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1964: First AP Ranking - I

Bill Crutchfield

Don James

Vince Gibson

Bob Harbison

Bobby Bowden as an FSU assistant coach.

Phil Spooner

Don Floyd

Aerial view of Doak Campbell Stadium during Kentucky game

Rodger Bird

Ed Pritchett

Charlie Bradshaw

Lee Narramore

1964 marked Bill Peterson's fifth year as head coach after coming from Paul Dietzel's staff at LSU.
  • The Seminoles had shown slow improvement at best during his tenure:
    1960: 3-6-1
    1961: 4-5-1
    1962: 4-3-3
    1963: 4-5-1
  • FSU supporters were beginning to run out of patience entering the 1964 season. Little did they know that the Noles would burst onto the national scene after only four games of the new campaign.
    Peterson brought several LSU trademarks with him to Baton Rouge. One was wearing white jerseys at home with gold pants. The other was UCLA stripes around the shoulders on the garnet jerseys.

Peterson's recruiting had put the pieces in place for a highly successful year.

  • Wanting to put more emphasis on the passing game, Bill made a surprise move in the offseason. He brought in Miami D-coordinator Bill Crutchfield to be his O-coordinator.
  • Peterson ignored the cries from his offensive staff. "I'm going to throw the football if I have to fire every one of 'em."
    Bill explained that he was implementing an approach he first thought of at LSU. "I always felt with great defense, you could make some passing mistakes and overcome them. I started going to those pro camps every year. ... I used to film games on TV and study them. ... My assistants used to say that people lose throwing the football ... But I had to be boss. And we had to do things differently."
  • Bill knew he had the right combination to lead his passing attack: 6-5 200 lb senior QB Steve Tensi from Cincinnati OH and 6-1 185 senior E Fred Biletnikoff from Erie PA. Before the season was half over, the whole college football world would know those names. Like Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry, the Seminole duo worked incessantly during spring practice and beyond to perfect their timing.
    Tensi had been inconsistent in his career. In 1963, he completed just 48.3% of his passes with as many INTs as TDs, 9. Vince Gibson, who had played for FSU, then coached under Peterson all five seasons, left for a job at Tennessee. Before departing, Vince told sportswriter Bill McGrotha, "This can be a good football team, but talk to that Peterson, and don't let him start Tensi. He can't do it."

Steve Tensi, Bill Peterson, Fred Biletnikoff
Don James's D had allowed only 93 points in 10 games in 1963.
  • D-line coach Bob Harbison's five linemen and the two LBs called themselves "The Seven Magnificents" after the movie "The Magnificent Seven." They shaved their heads in imitation of Yul Brynner, the movie's star.
  • The four secondary starters dubbed themselves "The Forgotten Four."
    32-year-old Don James would become a highly successful head coach at Washington. Another coach on Peterson's 1964 FSU staff was 34-year-old Bobby Bowden, who coached the wide receivers.

The season began with a successful trip to the Orange Bowl.

  • With the defense holding the Hurricanes to 180 total yards and no points, two TD passes from Tensi to Biletnikoff in the first half were more than enough to win the day. The six-pointers gave Freddie five against Miami in the last two meetings.
  • Fred snagged nine balls for 165y on the evening. Tensi finished 16-for-21 with 0 INTs and 226y.

The Noles hit the road the next week as well to take on TCU.

  • This time, Tensi & Company scored only 10 points, but it was enough as the defense pitched another shutout.
  • A 33y FG by Les Murdock in Q1 gave FSU a precarious lead that prevailed into Q4. It took a blocked FG by MG Bill McDowell early in the period to avert a tie. Finally, Phil Spooner's 6y run with 9:38 left created breathing space.
  • Tensi threw an INT but completed 10 of his other 17 throws to six different receivers. Double-covered all evening, Biletnikoff served mostly as a decoy, catching only two passes.

The rainy home opener brought another whitewash, 36-0 over New Mexico State.

  • The Aggies gained only 174y as FSU became the last team in the nation that had not allowed a point.
  • Playing only part of the game, Tensi went 7-for-10, including TDs to Biletnikoff and Don Floyd.

Next came the game that catapulted FSU into the national rankings.

  • Kentucky was ranked #5 in the AP poll after conquering #1 Ole Miss and Auburn.
  • An enthusiastic crowd of 34,248 turned out for Homecoming on a sunny afternoon at Doak Campbell.
  • The bad news was that the Wildcats broke Seminoles' scoreless streak with 29 seconds left by scoring after recovering a fumbled punt on the FSU 2. The good news was that Florida State led 49-0 at that point.
  • The defense kept its other streak alive by holding the visitors under 200y of total offense - 147 to be exact. UK's heralded HB Rodger Bird, in the words of McGrotha, "must have felt a bit like General Custer, with Indians swarming all over him from the start. Shaken up early in the third quarter, he left the scene of the massacre and did not return."
  • Tensi threw two TD passes before the first quarter was half over - 2y on 4th down to Lee Narramore and 53y to Biletnikoff, who would add an 8y scoring reception in Q3. Backup QB Ed Pritchett, who undoubtedly never expected to play, came in for mopup duty late in the game.
  • Dick Dunkel called the outcome a "hallmark" game for FSU and one of the biggest upsets in the history of his Dunkel Index Ratings. One broadcaster of another game read the score but told his audience, "Surely this must be a mistake, with the score reversed."
  • "They kicked our teeth in," said UK coach Charlie Bradshaw.
  • The AP voters jumped the unranked Seminoles to the #10 position - the first time Florida State had ever been ranked.

Phil Spooner carries against Kentucky.
The Seminoles stayed in the SEC the next week against Georgia in Athens.
  • The Bulldogs scored twice as many points as the Noles had given up in the first four games and broke the 200y barrier with 242y, 169 of which came on the ground.
  • UGa took the opening kickoff and drove all the way to the 3 before losing the ball on a fumble. The Noles took a 10-0 lead with 10:18 on the clock in Q2 on Lee Narramore's 1y run following a fumbled punt at the Georgia 16 that gave McDowell his second recovery of the afternoon.
  • But the Bulldogs scored to make it 10-7 at the break, then pushed over a TD with 12:13 remaining in the game to put the Seminoles behind for the first time all season to the delight of the crowd of 31,000 in Sanford Stadium. The score was set up by an FSU fumble at their 23.
  • But Tensi went to work and directed a 79y march climaxed by his 20y TD pass to - who else? - Biletnikoff. Fred had caught two other balls earlier in the drive, first for 12y, then 12 again on a critical 4th-and-5 situation at UGa's 44.
  • Fred finished with eight catches for 114y. Tensi completed 14 of 24 for 193y.
  • FSU stayed #10 in the next AP poll although archrival Florida jumped ahead of them at #9.

Florida State's fourth road game ended their two-week stay in the Top Ten.

  • Virginia Tech, an independent like the Seminoles, celebrated homecoming with a 20-11 victory before 22,000 screaming fans.
  • It was the second straight year the Hokies upset FSU after winning 31-23 in Tallahassee the year before.
  • After the visitors started the scoring with a FG on their first possession, Tech caught the defense napping with a tackle-eligible pass that produced an easy catch and run into the EZ from the 19. The Noles would spend the rest of the afternoon vainly trying to catch up.
  • The lead stretched to 20-3 before FSU finally scored with just 1:24 remaining on Tensi 4y pass to Biletnikoff - one of a school-record 11 Freddie snared for 182y. His 38 receptions also broke the school record for a season with four games left to play. Steve also set a bittersweet FSU record by completing 21 passes.
  • The statistics raise the question, How could the Noles have lost? FSU led in first downs 18-10 and total yardage by a whopping 423-191. But three turnovers turned the tide, including two INTs that set up short TD marches. A fumble killed a Nole drive at the VTU 15. The Hokies also stopped FSU on the 1 in Q4.

How would the Seminoles react to their first loss of the season?

To be continued ...

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Seminole Sidelines Archives – I

Birth of the Seminoles
Dedication of Doak Campbell Stadium
Bear Was Fit to be Tied
Rock Bottom in Tallahassee
First Season
"Our team cheated ... and we still couldn't beat him."
First Bowl Game
Bobby Wouldn't Quit

Seminole Sidelines Archives – II

#1 Fan
1988 Fiesta Bowl
Are You Stupid?
Birth of the Sod Cemetery
Fred Biletnikoff
Birth of the Fast Break Offense
Memorable Game: LSU 1991
First Air Trip
First SEC Win
First Peach Bowl

Seminole Sidelines Archives – III

He Coulda Been a Star
When Johnny U Came to Tallahassee
Bobby's First Gator Win
"Most Memorable Month"
A Stand for the Ages
The "Dirty Jerseys" Game
27 Fumbles in One Game

Seminole Sidelines Archives – IV

Offside? OK, Do It Again.
Florida 1960
Two Backups Beat ASU
Profile: Ron Sellers
Colossal Upset - Almost
Losing Streak Finally Ends
First - Renegade Appears
"The Most Bizarre of His Victories"
Notre Dame Comeback #1
Notre Dame Comeback #2

Seminole Sidelines Archives – V

First Victory over Miami
Birth of "Huff the Magic Dragon"
Can Anybody Here Snap the Ball?
Same Foe, Same Score
A Big Win
First Win at Auburn
Bobby's Ties (I-IV)

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VI

#1 vs #2 Miami 1991
#1 vs #2 Notre Dame 1993
#1 vs #2 Nebraska 1994 Orange Bowl
#1 vs #2 Florida 1996
#1 vs #2 Tennessee 1998
#1 vs #2 Virginia Tech 1999
#1 vs #2 Oklahoma 2000

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VII

First Game against Florida
First Game at Michigan
Maybe the Video Wasn't Such a Good Idea
Live by the Rooskie, Die by the Rooskie
Profile: Jameis Winston

First Undefeated Season (I-IV)
"The Zaniest Game in Miami's History"
When Bowden Faced Saban

Seminole Sidelines Archives – VIII

Auburn Fires the Last Shot
Profile: Warrick Dunn - I, II, III, IV

Seminole Sidelines Archives – 1979 Bobby's First Undefeated Season

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