71y TD.
    FSU 21 Bama 7 (4:46)
    Wilson moved his team to midfield But a 4th down pass misfired to turn the ball over. FSU went three-and-out but forced Alabama to use its three timeouts. Gano got off a terrible punt that bounced backwards for only 12y net.
    With FSU playing a "prevent defense" with only three rushers, the Tide drove 60y for a score in eight plays, Wilson connecting with Keith Brown at the goal line for the final 17.
    FSU 21 Bama 14 (1:06)
    Alabama fans got excited when Kareem Jackson recovered the onside kick and ran to theBama 49. But, alas, the ball hit Jimmy Johns' helmet before it traveling 10y. The penalty gave the ball to FSU, which ran out the clock as the Seminole fans in the crowd of 85,412, knowing how much this game meant to him, chanted "Bobby Bowden."


Richard Goodman reaches for a pass.


Antone Smith runs in Q1.


Drew Weatherford pitches out to Smith.


John Parker Wilson runs in Q2.


Wilson throws Q2 pass.


Xavier Lee runs.


Lee throws a Q3 pass.


Smith tackled by Lorenzo Washington and Mike Johnson


Guion celebrates his Q4 fumble recovery at the 5.


Smith scores FSU TD #2.


Fagg outruns Marquis Johnson for FSU TD #3.


Saban and Bowden meet at midfield.


Weatherford and Wilson talk after the game.

Postgame
  • Bowden won his 369th game to add to his record. I haven't had this feeling in a long time. People may say we beat so-and-so, but not Alabama. I won't brag about it, but it beats being 0-1 against them. I'm glad we did win, and it was really a pleasure playing against them. ... Our defense was just unbelievable. I hated to give up those last two touchdowns. I hate that stinking prevent (defense). But that's the way you have to play ball sometimes.
    On Lee: He gave us a lift. He did what we've always wanted him to do. In my opinion, he was the offensive hero of the game. Xavier has always been a young man with great potential, and I thought tonight he began to use that potential in a positive way. Asked if Lee would start the next game against North Carolina State, Bowden replied, I wouldn't be surprised. But I'll let Jimbo make the call. [Lee would play the 27-10 victory.]
  • Lee: No athlete likes to sit around and wait for their chance. I always knew my opportunity here would probably come if I just trusted the Lord and just kept praying about things. I had people in my ear saying I should leave, I should go here, they are never going to give you a shot and you are wasting away. But I kept working hard and did what I had to do, and it's paying off now.
  • DE Brown: Looking at their tapes, we noticed that they haven't played an attack defense like us. We were coming off the ball full speed at the snap, and it was something that they weren't used to. We knew that Wilson didn't like to stay in there and take the hit when he was pressured.
  • LB Derek Nicholson: We expected to play well, and we wanted to play old-time Seminole de­fense. When Wilson was rushed, he'd throw the ball high.
  • LB Geno Hayes: We stopped the run first. That made them one-dimensional. We knew they had to pass, and that's when we got in (Wilson's) face.
  • Saban: They out-physicaled us, they out-toughed us. This was the first game that I felt that the other team played more physical than us. ... We couldn't run the ball, we couldn't throw the ball, our offense just wasn't very good. ... When asked, Nick said he didn't consider changing QBs. It's not fair to blame the QB. If we can't run it and can't get it blocked, that's not the QB's fault. ... I think the wind was a factor in this game in terms of field position. He praised the FSU defense as one of the best he's seen. I've been part of some great defensive teams as a coach, and I've played against quite a few, and they're up there with the best of them. Nick was not pleased with his special teams. We lost the field position battle ...
  • Wilson, who ended with 28 completions in 53 attempts (the second most in Alabama history) and racked up 121 of his 240 passing yards in Q4: We just can't wait until the fourth quarter to start moving the ball. Florida State's a good team with a good defense. We just couldn't get it rolling in the first half.

Watch the entire game on YouTube.