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1979 - Bobby's First Undefeated Season - I

Reggie Herring

Jack Stanton

Gene McDowell

Bill Shaw

Jim Gladden

George Henshaw

Wally Woodham (L) and
Jimmy Jordan

Mark Lyles

Michael Whiting

Jackie Flowers

Grady King

Dave Cappelen

Rohn Stark

Monk Bonasarte

Gary Henry

Bobby Bowden has admitted that, when he came to Florida State after compiling a 42-26 record in six seasons at West Virginia, he didn't plan to stay in Tallahassee very long.
  • He considered the Florida State job just a stepping stone to a chance at an SEC school, preferably Alabama or Auburn in his native state.
  • Bowden joked about the FSU program, which had won just four games in the three seasons prior to his arrival in 1976. While I was growing up in Alabama, Crimson Tide fans had bumper stickers on their cars that said, "Beat Auburn!" When I coached at West Virginia, Mountaineer fans had stickers that said, "Beat Pitt!" At FSU, they had stickers that said, "Beat Anybody!"
Entering the 1979 season, Bowden had compiled a 23-11 record.
  • 1976: 5-6
  • 1977: 10-2
  • 1978: 8-3

Bobby's teams had already established a reputation as road warriors.

  • The 1976 Seminoles defeated North Texas 21-20 in a snowstorm.
  • The '77 Noles scored victories at USM (35-6), Kansas State (18-10), Oklahoma State (25-17), Virginia Tech (23-21), and Florida (37-9) - the first win over the Gators in ten tries.
  • 1978 brought triumphs at Syracuse (28-0), Miami (31-21), and USM (38-16).
  • The 1979 FSU contingent would have road tests in five of the eleven scheduled games: Virginia Tech, Louisville, LSU (in Florida State's first ever visit to Baton Rouge), Cincinnati, and Florida.
  • At least Bobby enjoyed his first season with players who had been in his pro­gram four years.

Bobby gave his team three objectives for the 1979 season.

  • Finish undefeated.
  • Be ranked in the top ten of the national polls.
  • Win a major bowl game.

As he explained, After three seasons at Florida State, I really believed we had the talent, leadership, and depth to accomplish those goals.

  • He told the squad, We have the physical ingredients in this room. We have veterans who have been to war and won. We have more depth and we have a senior base, which is always key. We recruited excellent freshmen to help you, and we have all our kickers back. Our defense will be the key this coming season.
  • However, he cautioned them: You must have a good, positive attitude and morale. You must improve physically with the best off-season program we've ever had. You have the full confidence and support of the coaching staff, but there are some things you can do that would hurt us. You must go to study hall and to class. We need eve­ryone in this room to win a championshipo, and if you're not in school, you can't help us. You must be obedient and not misbehave. Do not become involved in drugs or cause public disturbances.

The 1979 season would prove pivotal in determining whether Bowden stayed at Florida State or took an offer from another school.

LB Reggie Herring recalled for Mark Schlabach in 2007 why the 1979 Seminoles were a close-knit bunch: Eight of us who were sophomores in 1978 started for the next three years … There was a lot of chemistry. … That was a close-knit bunch … We beat teams that had more talent than us, but I think we epitomized what it means to be a team. The O and D were very close, and I’d like to think we were the group that set Florida State off and got it going in the direction to what it is today. … We were probably the crew that was too dumb to know we weren’t supposed to be good, and too tough to know we weren’t supposed to beat teams, as well. We thought it was the toughest thing we’d ever gone through. Going through the off-season conditioning pro­gram and the mat drills and all that other stuff was hard. We used to sit in our dorm rooms and have butterflies because we knew how hard we were going to be worked in those mat drills. There would be a trash can in every corner for guys to throw up.
There were no gimmicks about it. The fact was we had a very hard-nosed D coordinator in Jack Stanton, and we had great assistant coaches, such as Gene McDowell, Bill Shaw, and Jim Gladden. … There was a blue-chip, had-a-chip-on-your-shoulder men­tality. … We just refused to be beaten by anyone. … We were pretty salty. Bobby But­ler and Ron Simmons were big-time players, but we had a special chemistry, and we’d been put to the woodshed as far as hard work. We just had a bunch of tough guys who liked to compete.

Bowden's plans nearly got derailed by a change on his coaching staff and the loss of two players.

  • Heralded offensive coordinator George Haffner left for Texas A&M.
  • Instead of going after a big name coordinator from elsewhere, Bowden decided to let another George do it, promoting DL coach George Henshaw to the vacant position.
  • When questioned about moving Henshaw from defense to offense, Bobby re­plied, A good coach is a good coach.
  • Two days before the first game, WR Kurt Unglaub broke his foot and was even­tually redshirted.
  • RB Holmes Johnson, who had the Noles in rushing in 1978 with 817y, quit the team, citing a calcium deposit in his ankle.

The Seminoles would feature a super 1-2 QB punch.

  • Seniors Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan both came from Leon High School in Tallahassee. Wally was a year older after a redshirt season the year before Bowden arrived at FSU. Bowden planned to use both every game. He had vio­lated one of football's oldest rules, "When you have two QBs, you have none," but had gone 8-3 with that system.
    Wally and Jimmy genuinely liked each other so that neither was jealous of the other's playing time. They belonged to the same fraternity and some­times went duck hunting together.
  • Giant FB Mark Lyles from Buffalo NY, built like at TE at 6'4" 232, would bear the brunt of the running attack. He had gained 641y in '78, second only to the de­parted Johnson. Lyles would be assisted by Michael Whiting, a 6'2" 195 lb HB from Largo FL.
  • Woodham-Jordan would have no shortage of speedy WRs to throw to, starting with WR Jackie Flowers (6'2" 195 senior from Jacksonville) and TE Grady King (6'4" 205 senior from Satellite Beach).
  • The defensive unit had to excel for FSU to meet its goals. The leaders were NG Ron Simmons (6'1" 220 junior from Warner Robins GA), who anchored the line, LBs Herring and Paul Piurowski (6'3" 205 junior from Sarasota), and DBs Monk Bonasorte (6'1" 177 junior from Pittsburgh PA), Bobby Butler (5'11" 185 junior from Delray Beach), and Keith Jones (5'11" 185 junior from Wildwood).
The 1979 Florida State roster included six lettermen who would play in the NFL: CB Bob­by Butler, K Bill Capece, DB Hector Gray, OT Ken Lanier, DT Scott McLean, and P Rohn Stark. Additionally, Ron Simmons was drafted in the sixth round in 1981 by the Cleve­land Browns but never played in a regular season game for them. He played for the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits from 1983-85.

1979 Florida State Seminoles
Game One: Southern Mississippi
For a senior-laden team that approached the new season with so much confidence, the 19th-ranked Seminoles didn't start well at all.
  • Bowden: It was probably the closest we came to getting beaten during the regular season, and we probably should have lost the game.
  • Trailing 14-3 heading into the final period, the Seminoles needed one of their patented special teams plays to help pull out the victory.

The pregame included, for the second year, a Seminole Indian on horseback leading the FSU squad onto the field. The crowd of 45,467 was the fourth largest in Doak Campbell Stadium history and an opening game record.

  • Q1: The Eagle defense blunted the potent FSU offense all night long. The Noles got on the scoreboard on Dave Cappelen's 26y FG. Florida State 3 Southern Miss 0 (6:14 left in Q1)
    Sophomore punter Rohn Stark helped keep USM at bay by averaging 46y on eight punts.
    How Stark wound up in Tallahassee from Fifty Lakes MN is a story that in­volves an intermediate stop where he was coached by a former FSU player. After high school graduation, Stark, son of a TWA pilot, went to the Air Force Preparatory School in Colorado Springs. As it turned out, doctors discovered a spine curvature that prevented him from flying. So he returned to Minneso­ta after one semester in Colorado. In the meantime, his football coach, John Crowe, a former Florida State DB, had been sending films of his players to FSU assistant Bob Harbison, who was more impressed by the left-footed punter than the players Crowe was touting. So Harbison called Stark in Feb­ruary. I had barely heard of Florida State, Rohn recalled. But I went down and liked what I saw. In addition to setting records for punting, he would also par­ticipate in track as a decathlete for the Seminoles.
  • Q2: Continuing to stymie the bumbling FSU offense, USM scored on a 2y sweep by Ricky Floyd to take the lead right before halftime. Southern Miss 7 Florida State 3 (0:34)
  • Q3: The visitors added to their margin with Floyd's second TD sweep, this one from the 7. Southern Miss 14 Florida State 3 (12:03)
  • Q4: USM blocked Cappelen's FG attempt from the 30 with 13:08 on the clock.
    With the FSU offense showing little signs of life, the special teams provided a spark. With slightly more than 11 minutes left in the game, Bonasorte blocked Bruce Thompson's punt to give the Tribe possession at the USM 15. Three plays later, Jordan connected with Flowers in the EZ on an 8y scoring pass. A two- point conversion pass failed. Southern Miss 14 Florida State 9 (9:43)
    The Eagles picked up a first down on their next possession before the drive stalled. Sophomore DB Gary Henry had been booed for his fair-catch calls on six previous punts. But this time he fielded the ball on the run at his 35, and, aided by several key blocks, tiptoed down the sideline before cutting across the field and racing to the EZ untouched. This time, the two-point attempt succeeded, Jordan hitting Flowers. Florida State 17 Southern Miss 14 (6:28)
    The Garnet and Gold defense preserved the lead the rest to avoid ending the dream of an undefeated season after only one game.


  • The vaunted FSU passing attack sputtered. Woodham and Jordan combined for just 14 completions in 33 attempts with one INT.
  • The Noles outgained USM by only 58, 258-200.
  • FSU won by amassing 116y in returns to 0 for their visitors.

Bowden afterwards: Thank goodness our defense played like world champions! Our offense had the worst case of stage fright I think I've ever seen. I don't think there was a receiver who didn't drop a pass, or a back who didn't run the wrong way.

Continued below ...

References: Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football,
Bobby Bowden with Mark Schlabach (2010)
Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Game Two: Arizona State @ Tampa
The Seminoles moved up one notch in the AP poll to 18th after defeating USM 17-14 in the season opener.
  • The Noles prepared to face Arizona State. Some FSU fans resented the fact that the home game was moved to Tampa in response to agitation from Noles fans in that area.
  • FSU had met the Sun Devils in the first Fiesta Bowl in 1971, losing a 45-38 thriller.
  • Frank Kush's squad was led by QB Mark Malone. The Devils of the Pacific-10 Conrerence had lost at home to California.
Bobby Bowden expected a much better performance than his squad's lackluster effort against the Golden Eagles. And he got it in a came played in a pouring rain before 33,484.
  • Q1: As usual, Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham alternated under C.
    The misting rain caused both offenses to start slowly.
    In the final minutes of the period, DB Monk Bonasorte, a junior from Pittsburgh, picked off a Malone pass and returned it to the ASU 19 to set up the first score.
    Two plays later, Woodham connected with Jackie Flowers for an 18y TD. Dave Cappelen's PAT made it 7-0 with 0:42 on the clock.
  • Q2: The Seminoles put the game away with a 17-point explosion, 10 of which were set up by the defense.
    Greg Ramsey's 50y run started a 58y drive that consumed just four plays and culminated in Mark Lyles' 1y plunge. 14-0
    Bonasarte's second pick set up a 32y Cappelen FG. 17-0
    ASU turned the ball over again on their next possession when NG Ron Sim­mons recovered a fumble. Jordan soon hit TE Grady King with an 8y TD pass.
  • Q3: The Sun Devils finally got the board via a 39y FG by Scott Peterson with 9:56 left in the quarter.
  • Q4: Jordan engineered an 86y drive that took 10 plays. The final 15 came on his second TD pass of the night, this one to freshman RB Ricky Williams with 1:56 left to make it 31-3.

L: Simmons tackles ASU runner. R: James Ramsey probes the ASU defense.
  • FSU led in first downs only 15-12. But they compiled 333y of offense to just 123 for ASU.
  • Woodham went 6-for-11 for 70y with one INT. Jordan's ledger showed 12-for-23 for 155y.
  • Ramsey topped the Noles in rushing with 59y on 10 carries.

Coach Kush raved about Simmons.

Awesome! Unbelievable! We tried everything. Double-teaming, running away from him, axing, holding - you name it! That No. 50 ate our lunch. He may be the best NG I've ever seen.

Longtime FSU assistant coach Jim Gladden recalled: Simmons was the firt real marquee guy we were able to land ... When I first came here (1976), we were picking up leftovers after Auburn, Florida, Georgia, and even Miami had first picks.
Bowden remembered the topsy-turvy recruitment of the All-America NG. Ron Sim­mons was probably the best recruiting story of my time. You just don't go into Georgia and easily get a player. He had exactly what you were looking for. And he showed it right away. ...
I'll never forget about recruiting him. He had already committed to Florida State. A week before signing day, Ron Simmons is at his high school basketball game, and
[LB coach] Gene McDowell is up there watching him. Now I'm down here in my office, and Gene calls me and said, "Coach, you got to get back up here. Ron Sim­mons say he's not coming to Florida State. He's mad as heck. He's as mad as can be."
I asked what happened.
And Gene said, "They announced on television tonight you are going to Ole Miss as the head coach."
Georgia got the guy at the television station to say that. That's how far Georgia went on this. ...
Well, Ron thought I had been lying to him all this time. I had to get in my car and drive up there.
And then we couldn't find him. We thought Georgia must have hid him. And Gene finally found him. We sat him down and said, "Son, someone is just lying about that."
He was OK after that. That was a real trick they played on us.
I thought it was
[Georgia], and the guy who [leaked the false report] at Georgia - he isn't there now - told me about it later. He said, "You didn't know we did this to you, did you?"
And I said, "I thought you did."
Game Three: Miami
Now came a game the Noles had been waiting for since the previous season - a chance to beat the Hurricanes for the first time in Tallahassee.
  • Florida State, "regarded as the top independent in the South" (to quote the AP writer), carried its #14 ranking into the clash with Howard Schnellenberger's unranked club, which had won its season opener.
  • FSU rated a solid 10-point favorite. But Bowden didn't put much stock in that. Another tough one - it's a state rivalry. You know what I mean - Florida boys going against Florida boys. High school teammates going against high school teammates. Heck, in this one we even have Tallahassee boys going against Tallahassee boys.
  • Bobby had enjoyed his first victory over the 'Canes in 1978, 31-21 in the Orange Bowl.

Five turnovers will usually get you beat, and that's 47,679 saw happen to the Hur­ricanes.

  • Q1: Woodham played most of the first half but passed sparingly. He led the Noles to the first score of the game, a 26y FG by Cappelen. FSU 3-0 (9:12 left in Q1)
    HB Chris Hobbs scored on a 10y run to propel Miami into a short-lived 7-3 lead.
  • Q2: Once again, the second 15 minutes proved the charm for the Seminoles, as they scored 16 to take a 12-point halftime lead.
    Bonasarte struck again, repeating his performance against ASU with two picks off Mike Rodrigue in the period.
    Four plays into the period, Lyles scored from the 4 to give the Noles a lead they never relinquished. FSU 10-7 (12:30)
    An INT by Bobby Butler on the next Miami series set up a 28y Cappelen FG. FSU 13-7 (6:21)
    UM's punter let his knee touch the ground at the Hurricane 15 late in the half, and FSU took advantage of the mistake. Six plays later, Lyles plunged over from the 1. A Jordan pass failed on the 2-point try. FSU 19-7 (0:22)
  • Q3: Wally led the offense the entire period.
    Set up in good position at the UM 37, FSU gave the ball repeatedly to Ramsey, who gained 32 of the remaining yards, including the final 3. Cappelen's PAT made it 26-7 with 10:58 remaining.
    With only 1:52 on the clock, Ramsey scored again, a 2y blast that capped a 30y drive set up by a Keith Jones INT. FSU 33-7
  • Q4: Backup QB Jim Kelly sparked Miami to two TDs, the first on his 2y sneak with 11:29 showing. The two-point conversion cut the margin to 33-16.
    For the second time in three games, Gary Henry returned a punt for a score. This one covered 57y. FSU 40-16 (10:00).
    Jim Joiner's 9y run and another 2-point conversion with 7:58 remaining made the final score more respectable.
    FSU 40 Miami 23


  • Rodrigue, who had passed for 313y in the 'Canes opener against Louisville, finished his miserable night 5-of-18 for 67y.
  • Woodham completed 9-of-15 for 93y. Jordan had an off night, hitting just 4-of-11 with two INTs.

Schnellenberger: I knew we were coming into a hornets' nest. Florida State is a good team that could become a great team.

Bonasarte later recalled the key to his four INTs in two games. We had Ron Simmons on the line, Paul Piurowski and Reggie Herring at LB, and a bunch of other great players on defense. When people don’t have a lot of time to throw the football, and people are throwing long Hail Marys because you're ahead, it's a lot easier for me to intercept passes. A defensive back is only as good as his defensive line.

References: Tales from the Seminoles Sideline,Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis (2004)
Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)

Continued below ...

Frank Kush

Mark Malone

Greg Ramsey

Ron Simmons

Ricky Williams

Howard Schnellenberger

Bobby Butler

Sam Platt stretches for a completion.

Keith Jones

Jim Kelly

Bill Dooley

Jimmy Jordan

Cyrus Lawrence

James Gilbert

Ed Richardson

Scott Warren

Sam Childers

Game Four: @Virginia Tech
After winning three straight home games to start the 1979 season, the Seminoles, #12 in the AP poll and #10 in UPI, hit the road for their next two contests. It takes good defense to win on the road and that's exactly what FSU got.
  • First up was fellow independent Virginia Tech, a team the Noles had played every season since 1961. The game would be telecast by ABC in the southeastern region at 12:30 ET.
  • The Hokies of second-year coach Bill Dooley were also undefeated but against less-than-stellar opposition: @Louisville (15-14), Appalachian State (41-32), and William & Mary (35-14).
  • Dooley: I think our football players are ready to accept the challenge of playing a team that's nationally ranked. ... They're putting a lot of points on the board. Any time you have an offense such as they have ... your defense is gonna get a test.
  • The Seminole QB tandem of Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham had passed for 513y while FB Mark Lyles led the rushers with 211.
  • Bobby Bowden: You now those Hokies are really going to have an advantage playing this one on their home field. Nothing is going to come easy this week.
  • VPI featured a running attack with three solid ball carriers: Kenny Lewis (381y), Mickey Fitzgerald (198y), and freshman Cyrus Lawrence (192y). QB Steve Casey had passed for 382y and run for 111 more.
It took the Seminoles a while to get going on a rainy, misty day in Blacksburg.
  • Q1: The FSU offense was plagued by dropped balls and three INTs by CB Paul Davis, which tied a VPI record.
    The Hokies excited the crowd of 39,000 when Lawrence took a pitch from Casey and sped 40y down the sidelines. The TD culminated a drive that covered 88y in ten plays. VPI 7 FSU 0 (1:30 on the clock)
    Falling behind woke up the visitors' offense, which took the ensuing kickoff and drove 71y in only six plays to tie the game.
  • Q2: The score came on the first play of the period when Greg Ramsey ran outside tackle and cut wide to pay dirt from 16y out. Dave Cappelen booted the PAT. FSU 7 VPI 7 (14:54)
    Jordan relieved Woodham with 10:13 left and marched the Seminoles 80y in 14 plays. Jimmy threw into the EZ from the 18 to Jackie Flowers who leaped high to take the ball from two Tech defenders near the back line. Two Jordan passes that looked like sure TDs had been dropped by Seminole receivers prior to the 6-pointer. The Jordan-Flowers combo also hooked up for the key play of the drive, a 24y completion when FSU faced a 3rd-and-22 at the Tech 37. That was one of four 3rd down conversions on the drive. FSU 14 VPI 7 (5:33)
    Jerome Pannell's 45y return on an INT gave the Gobblers a first down on the FSU 31 late in the period. But Dennis Laury's 32y FG try sailed wide left.
  • Q3: Each team banged through a FG during the period. VPI took the kickoff and drove 53y to the 28, from where Laury connected on a 44-yarder to pull the Hokies within four points. FSU 14 VPI 10 (11:36)
    In the waning moments, Cappelen's boot from the 10 extended the lead back to seven. FSU 17 VPI 10 (1:07)
  • Q4: Neither team scored in the final 15 minutes. FSU NG Ron Simmons, who always seemed to play his best before the TV cameras, won his third ABC-TV/Chevrolet Award as selected by the TV announcers. Ron was credited with eight tackles, including three for losses as the Noles held the vaunted VPI rushing attack to 164y on 47 carries, well below their 323y average coming into the contest.
    FSU 17 VPI 10


  • FSU led in first downs 23-13 and in total offense 436-282.
  • Woodham completed 12-of-22 for 183y with 1 INT. Jordan hit 8 of 19 for a TD but 3 INTs and only 139y.

Bowden on his 100th victory as a head coach (against 43 defeats): She wasn't pretty, but she was a win. A lot of it on O has to do with the play calling, and I'm responsible for a lot of that junk we called.

Game Five: @Louisville
The Noles moved up to #9 in the AP poll.
  • "Upset-minded" Louisville had lost their first two games to VPI and Miami but won their next two against Cincinnati and Drake.
  • Vince Gibson led the Cardinals for the fifth season.

The FSU defense smothered the Cardinals and was directly responsible for 11 points, including two safeties.

  • Q1: Midway through, Bobby Butler picked off a pass by Stu Stram and returned it 16y to give FSU great field position at the UL 30. Woodham fired a 15y pass to Gator Cherry to the 15. On the seventh and final play of the possession, Wally tossed a 5y pass to Sam Platt. FSU 7 Louisville 0
  • Q2: Right after the period began, the Cardinals lined up to punt from deep in their territory. But C Jim Miller's high snap went through the outstretched hands of P Dave Betz and into the EZ. Betz picked up the ball and ran it out of the back of the EZ. The closest pursuer, NG James Gilbert, received credit for the safety. FSU 9 Louisville 0
    The Seminoles drove close enough for Cappelen to try a 29y FG, but he missed with 10:22 on the clock.
    38 seconds before halftime, another bad snap from Miller caused Betz to hurry a punt, and DE Ed Richardson blocked the kick. Butler fell on the pigskin in the EZ. Woodham's pass for the two-point conversion failed. FSU 15 Louisville 0 (0:38)
  • Q3: Scott Warren produced the second safety when he blocked a punt out of the EZ after another faulty pass from C. FSU 17 Louisville 0 (7:14)
    The Seminoles started from their 44 after the free kick and marched to a TD in 13 plays. Lyles carried the ball eight times for 28y. After two unsuccessful runs from the 1, Woodham surprised the defense with a short scoring pass to TE Sam Childers. FSU 24 Louisville 0 (0:01)
  • Q4: Cappelen ended the scoring with a 36y FG. FSU 27 Louisville (8:15)

L: John Madden breaks up a pass. R: Gator Cherry confronts a defender.


  • FSU held Louisville to a mere 93y in total offense, including a measly 7 rushing in 34 attempts. (Sacks count against the rushing total in NCAA football.) The Cards managed only five first downs.
  • The Tribe offense kept the ball on the ground most of the night, amassing 23 first downs and 275y. FB Mark Lyles accounted for 118 of those in 22 carries.
  • The Noles threw only 15 passes, the lowest number since the 1976 season. Eight were completed with 1 INT for just 60y.

References: Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)

Continued below ...
Game Six: Mississippi State
The #9 Seminoles (5-0) hosted the Bulldogs (2-2) in a night game.
  • Mississippi State came off a big 28-9 win over Tennessee. New head coach Emory Bellard installed the wishbone offense that he invented while a high school coach in Texas. The Bulldogs deployed one of the best WRs in the country in Mardye McDole. The senior had only six receptions but averaged better than 30y per catch with three TDs. HB James Jones led the rushing attack with 202y. LB Don Edwards was the key man in the 4-3 defense. FSU D-coordinator Jack Stanton called MSU's front four "one of the best in the country."
  • The Seminoles wanted revenge for a 55-27 thrashing in Starkville the year before in which the Dogs gained 596y of total offense. But scoring on the '79 defense would be much more difficult. Led by NG Ron Simmons, the Noles held Louisville to 97 total yards the previous week.
  • Bobby Bowden announced that Wally Woodham would start at QB for the sixth straight week but said Jimmy Jordan would play "only if needed."
A record Doak Campbell crowd of 48,701 saw the Seminoles bottle up the MSU wishbone.
  • Q1: Neither offense did much during the first 15 minutes, which ended scoreless.
    FSU RB Gator Cherry turned his ankle on the first series.
    Later in the period, Woodham was stunned by a jarring sack and replaced by Jimmy Jordan. Wally had completed 3-of-5 for 38y prior to being replaced.

    Keith Jones and Ivory Joe Hunter chase down a Bulldog.
  • Q2: The Seminoles got the first break of the game on the Bulldogs' first possession of the period when RB James Otis Doss fumbled, and Monk Bonasorte recovered at the MSU 35.
    Jordan hit Jackie Flowers over the middle for 16. But three straight runs lost 3y, and Dave Cappelen missed a 37y FG.
    The Seminoles were fortunate that QB Dwayne Brown had a 60y run called back because of illegal procedure. Brown broke free on the option play and wasn't run down until he reached the 15. The drive then stalled, and a poor punt set up the first score of the game.
    Taking over on the MSU 44, Jordan drove FSU to a TD in seven plays. On second and 4, Jimmy hit Flowers over the middle for 9 and a first down at the 33. After two runs gained a first down at the 22, Jordan again went to Flowers, lofting the ball into the deep right corner of the EZ. Jackie couldn't catch it, but DB Willie Jackson was called for face guarding. That gave FSU a first down at the 1. Two plays later, Michael Whiting scored. Cappelen added his 200th career EP. Florida State 7 Mississippi State 0 (5:40 left)
    Jordan moved his offense 2y late in the period to double the lead. On 2nd and 10 from the FSU 38, Jimmy hit Whiting out of the backfield for 18y. Then the QB scrambled for 14y on 2nd down to move the chains to the 28. Staying with the passing game, Jordan hit TE Grady King on a slant pattern over the middle for 17. After two passes lost 6y, Jordan went to the team's leading receiver, Flowers, who outjumped two defenders and came down with the ball. Florida State 14 Mississippi State 0 (0:14)
    The Bulldogs gained only 50y, all on the ground, the entire half.
    Flowers on his TD catch: We both jumped up, and he (Jackson) took a swing at it and missed. That's when I blinked, grabbed it with my arms and fell down. I don't know how I caught it.
  • Q3: Jordan's good play didn't carry over after the intermission. On FSU's second snap, he tried to hit King at midfield, but Kenny Johnson stepped in front of King and returned to the 24.
    On first down, Brown picked up 19 on the option. But that was the closest the Maroons could get. Dwayne pitched to Doss twice, but Doss fumbled the ball out of bounds both times to set up 3rd and goal at the 10. Forced to go to the air, Brown attempted to hit All-America SE Mardy McDole in the corner of the EZ, but Bobby Butler made a diving INT to stop the drive.
    Woodham returned to action but couldn't manage a first down, and Rohn Stark punted to the MSU 30, where Don Burrell fumbled, DE Edenbur Richardson recovering at the 29.
    The Bulldog D stiffened and forced a 46y FG by Cappelen. Florida State 17 Mississippi State 0 (6:17)
  • Q4: With FSU determined to match the opponents' physicality, the Bulldogs had ten players leave the game with injuries.
    A Seminole drive ended when Flowers dropped a pass on 3rd-and-8 to force a punt.
    MSU lost a great scoring chance when Doss fumbled at the 5 after a jarring hit by DB Keith Jones. The ball rolled into the EZ where Richardson covered it for a touchback. It was the Dogs' third lost fumble of the evening to go with two INTs.
    The visitors avoided a shutout in the final minutes as Michael Haddix scored from the 2. Florida State 17 Mississippi State 7 (1:10)
    Years later, Monk Bonasarte remembered the Mississippi State game. They were running the dang wishbone. Against the wishbone, you just played as tight as you could on the line, and didn’t worry about the pass. We had Bobby Butler covering the receiver man-to-man. You just played run, and I had another one of those games with 15 tackles. My responsibility was to line up over the C, 4 or 5y behind the LBs, and let the LBs take blocks. I either had the pitch or QB on the option. That was a physical game. I got hit in the second or third quarter and got knocked out. I played another quarter, and finally came to my senses and didn't really know where the hell I was. They took me off the field, and I spent about two days in the hospital. When I looked at the film, I played a lot better not knowing what I was doing than when I did know what I was doing.


  • Woodham and Jordan combined to complete just 11 of 28 attempts for only 120y, five less than the FSU ground game. Wally was only 4-of-16 for just 44y.
  • The Bulldogs piled up 282y in the second half but had only seven points to show for it.


  • Bowden: The defense played great again, but I was very upset with us offensively. I can't believe that we cannot play throw-and-catch any better than that. We threw so many bad passes that I was ready to pull my hair out. We had receivers d ropping balls time and again, or else they couldn't keep their feet inbounds when they did catch them. ... They were so physical. We looked like pygmies out there beside them. I'm sure that their size affected our QBs who had to throw over them, but I'm still disappointed we couldn't catch the ball. When someone pointed out that FSU got many breaks, Bobby replied: Oh, I don't know about getting that many breaks. We gave them a couple with those roughing the kicker calls to about even it out. ... I learned a long time ago that it doesn't matter how you win. Last year against MSU, we scored 27 points and had almost 500y of offense, but lost. I'd much rather have these 17 points and win.
  • Jordan: I can't tell you what's wrong with the offense. We have the best offensive line since I've been here. The receivers are pretty much the same, but there is something missing.
  • Flowers had his own explanation for the poor play of the receivers. Maybe the coaches have too much confidence in us, but we're just not practicing ball drills enough during the week. All we do is practice our routes. But I've been telling them we need more work on just catching the ball.
  • Simmons: I thought they were aggressive. We knew we had to intimidate them from the beginning.
  • Richardson, who recovered two fumbles: We really wanted the shutout. This had to be my best game. I played with some intensity. I gained some personal satisfaction from beating them after what they did to us last year.
  • Bellard: We really started to compete in the second half, but you have to remember we had some important people out. We moved the ball pretty well in the first half, but we kept stopping ourselves with penalties. We didn't complete a pass because our protection for the passer broke down.

Florida State now enjoyed an off week before tackling the final five games of its schedule.

Game Seven: @LSU
Unknown to anyone outside of Bobby Bowden, his wife, and maybe a few close friends, the impending game in Baton Rouge meant more than just an opportunity to extend Florida State's 10-game winning streak.
  • Charlie McClendon's (forced) retirement was announced by LSU prior to the 1979 season. That allowed AD Paul Dietzel time to find a new head football coach ... the best available from among the ranks of proven head collegiate football coaches. The man Dietzel had his eye on was Bowden.
  • Bowden recalled: At that time Florida State wasn't thought of. I had the support here [FSU], but it was kind of like Southern Mississippi – do you think they can do it? No. ... I was kind of in a quandary in Tallahassee, because I'm not sure we can do it. It wasn't just my thinking but anybody's thinking. It was like, "Bobby, if you get the LSU job, take it."
  • According to Bowden, Dietzel had inquired as early as September about his interest in the job. Bobby made it clear that he wouldn't make any decision until after the season. Dietzel promised to call back every two weeks or so. So they agreed on a code. Dietzel would say, "This is his brother Paul" when contacting Bobby. The week before the LSU-FSU game, Dietzel told Bowden, "We want you."
  • Bobby decided to base his decision on the outcome of the game in Tiger Stadium. If we go in with this undefeated football team and we can't beat them, they might just be a better program. We'll never be able to beat them. If they beat us, I just might take the job. But if we beat them, hey, maybe we can be as good as them.
  • Early in the week, Bobby called the upcoming contest the biggest football game in FSU history. Little did anyone know the full significance of the statement.
  • Jim Lampley on the ABC broadcast of the FSU-LSU game alluded to the rumors that Bowden would replace McClendon. However, word out of Tallahassee was that Florida State had offered a five-year extension.

The Tigers were 4-2 after beating Kentucky 23-19.

  • LSU and Florida State had met only once - a 31-27 Tiger victory in the inaugural Peach Bowl in 1968. The 1979 game represented the first of five straight in Baton Rouge that former FSU AD John Bridgers had scheduled.
  • Both teams alternated QBs. For LSU, Steve Ensminger was the better passer while David Woodley ran the option play better.
  • FSU QB Wally Woodham was expected to be at full strength after undergoing wisdom tooth surgery during the open week.
  • How much help in preparation would LSU get from their offensive line coach, FSU grad Jerry Bruner, who spent the previous three years on the staff at his alma mater? Bruner called NG Ron Simmons a one-man wrecking crew. Everybody that plays them has to double- or triple-team him. He looks like Mr. Universe. Simmons was the third fastest man on the team and bench pressed 525 lb. They have over 50 players that can bench press over 300 pounds. They don't have an offensive or defensive lineman who can't press over 300 pounds.
  • The Times-Picayune previewed the game this way: If LSU backs can run with some success and the Tigers can keep the ball away from Seminoles, should be interesting game.
  • The morning of the game, Bowden revealed to ABC Sports that Jordan would make his first start of the season and play the entire game. Bobby promised the offensive game plan would not be as conservative as those of the previous six contests.

67,197 gathered in the afternoon to view the game that was televised to 84% of the nation on ABC.

  • Q1: The second play of the game set the tone for the first half. LSU FB Jude Hernandez took a pass from QB Steve Ensminger for 10 and a first down but fumbled. Monk Bonasarte, always Johnny on the spot, recovered at the LSU 32. It was not the last miscue that would hurt the Tigers badly.
    Jordan immediately went to the home run ball but overthrew Jackie Flowers at the goal line. A three-down completion for 26y on a wheel route to Michael Whiting put the ball on the 9. Three plays later, 3y toss to Sam Platt slanting in from the right inside of Whiting climaxed the drive. Florida State 7 LSU 0 (11:49)
    Two series later, a 20y completion to WR Carlos Carson and a 23y run by Hokie Gajan put the ball on the 8. With a chance to tie, the Bengals let Simmons break through and throw Ensminger back to the 13. On the next play, Steve connected with Carson from the 13 for an apparent TD. But offensive pass interference nullified the play. Following that frustration, Don Barthel's 45y FG try fell short.
    Shortly afterwards, Jordan threw down the middle to Flowers for 44y to the 15. But after three plays gained only 5y, Capellen missed a 27y FG.
    David Woodley took over at QB and led the Tigers to two first downs before a 3rd-down sack by blitzing DB Gary Henry forced a punt.
    On the final play of the period, LSU DB Chris Williams gathered in a Rohn Stark punt and raced 44y to the 5 as the period came to a close.
  • Q2: On 3rd down, Gajan dove over from the 1. Florida State 7 LSU 7 (13:55)
    Even against the breeze, Jordan continued to pass two out of every three plays. But the first possession resulted in a three-and-out.
    Starting from their 45, LSU mounted a 10-play drive to take the lead. Gajan and Leroid Jones slashed off each corner for good gains to move the chains. Woodley did the honors on a keeper from the 2. But Barthel missed the PAT. LSU 13 Florida State 7 (7:22)
    The Tiger defense kept the momentum by pressuring Jordan and forcing punts on the next two FSU possessions. With three minutes left, LSU began to move again from their 29. Gajan's 28y scamper with a pitch moved the ball to the FSU 46. Two plays later, freshman TB Jesse Myles came into the game and fumbled the first handoff. Scott McLean recovered for FSU at their 48 with only 1:30 on the clock.
    But that was more than enough for the Noles to regain the lead. On the very first play, freshman WR Hardis Johnson broke behind the secondary on a post route, gathered in the pass at the 8, and fell into the EZ. Florida State 14 LSU 13 (1:22)

    Hardis Johnson snares TD pass behind Chris Williams.
    Amazingly, the Seminoles got another shot a points before the intermission. Lionel Wallis took a pass, began to run, but fumbled when hit, and Ivory Joe Hunter recovered at the FSU 46. Jordan threw deep on the first play to Grady King, but three defenders were all over him. After an incompletion, Johnson took a pass across the middle to the 34. FSU called a timeout with 5 seconds left and sent Bill Capece, the long kicker, to try a 51y FG that fell short and wide.
    LSU had outplayed the visitors but three turnovers had allowed FSU to leave the field with a one-point advantage. The Tigers outrushed FSU 139-23.
  • Q3: Jordan continued to have trouble completing passes against the "Soul Patrol" secondary that included four future NFL players. Fortunately, Stark's punting kept the Tigers caged, twice punting inside their 10.
    Despite starting two possessions near midfield, the Seminoles could not get close enough even for a FG try. Midway through the period, Jordan threw long to Johnson down the left sideline at the 10. But Hardis had the ball go through his hands, bounce off his knee high into the air. That gave Willie Teal an opportunity to snag the INT and return to the LSU 45.
    The Bengals made one first down but could go no further. So the 15 minutes ended with no scoring.
  • Q4: On the second play, Jordan threw a bomb to Flowers, 37y on the fly to the Tiger 35. The FSU gunslinger then overthrew Johnson sprinting into the end zone. Two plays later, Jimmy threw down the middle. The ball deflected off the hand of DB Williams to Flowers, who trotted into the EZ. Florida State 21 LSU 13

    Jackie Flowers grabs TD pass on deflection off Chris Williams.
    Woodley completed a 37y pass to Carson to the FSU 44. But two snaps later, David overthrew his receiver straight to Bonasarte, who made his sixth INT of the season.
    That started a drive that included a nice mix of passing and running to a 1st-and-goal at the 8. But Lyman White intercepted a 3rd down pass in the EZ and ran out to the 3 to repel the thrust.
    When three plays went nowhere, FSU got outstanding field position after Henry returned the punt to the 29.
    Staying on the ground, the Noles pushed to the 13, from where Cappelen booted a 31y FG. Florida State 24 LSU 13 (4:53)
    But the Tigers came right back. Ensminger fired to WR Tracy Porter for 19, then to Orlando McDaniel for 22 and 16 to the 12. From there, Ensminger lofted an alley oop to Carson running under it in the EZ. Steve's pass for two extra points was knocked down. Florida State 24 LSU 19 (3:22)
    With two timeouts remaining, McClendon decided to kick deep and hope that his defense could get a quick stop. But Jordan connected with Flowers for 29y to the LSU 48. Then FB Mark Lyles took the ball on a Statue of Liberty play and rambled to the 18 - a back breaker. On 4th down and less than 30 seconds left, FSU ran the ball rather than try a FG.
    With 0:08 on the clock, Ensminger threw a long desperation pass that the Monk took in (INT #7) to finally clinch the victory.
    The Noles carried Bowden across the field to greet McClendon.

Watch the entire game.


  • FSU outgained LSU 436-334. As expected, the Noles gained more aerial yardage (312-175), but the Tigers prevailed on the ground (but only 159-124).
  • Jordan completed just 14 of 31 throws but gained an average of 22.3y per completion. Flowers led the Garnet receivers with six catches for 174y.


Emory Bellard

Mardye McDole

Paul Purowski and Jarvis Coursey pull down a Bulldog.

Monk Bonasarte drags down the ball carrier.

Gator Cherry

Michael Whiting

Edenbur Richardson

Michael Haddix

Charles McClendon

Ron Simmons

Steve Ensminger

David Woodley

Sam Platt

Carlos Carson

Hokie Gajan

Gary Henry

Chris Williams

Scott McLean

Hardis Johnson

Willie Teal


  • Bowden: When Jimmy comes in the game, somebody is going to score - either them or us. LSU's coverage was predictable. It was perfect for Jimmy's rifle arm - his fast ball. He could shred 'em. Asked if the infamous Tiger Stadium crowd noise bothered his QB, Bobby replied: Jimmy don't get excited about nothing. ... We like to call plays without a huddle. But we were afraid we couldn't do it here because of the crowd noise. We tried it on the second play and couldn't do it. Woodham is very good at audibling and checking off at the line of scrimmage. We just decided to call the plays in the huddle and let Jimmy stay in there and strong-arm it. On the daring second down pass from the FSU 22 right after LSU pulled to within five points: There was no doubt in my mind that we had to get away from our goal.
  • Flowers on Jordan, won ABC's Most Valuable Player award: We have a lot of confidence in Jimmy, and he has a lot of confidence in his receivers. Jimmy likes to gamble. On the LSU secondary: They ain't slow. They didn't respect us deep. They were squattin' on us, so we just gave 'em a move and broke off.
  • Johnson echoed that view. They were not disciplined. They took the moves. They expected the out or curl, and we just blew right past them.
  • McClendon: You're supposed to pay for your mistakes, and we did. We fought back about as hard as we know how. We played hard - although it's obvious we didn't play very well - but you can't make the mistakes we did and win. But we just played a very fine football team. They deserve to be where they are. They took advantage of our mistakes and a good football team does that.
  • Williams on the TD over him right before the half: He just laid it rightin his hands. He had a step on me, and I just couldn't catch him. Their QB drilled the ball right on the numbers most of the time, and when he did throw incomplete, it was usually on purpose. ... I've never been in a game in which team threw so many long passes. It seems like they threw the ball three downs in a row.
  • Gajan: They were a lot better than I thought. I looked at their record, it's 6-0 but they didn't really play anyone that tough. But they're good. ... In the first half, we could run outside on them. We had the trap play and the pitch going well. It looked like in the second half Florida State came out deciding to stop the pitch. They did that. Then we had to go to throwing, and we had trouble giving the QB time to throw the ball.
    Years later, Jimmy Jordan recalled the game in Tiger Stadium. It was a day game ... but it was still amazing to play in that place. I'll never forget how quiet that place was after we won.
    Monk Bonasarte: That was one of the most intimidating stadiums I'd every played in.

References: Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Tales from the Seminole Sidelines, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis, 2004
Continued below ...

Tony Kapetanis

Ron Simmons

Gary Henry

Game Eight: @Cincinnati
The 7-0 Seminoles, now #6 in the AP poll, headed to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats.
  • With Cincinnati having won only two of their seven games, Florida State rated a heavy favorite.
  • But the Bearcats had come to Tallahassee in 1978 and nearly left with a victory. The Seminoles had to score with 1:29 remaining on Sam Platt's 54y TD reception to pull out a 26-21 victory.
  • Bowden said, Cincinnati just scares the daylights out of me. His fear would be justified, especially with Ron Simmons sidelined with an injury.
FSU had defeated Cincinnati at home 26-21 in 1978 on a 4th-and-29 play with 1:29 left. The Noles would win on the road by that same score before a crowd of only 14,539 on a cool afternoon in Nippert Stadium, the fourth oldest in college football.
  • Q1: Monk Bonasarte intercepted a pass on the Bearcats' first series. Jimmy Jordan immediately led an eight-play TD drive that ended with FB Mark Lyles crashing over from the 1 less than five minutes into the game. Dave Cappelen booted the PAT. Florida State 7 Cincinnati 0 (10:55)
    But the Seminoles would not score again in the half. The Cats shut off FSU's vaunted passing game by double covering the wide receivers.
  • Q2: After the home team failed to register a first down in the first 15 minutes, junior QB Tony Kapetanis from Coral Springs FL capped a 61y drive with a 15y completion to freshman WR Ralph Williams. Florida State 7 Cincinnati 7 (9:30)
    A little less than two minutes later following a fumble recovery by Don Phillips at the FSU 28, Kapetanis put Cincy in the lead with a 9y run. Cincinnati 14 Florida State 7 (7:36)
    In the final minutes, a 39y run by Ellis Johnson sparked a 69y drive that ended with a 1y run by Kapetanis to send the jubilant Bearcats to the locker room with a two TD lead. Cincinnati 21 Florida State 7 (0:39)
  • Q3: Simmons went in to start the half. Even though not 100%, he made the difference as the Bearcats would score zilch the rest of the way.
    Jordan came back out for the first series but, when the lack of production continued, Wally Woodham took over on the next possession from the FSU 44. The move paid off as he led a 13-play drive that consumed 7:35 on the clock and carried over into the final period.
  • Q4: After two fourth down plays succeeded, Wally hit Lyles with a 7y scoring pass. However, the two-point conversion attempt failed. Cincinnati 21 Florida State 13 (10:57)
    Cincinnati came right back and drove to the Tribe 28 before the drive stalled on a 7y sack.
    Woodham continued the FSU comeback by engineering a 10-play march that covered 65y to pay dirt. The score came on a 6y pass to WR Jackie Flowers, who caught the ball in the corner of the EZ. Once again, the two-point try misfired. Cincinnati 21 Florida State 19 (4:50)
    The Bearcats moved the sticks once on their next possession to eat up more time before FSU forced a punt. With the blocking wall set up beautifully, Gary Henry returned the boot 38y to the Cincy 40 with 2:40 left.
    On the first snap, Woodham threw a flare pass to Lyles. The big FB ate up 31y to the 9 - easy FG range. But after freshman Ricky Williams gained a yard, TB Mike Whiting bolted up the middle into the EZ. Cappelen booted the PAT. Florida State 26 Cincinnati 21 (1:38)


  • FSU dominated the statistics, rolling up 24 first downs to 13 for Cincy, winning the rushing battle 242-132 (142 of the ground yards coming from Lyles), and gaining more passing yards 168-106.
  • But two lost fumbles contributed to the three-touchdown Q2 for the Bearcats.


  • Bowden on his QB coming off the bench to lead the victory: It's been like that for four years. If one is a little bit off, the other one goes in and has a hot hand. However, this game scared him. I thought we were beat. I thought we were whipped. ... They are a good team. They had a good game planned for us. Concerning the big plays by Henry and Lyles in the last minutes: I had a good alibi ready. Then those crazy guys go out and win the game.
  • Woodham: I knew he'd make a change when he felt he needed to. Jimmy wasn't having a bad game. We just couldn't get anything going.
  • Cincinnati coach Ralph Staub said Florida State "deserved to win." We were as ready for them as we possibly could be. We've got a lot of respect for them.
During the next week, Florida State offered Bowden a new contract guaranteeing $125,090 a year in total income. He signed in time for the homecoming game against South Carolina.
The next issue of Sports Illustrated hit the newstands and mail boxes with this cover.
Despite listing the Seminoles as a contender for #1, SI didn't think much of their chances.

For Florida State, the row to hoe is even longer because it is an independent and can command no sympathy vote from conference boosters. The Seminoles' strategy is to point to its schedule. Among the undefeated six, the Seminoles had played the hardest slate going into last Saturday's games, the seventh roughest in the nation. Florida State was the only team among the biggies whose opponents had won more than they lost this year (28-23). A poor running game diminishes the Seminoles' credibility. But their defense, led by outstanding Nose-guard Ron Simmons, and an imposing passing game save the day, as it did last Saturday. Yet, Florida State still is not thought of as a big-enough football power—even though it is—to get serious national championship consideration. Which doesn't stop its players or fans from dreaming.

Game Nine: South Carolina
The narrow victory over Cincinnati dropped the Noles to #7 in the next AP poll.
  • An independent like Florida State, South Carolina came to Tallahassee ranked #19 thanks to their 6-2 record.
  • Included in their list of victories were a 27-20 triumph at Georgia and home wins over Oklahoma State (23-18) and Ole Miss (21-14).
  • But USC gained more national attention for its loss at South Bend two weeks earlier, an 18-17 heartbreaker.
  • Worry wart Bowden feared the Gamecocks had just the recipe to derail his undefeated express.

    They're a ground control football team. They like to run the power sweep, they like to run the ends, they just move the football on you.
    Just like us, they have a lot riding on this one. A win over Florida State would help the national rankings and help put those Gamecocks into the bowl picture.

  • The Noles had their own bowl pressure. A loss to South Carolina would erase any dreams of Orange or Sugar Bowl appearances.
  • I just want to keep winning, said Bobby. Winning will take care of the bowl situation, and we'll worry about it when the time comes. Right now, the important thing is for me and this football team to be 9-0 around 10 p.m. Saturday night. ... We're tired and beaten up. There's no doubt about that.
  • The Gamecocks' undisputed leader was TB George Rogers, fresh off a 217y effort in the 30-28 win over North Carolina State.
  • USC had not turned the ball over in three days. Head coach Jim Carlen explained: We had problems turning the ball over early in the season. Our players and coaches have worked extremely hard to minimize our mistakes.
  • The weather forecast listed a possibility of rain to dampen the FSU Homecoming for the 7 p.m. kickoff. The game had been a sellout for a week.

The rain stayed away, and the Seminoles played perhaps their best game of the season to score a surprisingly easy victory in their first home game in nearly a month before the largest crowd in Doak Campbell Stadium history - 49,490.

  • Q1: Woodham started and quarterbacked the entire first half. The Seminoles took control on their first possession, marching 82y. Lyles plunged over from the 1. Florida State 7 South Carolina 0 (9:23)
    Two plays later, DE Scott Warren pounced on a Rogers fumble to set up a 19y FG by Cappelen, the leading scorer in Seminole history. Florida State 10 South Carolina 0 (5:31)
  • Q2: A 90y drive ended with Davey kicking a FG from the 19. Florida State 13 South Carolina 0 (13:45)
    The visitors narrowed the deficit when Rogers rumbled 80y. Florida State 13 South Carolina 7 (13:33)
    Cappelen booted his third FG, a 50-yarder. Florida State 16 South Carolina 7 (5:51)
  • Q3: Jordan took over the signal calling on the third series of the half and kept it the rest of the way.
  • Q4: Sam Childers took a 7y TD pass from Jordan. The same duo connected for the two-point conversion. Florida State 24 South Carolina 7 (9:55)
    Cappelen put the icing on the cake with a 27y FG. Florida State 27 South Carolina 7 (7:01)


  • Lyles ran for 135y, his second straight game over the century mark.
  • FSU led in first downs 23-9. USC won the rushing battle 214-177 (with Rogers producing 187) but the Noles more than made up for that deficit with a 204-51 passing edge.
  • As usually happens, the victors won the turnover battle, recovering three fumbles to offset a bobble and INT by their offense.
  • Woodham finished 15-for-29 with no INT and 145y. Jordan went 6-for-9 with an INT and 59y.

George Rogers

Jim Carlen

  • Bowden: I thought our defense played as well as they can tonight. We had kind of been slipping the past few weeks. So this was mighty good to see. That tailback of theirs is a great one. He scared us to death, especially after that big run.
  • One of the defensive lions was LB Paul Piurowski. He expressed respect but not awe of Rogers. If you hit him up upstairs, he'd run right over you. But if you got down low and hit him, you could take him out.
  • Another staunch defender, NG Ron Simmons, expressed disappointment in the South Carolina star. Except for that big run, I expected more out of him. He's good, but we were definitely keyed up for this game.
    Rogers would win the Heisman Trophy for 1979.

References: Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Tales from the Seminole Sidelines, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis, 2004
To be continued ...

Phil Williams

Rick Stockstill

Keith Kennedy

Kelly Burney

Richard Williamson

1979 - Bobby's First Undefeated Season - VI
Game Ten: Memphis State
The undefeated, fifth-ranked Seminoles hosted the Tigers, a fellow independent.
  • Florida State was being mentioned as a candidate for both the Orange and Gator Bowls. Seminole fans rooted for Auburn to upend Georgia because that would send top-ranked Alabama to the Sugar Bowl.
  • Coach Bowden: I personally think a major bowl would not be making any mis­take by grabbing us to play in their game. Florida State is a mighty exciting football team. We're ready to go someplace. All I would like is a major bowl, and by that I mean a bowl with a good payday.
  • Bowden's Boys had to put aside distractions and take care of business against the Tigers and not look ahead to the annual finale with Florida.
  • FSU could set a school record for consecutive triumphs - 14 - with a victory Saturday night in Doak Campbell Stadium.
  • 4-5 Memphis State seemed to be an easy mark, having been beaten by Northeast Louisiana and Vanderbilt.
  • Bowden: Our players need to realize that they cannot ever let up against any­body. We've become the hunted, and if either of our last two opponents could knock us off, it would make their season. We should win, but sometimes things that should happen don't come true.
  • He cautioned his players not to speculate about bowls. You play football, and let me answer the phone.
Auburn belted Georgia 33-13. So one hour before the 7 PM kickoff in Tallahassee, the Orange Bowl announced it was inviting the Seminoles to play in the New Year's Night classic against the Big Eight Conference champion (Nebraska or Oklahoma).
  • Q1: A jubilant sellout crowd of 48,021 saw the Noles take a while to get go­ing. Dave Cappelen kicked a 19y FG to take an early lead. FSU 3 Memphis State 0 (8:38)
    But later in the period, the Tigers tied it. FSU 3 Memphis State 3 (1:07)
    The Tribe then woke up and scored 49 straight points.
  • Q2: FSU finally scored a TD on a 24y pass from Jimmy Jordan, playing his last home game, to Jackie Flowers. FSU 10 Memphis State 3 (8:34)
    It looked like the score would stand through halftime, but two TDs in 27 seconds changed that prospectus. First, Jordan connected with freshman Hardis Johnson on a 4y scoring pass to cap a 40y drive set up by the FSU defense, which forced the visitors to punt from inside their 10. FSU 17 Mem­phis State 3 (0:45)
    When Memphis mishandled the ensuing short kickoff, Mike Smith recovered for FSU on the 28. Three plays later, Jordan tossed a 5y pass to Grady King in the EZ. FSU 24 Memphis State 3 (0:18)
    Jimmy stayed on the sidelines during the second half. He finished 18-of-29 for 189y.
  • Q3: The home team put the game out of reach with a 28-point explosion. The defense accounted for two of the TDs.
    LB Paul Piurowski picked off a pass and raced 29y to pay dirt. FSU 31 Mem­phis State 3
    Wally Woodham directed a 77y seven-play drive that ended when Mark Lyles scored from the 1, where a 24y pass to Phil Williams had planted the pigskin. FSU 38 Memphis State 3 (9:22)
    A short time later, DB Bobby Butler blocked a punt, and Keith Jones picked up the loose ball on the 16 and rambled over the goal line. FSU 45 Memphis State 10 (7:14)
    A 32y punt return by Gary Henry set up Ricky Williams' 8y run for the final TD of the period. FSU 52 Memphis State 3 (1:48)
  • Q4: With substitutes playing for both sides, the Tigers ended their scoring drought on a 51y pass from Dennis Bradshaw to TE Ken Dunek. FSU 52 Memphis State 10
    With 3rd-string QB Rick Stockstill in charge, senior RB Keith Kennedy plun­ged in from the 1. FSU 59 Memphis State 10 (11:46)
    Later, another backup RB, sophomore Kelly Burney, did the honors from the 1. FSU 66 Memphis State 10 (5:58)
    In the last minute, the Tigers scored on an 11y Bradshaw pass to Anthony Parker. FSU 66 Memphis State 17 (0:11)


The numbers reflected FSU's domination:

  • 31-12 advantage in first downs.
  • 525-239 in total yardage.


  • Bowden: I thought we might have had our minds on something else tonight. I think this game made the Orange Bowl people happy.
  • Jordan: I don't think our minds were on the game in the first quarter. We were thinking bowl. There's no way I can express how happy I am about going to the Orange Bowl.
  • Memphis State coach Richard Williamson praised the Seminoles as the best team his Tigers faced all season. All I can say is that we got beat by a great football team. We were beaten every way you can get beat. Everything Florida State did, they did well.

Charlie Pell walks the sideline before his first FSU game.


Larry Ochab

Cris Collinsworth

Scott Warren

Grady King

Walter Carter

Bill Capece

Chris Faulkner

Ivory Joe Hunter

Game Eleven: Florida
Charlie Pell's first Florida team was 0-8-1, the Gators' worst season in their history.
  • Florida had not won in over a year, and FSU had not lost in more than a year. So it looked like an easy task for the #5 Seminoles to complete their first undefeated regular season.
  • On paper, it looks that way, said Bowden. But I always feel like this game is a tossup. The Gators need the game to help turn their program around, and we need it to achieve perfection. I think our minds are more on the game this week now that the bowl situation is cleared up. This game is for the bragging rights in the state. It's a game we must win.
  • Six times the Seminoles had gone into the Florida game undefeated and been upset, although most of those games occurred early in each season. In 1971, Florida was winless when it met the unbeaten Noles but came away with a 17-13 victory.
  • ABC televised the game nationally from Gainesville on the Friday after Thanks­giving.

Seminoles line up at Florida Field. L-R: Coach Jim Gladden, Garry Futch (79),
Rohn Stark (3), James Harris, James Gilbert (51), and Rick Stockstill (11).

The Seminoles earned a hard-fought victory that lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes.

  • Q1: Wearing orange jerseys for the first time, the Gators came out fired up and made life tough for the FSU offense with a vigorous pass rush.
    Wally Woodham started at QB. Bowden made the decision because Jordan had started the nationally-televised tilt at LSU. So he gave his other senior the chance in this TV contest. The only scoring during the period came on Cappelen's 42y FG. The opportunity was set up by DT James Gilbert's INT of a tipped pass at the UF 18. FSU 3 Florida 0 (6:23)
    Before and after that three-pointer, Dave missed attempts from 41 and 46 as a swirling wind played havoc with both teams' kicking games.
    The Noles ended the period with only 70y of offense and three first downs.

    Ron Simmons menaces the Florida C.
  • Q2: Early in the period, Francis "Monk" Bonasarte recovered his fourth fumble of the season to go with eight INTs, a FSU record. But Florida stopped a fourth down run to take over on their 46.
    Taking advantage of the wind at his back, walk-on junior QB Larry Ochab immediately threw to Collinsworth on a fly pattern down the right sideline to the 15. But the Noles held and Ryan Clark missed a 39y FG.
    Given a chance because of injuries to three other QBs, Ochab became something of a cult hero with fans who dubbed him "Dr. O."
    Jordan, the "Rifleman," took over at that point. But after a roughing the passer penalty produced one first down, the Noles had to punt into the wind.
    Ochab tried another long pass to Collinsworth, but Bobby Butler wrestled it away at the 21.
    But FSU failed to convert on 3rd down for the 7th time in eight chances.
    Enjoying good field position throughout the period and throwing on almost every down, the spunky Gators moved close enough for Clark to try a 46y FG that was partially blocked by Scott Warren.
    Starting from the 29, the Seminoles finally cranked up a TD drive. Jordan completed four passes along the way, including three to TE Grady King, preparatory to hitting a 21y play-action pass to Hardis Johnson in the EZ. FSU 10 Florida 0 (0:11)
    A few Seminole fans threw oranges on the field.
    The half ended with Gary Henry intercepting a long pass and returning it into UF territory.
    The Gators held the visitors to a mere 23y rushing in the half but had a net of -4 on the ground themselves.
  • Q3: FSU headed into the wind again with Jordan at the helm. It didn't take Florida long to get its fourth sack.
    Receiving the punt at midfield, UF got on the board with a Brian Clark FG from the 30. FSU 10 Florida 3 (11:40)
    To add to the Gators' momentum, Johnson fumbled the kickoff and was tackled on the 4. Three plays later, LB Tim Golden intercepted Jordan and returned to the 7. But three incompletions in the EZ brought on Clark. A bad snap and hold resulted in Simmons smothering the kick at the 7:15 mark.
    Fired up by what the defense did, the FSU offense moved the ball deep into Florida territory on runs by Lyles and Michael Whiting. But the drive bogged down on the 14, and Capellan missed the FG.
    As usually happens when you let the underdog hang around, the Gators capitalized on a turnover to tie the score. After several punts, CB Bill Fiorillo picked off a Jordan aerial and returned 30y to the 4, where the QB knocked him out of bounds. Two plays later, TB Carl Prioleau plunged over from the 2. FSU 10 Florida 10 (1:28)
    Woodham returned to the field and engineered a drive that carried into the final 15 minutes. Starting from the 20, Whiting ripped off runs of 15 and 14 around LE.
  • Q4: On 3rd-and-4, Wally found Whiting for a first down on the 36. On the next 3rd down, Woodham connected with King to the 20. On the next snap, Lyles burst over RT to the end zone. FSU 17 Florida 10 (12:31)
    Woodham: When they tied us up in the third quarter, we knew we had to get in there and put something together, or they were going to win the game. We had to come back, and we did.
    An errant official's call helped the Seminoles. On the first snap after the kickoff, Simmons hit Ochab as he threw and the ball went to DT Walter Carter, who was downed on the 10. A TV replays showed clearly that the ball bounced to Carter.
    Six officials and none of 'em saw it, snorted Pell after the game.
    Three runs sandwiched around a crucial 5y offside penalty against FSU made it 4th-and-goal from the 2. So Bill Capece, the kickoff specialist, tried his hand at a FG and padded the lead. FSU 20 Florida 10 (10:46)
    Far from giving up, the Gators responded with a long drive. The key play was a 51y scamper by Terry Williams to the 23 - Florida's longest running play of the year. But the drive stalled on the 21 and Clark missed his fourth attempt of the day.
    FSU stayed on the ground to run the clock. With the UF line wearing down, Lyles and Whiting ran for two first downs before the Gators held.
    Taking over on the 20 with 4:29 on the clock, Ochab passed his offense down the field. An interference call on 4th-and-19 gave the Gators a first down on the 25. From there, Dr. O scrambled to his right out of the pocket and threw into the EZ, where TE Chris Faulkner made a juggling catch while falling. The Gators went for two but CB Ivory Joe Hunter knocked away the slant pass. FSU 20 Florida 16 (2:21)
    On the onsides kick, a Gator caught the ball in the air. But Keith Kennedy had alertly signaled for a fair catch
    Rick Stockstill: Keith Kennedy was behind me, and when I signaled for a fair catch he hollered, "I got it, I got it." And then he thought I was going to take it. I was backpedaling to get to the ball when I was interfered with.
    Awarded the ball on the UF 39 after the 15y penalty for interfering with the fair catch, FSU gashed the exhausted defenders with handoffs to Lyles and Whiting until Lyles scored from the 3 to the great relief of Bobby Bowden and the Orange Bowl Committee members. FSU 27 Florida 16 (1:10)
    A barrage of oranges came from the stands.
    LB Paul Piurowski cut in front of an Ochab pass to register FSU's fifth INT of the afternoon.
    The Seminoles ended the game on the 1.

Watch a video of the game ...


  • Playing his final regular season game, Lyles ran for a career high 151y in 27 carries with two TDs. Whiting contributed 123y on 19 attempts. It was the first time during the season that the Tribe had two backs gain more than 100y in the same game.
  • Ochab completed 22 of 54 passes for 270y but threw five INTs.
  • Ron Simmons & Company held the Gators to 39y rushing.
  • Bowden: That was a heckuva game - the type of game we expected. ... I'm not disappointed in our play. I just believe Florida is a lot better than that 0-9-1 record shows. The only thing I care about is the stat that says we're 11-0. ... Every time I thought we had reached a turning point, they'd do something to us. They were determined not to let us win. Florida was tired at the end - I think they were about dead. Bobby expressed his preference for playing undefeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for a chance to earn the final #1 ranking in the AP poll.
  • DB Bobby Butler, who covered Florida's star WR Cris Collinsworth all afternoon and held him to five catches, said: It's great to be going to Miami with a perfect record. It feels great, because, chances are, it'll never happen again.
  • Pell praised his team for its best effort of the season. I'm anxiously looking forward to game No. 2 in this series with FSU next year.

The next afternoon, Oklahoma, behind HB Billy Sims's 247y performance, dumped Nebraska for the eighth time in nine meetings to earn the Big Eight championship and a spot opposite the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.

References: Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Tales from the Seminole Sidelines, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis, 2004
Continued below ...

1979 - Bobby's First Undefeated Season - VI
Orange Bowl vs Oklahoma
Florida State's undefeated 1979 season earned them their first invitation to the prestigious Orange Bowl New Year's night in Miami.
  • The opponent would be the Big 8-champion Oklahoma Sooners, appearing in the classic for the third year in a row and fourth time in five years. I feel I should almost apologize for being here, said coach Barry Switzer.
  • It would be the final game for an exceptional group of seniors led by RB Billy Sims, who won the Heisman Trophy as a junior and, bothered early in the '79 season by nagging injuries, finished a close second to RB Charles White of USC in his senior year.
  • Switzer's mock apology was a switch because, in the weeks leading up to the game, it was Bobby Bowden who had to vouch for his team being worthy of the Orange Bowl invitation. The #4 Seminoles, despite their marvelous record, were looked upon as Johnnies-come-lately to the big-time bowl scene. As a result, they were seven-point underdogs to the mighty Sooners.
  • Bowden: If we could win, it would establish us. We haven't won year after year like Oklahoma. Whether we win or not, we've started it.

Much of the pregame hype centered around FSU's unique two-QB system.

  • "Long-ball thrower" Jimmy Jordan, a 48% passer, reportedly would start ahead of the more conservative Wally Woodham, who started in eight of the eleven victories.
    Jordan did not find out he was starting until the bus arrived at the stadium for the game and he was told by Coach Bowden when he stepped off to go to the locker room.
  • We throw to everybody, explained Bowden, who wouldn't reveal his starting signal-caller and joked that he might "toss a coin" to decide. We like to release all five eligible receivers and divide them. Then we see which ones the defense covers.
  • By contrast, Oklahoma's wishbone offense was much more predictable - Sims, Sims, and more Sims. However, if you took away the option pitch to Billy, QB J. C. Watts could gash you as well.
    Switzer wrote in his 1990 autobiography: Before the kickoff I was on the field talking to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "Barry, I had a chance to hear J. C. Watts speak and I am really impressed. He preached at the University Baptist Church in Coral Gables on Sunday. I went back and told my coaching staff, 'I'm gonna warn you, if that kid can play football as well as he can preach, we are in for one hell of a night.'" Bobby's fears were well-founded.
  • FSU's NG Ron Simmons had disrupted opponents' running game all season, but he might be negated against OU. Bowden even borrowed a reporter's notebook to diagram why Simmons would never play Sims "and might not even tough him all night."
  • Bobby was asked if there was less pressure on his team than on #3 Oklahoma, considering fans would recall the Seminoles' 11-0 regular season with pride no matter what happened in the bowl. In that respect, yes, he said. But in other ways, all the pressure is on us. They are conference champions. We are independent. When you're independent, you only have one goal, and that's to win them all.
  • FSU D-Coordinator Jack Stanton admitted stopping Sims was virtually impossible. I don't know if we can stop them. I'd be happy if we could just slow them down. We sure don't want to get blown out.
  • The underdog's main hope was that the Sooners would self-destruct. Switzer said his club led the world in fumbles, losing 36 for the season.
  • But Bowden wasn't particularly encouraged by that statistic. If they don't lay down the ball, they don't lose. And even when they fumble, they only lose once or twice a year. The 1979 edition had lost just once, 16-7 to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Their 17-14 victory over Nebraska in the finale had clinched another Big 8 title for the Crimson and Cream.
  • Comparative scores revealed that OU had outscored FSU 382-319, but the Noles had a slight edge defensively, giving up 136 points to 138 for the Sooners.

Florida State Roster | Oklahoma Roster

The fired-up Seminoles started strong on a cool (60°) night before 66,714.
  • Q1: To cope with FSU's passing game, the Sooners played with only two LBs but five DBs. Beginning at their 20 with the kickoff, FSU ran FB Mark Lyles twice for 4y. Then Jordan misfired on a long out pass to bring on Rohn Stark and the punt team. Basil Banks, the second leading punt returner in the nation, took the ball on his 31 and tore through the coverage unit to the 10 where Scott Warren hit him from behind. That knocked the ball loose into the EZ where Ed Richardson covered it for FSU.
    Right back onto the field, Jordan started this time with a pass down the left sideline to Sam Platt for 22y. Then Jimmy went to the other side to Lyles out of the backfield for 11 more to the OU 48. With less than a yard to go, Jordan sneaked for the 1st down at the 47. After two incompletions, a short swing pass to Michael Whiting gained only 4. So Stark punted safely to the 18.
    As expected, Oklahoma started on the ground to gain a 1st down at the 31 on three plays. But the Noles stopped Sims' attempt to skirt RE for no gain. Watts tried his first pass unsuccessfully. Sims's 3rd-down run gained only half the needed 10y. So OU punted to Gary Henry, who returned 4y to the 26.
    Coach Bowden agreed to NBC's request to wear a live mike during the game. A cameraman on the sideline stood close as Bobby received the play from George Henshaw in the press box and relayed it to one of his WR messengers. Sideline reporter Bob Trumpy explained the FSU jargon, and commentator John Brodie, former NFL QB, explained each call to the TV audience before each play of the drive.
    After the game, he explained why he agreed to be miked: We are still in the selling business at Florida State. We are a young school, and we have had to fight more for what we've got. I felt it would be a plus.
    After two runs gained 7, Jordan stayed in a firm pocket and fired to Hardis Johnson down the middle for a 1st down on the 49. Another pass failed to connect before Jordan scrambled for 5. On 3rd down, he hit TE Grady King at the 35 to move the chains. Lyles took the ball on a Statue of Liberty play around RE to the 27. Taking a standard handoff on the next snap, Mark was hit behind the line but carried the tackler forward for a 1st down at the 23. Three more runs gained another 1st on the 13. Jordan then lofted a pass to the left corner of the EZ but it sailed out of bounds. However, OU was flagged for interference to put the ball on the 1. After Lyles was stuffed, Whiting dove over LT to pay dirt. Dave Capellan booted the PAT. Florida State 7 Oklahoma 0 (3:24)
    Oklahoma tried to establish the FB up the middle to open up the flanks for Sims and David Overstreet. After freshman Stanley Wilson gained 3 to the 27, Sims almost broke a big run around RE, but CB Bobby Butler made a saving tackle at the 32. Then Sims leaped forward to the 34. A measurement showed the ball inches short of a first down. That made a huge difference because Butler blocked the punt, Keith Jones returning it to the 17. Just like that, the underdog Seminoles had a chance to go two scores in front.
    Lyles plunged for a yard on the last play of the period. Florida State 7 Oklahoma 0

    Bobby Butler blocks Mike Keeling's punt.
  • Q2: The next few plays would prove to be the turning point in the game. Lyles rammed to the 2. But before the next snap, FSU was called for delay of game. So Bowden sent in a new play: Left 82 and tell him I said to stick it in there. That was a quick slant-in to WR Jackie Flowers. Jordan did "stick it in there" but a moment after Jackie caught the ball, he was hit at the 1/2 yard line and lost the ball. The announcer thought it was a completed pass and a fumble, which FSU appeared to recover. But the officials ruled the pass incomplete to bring up 4th down. Bowden was heard asking, What did they call that? When he was told it was an incompletion, he said, That's ridiculous. He sent in the kicker with instructions to take another delay of game penalty to improve the angle of the kick from the right hash mark. After moving 5y back, the poor snap was mishandled by holder Rick Stockstill, and the Seminoles got nothing out of their great opportunity.
    Afterward, Bowden called this series the turning point. If we had scored and had a 10-0 lead or a 14-0 lead, I think it would have given us the momentum to have made a difference.
    Sims stared the OU possession by taking a pitchout around RE for 25y to the 39. The Noles then stuffed Overstreet up the middle. But Watts kept on the option play and scampered down the right sideline to the EZ for a 61y TD. Florida State 7 Oklahoma 7 (11:35)
    Watts: I felt like we were just kind of dead through the first quarter. We knew we could move the ball against them. Over on the bench, I said, "Let's get it going." ... Florida State always had somebody out there on Billy for the pitch. That left me plenty of room to cut upfield for yardage. Early in the second quarter, we had a third down and 15 at our 39 - an obvious passing down. But from the sidelines they called in an option play. I couldn't believe it but appreciated the confidence in me.
    After the 10-point turnaround, FSU needed to respond. But on 1st down, Jordan threw to a well-covered receiver down the left sideline. Senior FS Bud Hebert, one of 40 Texans on the OU roster, stepped in front of the throw and returned the INT to the 10.
    An offside penalty on the first play moved the ball to the 5. The Noles then stopped Wilson up the middle, but he bounced off the pile, escaped Simmons's tackle, and ran around LE to the EZ. Oklahoma 14 Florida State 7 (10:59)
    So a horrendous two minutes of action had seen the Noles go from an excellent chance to go up 14-0 or at least 10-0 to behind 14-7.
    Kelly Birney returned the kick 21y to the 35. Don Criqui pointed out to his NBC audience that the Seminoles had come from behind in Q4 16 times in the last two seasons. But the Sooner defense was smelling blood now. Whiting gained 4y on two carries. Then MG Richard Turner roared through and sacked Jordan on the 28. To make matters worse, P Stark juggled the snap, then rushed the kick to escape a rusher. The ball went out of bounds at the FSU 41 - a 13y boot.
    The Sooners continued to run to their right behind their RT and RG, both 270 lbs. Watts kept for 6, Sims added 3 more, and Overstreet plunged for the 1st down at the 29.
    J. C. Watts hands off to Billy Sims.
    Then OU sent David around LE to the 21. S Monk Bonasarte stalled the Sooner express momentarily when he nailed Watts for no gain. Undeterred, J. C. kept again and spun away from a tackler to come close to a 1st down at the 19. But a measurement was rendered moot when FSU was called for offside. With a new set of downs, Watts kept around RE, again did his patented spin move to elude a tackler, and ran to the 4. Faced with the prospect of a 14-point deficit, the Noles dug in. On 3rd-and-goal from the 3, Walter Carter rammed through and upended Watts back at the 6 before he could pitch the ball. So Mike Keeling booted a 24y FG. Oklahoma 17 Florida State 7 (3:08)
    Watts: When we jumped out to that 17-7 lead, that took the string out of them.
    Birney got another good return, this time to the 30. Out came Wally Woodham at QB. On 2nd and 9, Bowden sent in WR Sam Platt with instructions to run a reverse. It started promisingly but the fleet OU defense stopped him at the 35. Woodham threw his first pass on the next snap and shold have had a 1st down but Ardis Johnson dropped the ball. So Stark boomed a 59-yarder to the 6.
    On 1st down, Ivory Joe Hunter and Bonasarte smashed Overstreet so hard they knocked his helmet off. The Sooners ran out the clock. They amassed 149y rushing but gained not a single yard passing.
    Halftime Score: Oklahoma 17 Florida State 7
    Bowden was heard on the sidelines talking to his coaches upstairs: It really burns me up that we let the momentum get away from us. Then he responded to something said back to him: Yes, we can still win this ball game.
  • Q3: Oklahoma, which kicked off to start the game, inexplicably elected to kick off to start the second half also. Needing to make a statement after making halftime adjustments, the Seminoles instead went three-and-out. After Lyles gained 2, Woodham threw two straight incompletions. The first was a flat pass to Lyles that was knocked down by a 220-lb DE - an example of the quickness of the OU defense. When his QB came to the sidelines, Bowden told him, Wally, we've got people open. Let's get them the ball.
    Starting from their 19 after a penalty on the punt, Oklahoma started fast when Sims broke into the clear through RT to the 45, where Butler fended off a blocker and made a TD-saving tackle. Then Wilson knifed through the middle for 8 before Billy moved the chains to the 43. But the inevitable happened on the next snap when OU fumbled, and Arthur Scott recovered for FSU at the 43.
    Woodham tried to pass three times unsuccessfully. The first time he couldn't find an open man and ran for 2y. Then he threw poorly the next two times. Stark's punt rolled to the 13.
    Sims ripped off 11 before Bonasarte and Butler knocked him down. Watts wiggled upfield for 13 more. Then J.C. surprised the defense with a pass to WR Freddie Nixon to the 44. Sims shot through LT for 7 and a 1st down at the FSU 48. Wilson broke through the line and the secondary again had to make the tackle after a 5y advance. Next, Sims went over the century mark with a 5y run that left the ball inches short of another 1st down. Another plunge took care of that. At long last, two straight stops by LB Reggie Herring, the second one for no gain by Sims on 3rd and 4, caused OU to punt into the EZ.
    With neither QB sharp, FSU ran the ball six straight times. Whiting and Lyles alternated to gain two first downs to the 48 and break a string of five possessions without a first down. With LBs shooting the gaps, Whiting lost 1 on two successive carries. Finally, Bowden called a pass, and Woodham hit TE Sam Childers on a crossing pattern for a 1st down at the 40. With the crowd alive, Wally scrambled for 4y. Then the promising drive came to an abrupt halt when Wally threw too far in front of a crossing receiver, and Hebert made a lunging INT, his second of the evening, at the 21.
    Oklahoma cranked up another relentless ground attack. After Sims gained 4, backup FB Weldon Ledbetter burst through the middle for a 1st down at the 34. Watts kept at RE - his favorite direction - to the FSU 44. Sims and Watts moved ahead 5 more as the scoreless quarter closed.
    Oklahoma 17 Florida State 7
  • Q4: An incompletion brought out Keeling who punted to the 15.
    A short run and two incompletions caused Bowden to tell Jordan to loosen up.
    OU started at their 49 after the punt. Watts connected with Nixon wide open down the middle. Herring saved a TD with a tackle at the 22. But Sims fumbled on the next play and DT Mark Macek recovered at the 20.
    Jordan returned but didn't stay on the field long. When he threw long down the right sideline, Hebert grabbed his third pick at the 40.
    But Overstreet fumbled the pigskin right back on the 35, Macek being Johnny-on-the-spot for the second time.
    FSU broke the three-play turnover streak with a run by Whiting to the 38. Then Pratt took a reverse handoff around LE for 2 more. Jordan then hit Childress down the middle for a 1st down at the OU 48. After Whiting gained 4, Bowden called for a HB pass. But Mike didn't see an open man and ran to the 41. Bobby went back to the reverse, but Pratt couldn't get back to the line of scrimmage. "Punt the ball!" yelled the coach. The move paid off as the Noles downed the ball at the 1.
    The Sooners then started a boring, unimaginative, but effective 99y drive with all 15 plays on the ground. Wilson, Sims, and Watts alternated carries for five first downs to the OU 34. Then Watts kept the ball on an option at RE. 6y down the field he was hit by Butler and lateralled to Sims who took the ball in stride and steamed down the sideline to the EZ. Oklahoma 24 Florida State 7 (1:58)
    Watts: Billy kept telling me to pitch the ball to him, and I guess that could qualify as one of the latest pitches we've connected on for a touchdown.
    Jordan threw three incompletions, and FSU punted.
    The OU second string offense gained one first down on their way to running out the clock.


The numbers reflect the Sooners' dominance.

  • First downs: Oklahoma 23 Florida State 12
  • Rushing: Oklahoma 59-411 Florida State 35-82
  • Passing: Oklahoma 4-2-0-36 Florida State 27-8-3-100
  • Total Yards: Oklahoma 63-447 Florida State 62-182
  • Turnovers: Oklahoma 4 Florida State 3
  • Watts rushed for 127y to earn the Offensive MVP Award despite Sims gaining 164.
    In his 2010 book Called to Coach, Bowden wrote of the 1980 Orange Bowl: The Sooners had a quarterback named J.C. Watts, who was really dangerous running the football in the wishbone offense. His actual name was Julius Caesar Watts Jr., and he sure played like a conqueror. ... Sims was one of the best running backs I ever coached against.
  • Hebert with his three INTs was a no-brainer for Defensive MVP.
  • The Sooners held FSU to only eight completions for 100y.

Barry Switzer

Bobby Bowden

Jimmy Jordan

Wally Woodham

Billy Sims

J.C. Watts

Ron Simmons

Mark Lyles

Michael Whiting

David Overstreet

Stanley Wilson

Bobby Butler

NBC Reporter Bob Trumpy interviews FSU Alum Burt Reynolds.

Jackie Flowers

Freddie Nixon

Weldon Ledbetter

  • Bowden: I was very disappointed in the outcome because I thought we were more ready than Oklahoma would have been. I don't think they were taking us seriously. We were well-prepared. They chose to play five defensive backs. We were ready, but we couldn't knock the first down on the ground. They had Lyles keyed like a duck. They had a guy (All-America LB George Cumby) with 4.4 speed on him all night. ... I felt our QBs were cold. Neither had a good night. I think we executed terriby on offense. Their offense killed our offense. ... I think our defense played too long. They got worn down and beaten up.
    After the 1980 football season, Bowden told Sports Illustrated that he learned a valuable lesson from the Orange Bowl game. Oklahoma was so successful stopping us with a fifth defensive back, we made running the ball our goal in 1980.
  • Simmons: Man for man, they were better than we were. Their offense is extra tough, especially when you have excellent athletes like Sims and Watts.
  • Jordan had no explanation for why the offense stumbled so badly after taking a 7-0 lead. We had all the momentum going for us. It's hard to describe what happened. When you get behind, you try all that much harder and make mistakes. You start pressing. I know I did. There are no excuses.
  • Woodham: They stopped the pass and their defensive line was good enough to stop us up front. They had an excellent scheme.
  • Switzer: Our defense played an outstanding game the last three quarters. We dominated the game defensively, but they have a fine offense which gave us some problems. Just a super day in the secondary. Hebert probably should have been playing at the free safety position all along. ... We had such good field position it could have been a problem. Every time we had it, we fumbled or made a mistake, except for the last drive. Going 99 yards on your final drive is a good way to end the game. It just seemed we had to have poor field position to move the ball.
  • Watts revealed a team secret. I didn't want to go into it during the last week because I knew the media would take it and play it up the wrong way, but we felt sure that Florida State couldn't beat us. We felt the only way we would lose would be if we beat ourselves - making mistakes, putting the ball on the ground. ... I just had the adrenaline pumping. Whenever you have guys like Ron Simmons chasing you, you get faster. He praised FSU CB Bobby Butler. He really played me tough. He'd fake like he was going for the pitch man, usually Sims, and then make an incredible move back to tackle me. That was going on all night, and I kept saying, "Boy, I'm gonna stop him from sucking eggs."
  • Sims: I didn't carry the ball that much. Every place I went, they had three guys on me. But that took the pressure off everybody else. J.C. had a good game, and that's what happens when they key their whole defense on one man. ... It was nice to end with a touchdown.
  • Hebert: This is a good way to end. It's been a long year for me, not playing as much as I wanted.

    Decades later, Monk Bonasarte recalled the 1980 Orange Bowl: I think we were just kind of in awe and really didn’t understand how we got to where we were and how we were unde­feated. … I think we over prepared ourselves. We worked really hard during two-a-days before we went down there. I think people thought it was good enough to be in a major bowl game on national television. We weren’t in that class yet and weren't at that level yet. But I think after playing that game, even though we lost, we realized we could be at that level and could be in that class. We were determined to get to that level next year.
Florida State finished #6 in the final AP poll, the highest season-ending ranking in school history.

Video of the 1980 Orange Bowl ...

References: Seminoles! The First Fifty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty, Mike Freeman (2009)
Bootlegger's Boy, Barry Switzer with Bud Shrake (1990)

Return to Football Magazine

1979 - Part I
1979 - Part II
1979 - Part III
1979 - Part IV

1979 - Part V
1979 - Part VI

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

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

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 Tennessee 1998
#1 vs #2 Virginia Tech 1999

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

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