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1964 Gator Bowl vs Oklahoma
The young Florida State football program had appeared in three bowl games before the 1964 season.
  • The 1949 Seminoles defeated Wofford 19-6 in the Cigar Bowl in Tampa.
  • The 1954 squad lost to Texas Western (today's UTEP) 47-20 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
  • Oklahoma State defeated FSU 15-6 in the one and only Bluegrass Bowl in Louisville.

As the '64 Noles, with a 7-1-1 record, prepared to host the Florida Gators for the first time in Tallahassee to end the regular season, the Gator Bowl selection committee met to determine their participants.

  • FSU Coach Bill Peterson traveled to Jacksonville the Monday before the Florida game to speak to the Quarterback Club there.
  • George Olsen, longtime Gator Bowl executive director, recalled: The committee ... had earlier that day decided it would invite Florida State if it won. If it lost or tied, it would have to re-evaluate the situation. I picked Pete up at the airport, and he was unhappy with that. He felt he should have the bid - win, lose or draw. Personally, I agreed with him because I was anxious to land the attraction of Tensi and Biletnikoff. After the Quarterback Club dinner that night, the chairman of our selection committee went up to Pete's hotel room.
  • The chair agreed the committee would take FSU even if they lost to Florida as long as it was not a rout. Peterson wanted to know what constituted a rout. It was agreed that the Seminoles had the bid if they won or were beaten by less than 17.
  • But Peterson learned on Friday that the board of directors, dominated by Florida supporters, had overruled their chair and voided the agreement. FSU must win to secure the bid. Bill was furious.
  • When the Noles won 16-7, Peterson kept the Gator Bowl representatives cooling their heels for a while before accepting the bid.

The #10 Seminoles' opponent would be the 6-3-1 Oklahoma Sooners of the Big Eight Conference

  • Coach Gomer Jones's club started the season ranked #2 in the AP poll.
  • But after an impressive opening win at Maryland 13-3, OU lost three in a row.
  • They didn't lose another game the rest of the regular season, although Missouri tied the Sooners 14-14.
    27-year-old Bobby Bowden, in his second year as FSU's WR coach in 1964, recalled: It was my first big bowl game experience, and I was really excited about facing a traditional power such as the Sooners. Oklahoma was just beginning life without their greatest coach, Bud Wilkinson, who retired after the 1962 season to run for the U.S. Senate. Wilkinson arranged for Gomer Jones, one of his assistant coaches, to replace him as Oklahoma’s coach. As expected, the Sooners were not as good under Jones, losing three of their first four games in 1964. But they came back to win five of their last seven games going into the Gator Bowl.

Each team would be without key players in the clash.

  • Florida State's rugged FB, Lee Narramore, was ruled ineligible because of academic isues. Further, Peterson decided not to use PK Les Murdock, the nation's third leading scorer, because of uncertainty over his eligibility related to his transfer from Tampa University in 1959. First string HB Phil Spooner would kick extra points and FGs barefoot. T Tom West would handle kickoffs.
    West: The night before the game, they came to me and said, "You're the only guy we have who kicked in high school. You're going to have to kick off in the Gator Bowl." ... By the time we warmed up, I couldn't kick the football 35 yards. It looked like we were trying to kick onside kicks each time. Finallly, I said, "That's all I've got," and we started squibbing the kick.
  • The night before the game, four of Oklahoma's best players were ruled ineligible because they had signed pro football contracts: FB Jim Grisham, T Ralph Neely, HB Lance Rentzel, and E Wes Skidget. Coach Jones complained, When pro clubs tamper with our players before all varsity competition ends, they destroy the entire collegiate football program. The professionals' callous disregard for the welfare of college football is shocking. ... The team will play as well as it can play. I don't know how the team will react. We're not going to drop over dead just because of the loss of four players.
  • The news came too late to affect the betting line, which had FSU a three-point favorite.
    Two days before the game, Peterson told reporters that his assistants had finally stopped him from putting in new plays for the game. I believe in vastness of offense, said Bill. I probably go to extremes at putting in new plays. But now we have in all my assistants will let me use.

A 20th annual Gator Bowl attracted a record crowd. 50,408 spectators (including more than 12,000 Seminole rooters) and a national TV audience on ABC watched in bright sunshine as Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff end their college careers with a bang.

1st Quarter

  • Oklahoma won the toss, but elected to put the wind at their backs. The choice almost paid off. FSU took the kick and, after two runs, Tensi threw his first pass only to have it intercepted by Rodney Crosswhite after the ball was deflected by several players. From the 40, OU ran twice for 6y. Then the Sooners threw their first pass, but Howard Ehler intercepted it and ran 69y down the sideline behind three blockers to pay dirt. After a 5y delay penalty, Spooner's kick missed. FSU 6 Oklahoma 0 (11:40 left in period)
    With the heart of its offense gone with the removal of the pro players, Oklahoma struggled to make headway against the FSU defense. Starting from their 27 after the kickoff, the Sooners ran the ball six straight times out to the 47 before having to punt, the ball being downed on the 7.
    On fourth down, John Hosack punted only 26y to set up OU with excellent field position at the 38. (It would turn out to be FSU's only punt of the day.)
    OU pounded the ball on the ground 11 straight times until FB Jon Kennedy, subbing for outsted pro Jim Grisham, went over from the 1. Butch Metcalf booted what would be the only extra point of the game. Oklahoma 7 FSU 6
    The lead didn't last long. Starting from their 10, the Noles controlled the ball the rest of the period before finishing the march in Q2. The key plays were Spooner gaining 18 around E and Tensi hitting Biletnikoff for the first down at the 41. On the last play of the period, Spooner gained 9 to midfield.
    END OF Q1: Oklahoma 7 FSU 6

2nd Quarter

  • Spooner went wide again to the 37. Two short passes to Don Floyd put the pigskin on the 23. On a draw play, Spooner rambled to the 15. After an incompletion, Biletnikoff nabbed a pass from Tensi at the 2 and scooted untouched into the EZ to put FSU back in front for good. Tensi's pass for a two-point conversion was intercepted. FSU 12 Oklahoma 7 (12:16)
    A 21y sweep put OU in business at the FSU 35. But two plays later, Larry Brown fumbled, and George D'Allesandro grabbed it for FSU at the 37.
    Tensi immediately sent Biletnikoff tearing down the sidelines but the 65y pass just eluded Freddie. Floyd caught a 16-yarder, then another for 13 to put the pigskin on the 29. After a screen pass to Wayne Giardino gained 10 and Spooner ran for 5, Tensi hit Freddie for his second TD. The PAT pass failed. FSU 18 Oklahoma 7 (6:28)
    After a punt, the Seminoles started from their 11 with 2:59 on the clock. That was more than enough time for another Tensi-Biletnikoff TD, this time on 4th down from the 10. A pass for two again failed. FSU 24 Oklahoma 7 (0:37)
    HALFTIME: FSU 24 Oklahoma 7
    During halftime, the PA announcer asked the spectators not to make so much noise. Thousands of persons bought 2'-long plastic musical horns from vendors and continually blasted away on them. The horns made so much noise that the national TV audience couldn't hear the broadcast play-by-play. Many fans complied and made less noise during the second half.

3rd Quarter

  • FSU received the kickoff again, but Tensi threw a pick to end the drive.
    The next possession reached the OU 33 but another throw ended up in the hands of a Sooner, who ran to midfield.

    Steve Tensi throws long.
    A penalty and a sack forced a punt. Biletnikoff caught it at the 11, retreated to find running room, but fumbled, Jerry Goldsby recovering for OU on the 2. Three plays later, Tommy Pannell went wide into the EZ. Then a strange decision cost OU the extra point. The kick was true, but FSU was offside. So Oklahoma decided to take the penalty and go for two. But a pass failed. FSU 24 Oklahoma 13 (4:26)
    A clipping penalty on Biletnikoff's kickoff return made FSU start from the 18. From there, the Tribe embarked on an 82y march, mixing runs and passes. On the final play of the period, Tensi connected with Floyd for a 14y TD. Once again, a pass for two failed to connect.
    END OF Q3: FSU 30 Oklahoma 13

4th Quarter

  • After another OU punt, Tensi and Biletnikoff collaborated on another TD, but the 24y completion was erased by an illegal motion penalty. Steve's next throw was intercepted at the 3.
    Three plays later, Ronnie Fletcher, a 157lb sub QB, reared back and threw long to Ben Hart ("a 6-2 Negro speedster" according to the Tallahassee Democrat) who caught the ball at midfield and completed a 95y TD - the longest scoring play in Gator Bowl history. FSU 30 Oklahoma 19 (11:22)
    A minute later, OU got a chance to make the game close when Spooner fumbled after catching a pass, and a Sooner recovered at the FSU 43. But Bill McDowell's 9y sack and two incompletions forced a punt into the EZ.
    FSU salted the game away with an 80y drive. Giardino's 52y sweep to the 14 set up Tensi's 7y 4th down TD pass to Biletnikoff. Spooner's kick failed. FSU 36 Oklahoma 19 (4:40)
    The scrappy Sooners refused to quit, driving 60y to a 1st-and-Goal at the 4. Four times they sent their power men - Brown and Kennedy - into the line without success. On the fourth try, Brown was smeared an inch from the goal as time ran out.

Multiple Gator Bowl records were set during the game.

  • Tensi: Passing attempts - 36, completions - 23, passing yardage - 303, passing TDs - 5.
    Biletnikoff: Points - 24, receptions - 13, yardage - 192, TDs - 4.
    Highest combined score - 55
  • Steve and Fred were declared co-MVPs.
    Biletnikoff's 13 catches were a record for any bowl, anywhere, any time.

The"dazzling battery" of Tensi and Biletnikoff and three of their teammates signed pro contracts right after the game.

  • At the end of Q3, Oakland Raiders coach Al Davis left the pressbox for a position behind the FSU bench. He expected to sign Biletnikoff as soon as the game ended. Lou Creekmur, scout for the Detroit Lions, who owned the NFL rights to Freddie, asked, No chance for Detroit, Fred? No, sir, I've decided to sign with Oakland, replied Fred. The instant the game ended, Davis got the WR's signature on a contract.
  • Tensi signed with the San Diego Chargers for a "nice bonus." E Don Floyd, C Jack Edwards, and ineligible PK Les Murdock also signed with San Diego. Chargers' coach Sid Gillman praised the Oakland signee. Biletnikoff has tremendous pro potential. No, I wouldn't want to compare him with our Lance Alworth. Fred's a college senior, and Lance's a three-year veteran. I'm sure Biletnikoff will have a fine career.
    Biletnikoff had more than "a fine career." Like Alworth, Fred is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    Bowden: Biletnikoff was the finest WR I ever coached. He had tremendous hands and was a great route runner. He was just a very tough football player, too. Fred became FSU’s first consensus All-American in 1964


  • Peterson praised both his offensive and defensive unit. I thought Tensi showed he was a really great QB, and our receivers were great too. The prestige of winning a nationally televised game was wonderful. I thought it was a spectacular game, and we really put on a show.
  • Tensi and Biletnikoff were surrounded by autograph-seeking fans when the game ended and didn't make it to the locker room for a half hour. Steve praised his offensive line which kept the OU rush off him all day. This was just our day. But I thought it was going to be a long day when the first pass I threw was intercepted.
    Years later, Tensi praised his head coach. Looking back, I think Bill Peterson was really the coach that put Florida State on the map. Before he got there, it wasn't much of a program ... I remember one time he brought Bart Starr in for two or three days, and then be brought in Sonny Jurgensen the following year. Peterson was really good friends with Sid Gillman, who told him to put in a pro-style passing game at Florida State. We were really the first team to drop back and throw it. Our offense was almost the same as the San Diego Chargers' offense.
  • Oklahoma coach Jones said, That number 25 -I can't pronounce his name - is a great receiver. He is really a HB and runs well after receiving. Of course, FSU has a lot of good receivers. And they run the ball well. Jones had little to say about the effect of losing four players to the pros. I don't want to blame the loss on anything. We just got beat by a better football team Saturday. The new boys handled their assignments as well as could be expected with such short practice.
Bowden recalled the unsung heroes of the 1964 season. That 1964 season was one when Florida State had great defense. When people talk about it, they mention Tensi and Biletnikoff and tend not to remember that great defense. ... For some reason in the year before we did not get the ball to (Biletnikoff) that much. But (O-coordinator Bill) Crutchfield's thought was we had to get the ball to this guy. ... I thought Pete beat everybody to the passing game. ... Sending out five receivers on a pass pattern was something unheard of back then, but Pete did it. ... Crutchfield played a mighty big role. He understood Coach Pete better than anybody.

Watch brief video on the game ...

Bill Peterson

Gomer Jones and Bud Wilkinson

Lee Narramore

Phil Spooner

Tom West

Carl McAdams intercepts for OU.

Howard Ehler

John Hosack

Biletnikoff snags one of his record 13 receptions.

Don Floyd

Bill McDowell

George D'Allesandro

Wayne Giardino

Bill Crutchfield

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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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