Offside? OK, Do It Again.

Memorable Game: Florida 1960

Two Backups Beat ASU

Profile: Ron Sellers I

Profile: Ron Sellers II

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 I

Seminole Sidelines II

Seminole Sidelines III

Seminole Sidelines V

Seminole Sidelines VI

Seminole Sidelines VII

Seminole Sidelines VIII

Football Magazine

Golden Rankings Home

Seminole Sidelines – IV

Offside? OK, Do It Again.

The 27,389 who turned out for the Seminoles' 1970 opener against Louisville feared the worst.

  • With 24 seconds left, the Cardinals, trailing 9-7, lined up for a game-winning FG from the 24.
  • It appeared the visitors would pull a game out of the fire that a short time earlier FSU had well in hand.

FSU AD Vaughan Mancha scheduled the game as a favor to second-year Louisville coach Lee Corso, a Seminole star in the 50s. Corso recalls:

Before the 1970 season, schools in the NCAA went from a 10-game to an 11-game schedule. So I got on the phone with Vaughn Mancha ... and said, "Coach, you've got an opening game, and I'd like to bring my Louisville team down there." He said, "Naaah."' I said, "'Coach, we're nothing."' He said, "Okay, as a favor, I'll let you open the season against Florida State in Tallahassee."

Neither O did much in the first half.

  • FSU's first pass of the season was intercepted. So was Louisville's.
  • With sophomore LB Tom Jackson - future Broncos star and, like Corso, an ESPN analyst - leading the Cardinal D, the teams took turns punting until the Cardinals mounted the first threat.
  • A combination of runs and passes gave the visitors a first down on the FSU 20. But three straight rushes gained just 2. So UL lined up for a 35y FG try.
  • Sophomore CB James Thomas (Macon GA) blocked it, FSU recovering on the 29. That night, Thomas became the first African-American to take the field for Florida State. He would get a chance to demonstrate his kick-blocking skills again before the game ended.

The Seminoles moved the ball into Cardinal territory.

  • Senior Tommy Warren (Coral Gables), making his debut at QB, ran out of the pocket for 26 to the Louisville 45.
  • Warren hit senior TE Jim Tyson (Pahokee) to the 35. However, the drive bogged down at that point.
  • Junior Frank Fontes (Perth Amboy NJ) attempted a 51y FG, which was short. However, the D was offsides on the play.
  • Given a second chance 5y closer, Fontes put it through the uprights to break the scoring ice with 7:53 left in Q2.

The Seminoles struck suddenly in Q3.

  • Louisville could do nothing with the second half kickoff and punted from its 27. Sophomore DB David Snell (Slocomb AL) fielded it on the 29, escaped several defenders and scampered 71y for a TD. Fontes missed the PAT. 9-0 FSU.
  • It wasn't long before the Noles had another chance when senior DT Robert McEachern (Tallahassee) recovered a fumble at the enemy 36. However, three plays netted only 3y, and Fontes missed a 48-yarder.
  • After Louisville punted yet again, junior FB James Jarrett (Elizabethton TN) fumbled it away on the FSU 45.
  • Operating from what was then called the "short punt formation," UL reached the 34 but then went backwards and punted into the EZ.

FSU then started a drive that had the potential to ice the game.

  • Two Warren passes to junior WR Rhett Dawson (Valdosta GA) moved the ball to the 47. RB Tom Bailey (Coral Gables) ran three times to the 34 as the period ended.
  • Six runs and one pass moved the ball to the one. Playing first down, FSU seemed certain to moved ahead 16-0. But as Corso would say so often as an ESPN commentator, "Not so fast, my friend."
  • Junior RB Arthur Munroe (Quincy) fumbled into the EZ, and Louisville recovered for a touchback.

Given new life, the Cardinal O erupted.

  • QB Gary Inman threw a long pass to Larry Hart at the FSU 45.
  • On the next play, Tom Jesukatis slammed off tackle to the 8. Three plays had changed field position 91y.
  • Inman gained 4 on a sneak. Then Bill Gatti sprinted to the left to paydirt. The PAT made it 9-7 with 7:58 to go.

FSU gave the ball right back.

  • Bailey fumbled at the 41. However, UL went nowhere and punted to the 13 with 6:11 on the clock.
  • Needing a time-consuming drive, the FSU O instead went three and out. Louisville returned the punt to the Seminole 45.
  • A pass for 15, several runs for 10, a yard loss, then a run put the ball on the 17 with 24 seconds left.

Corso sent out the FG team.

  • Thomas lined up at LE and roared into the backfield to smother the kick. The Seminoles did the war dance in jubilation.
  • Again, not so fast, my friend. The officials called offsides, possibly on Thomas although no numbers were given at that time.
  • Corso contends that FSU "jumped offside on purpose and hit my holder and my kicker. They got a 5-yard penalty. They left me with my second holder and my second kicker."
  • Thomas recalled years later: "I was down. I thought I'd let down my team and let down myself. I thought I was really a spectacle on the field now. I went back to the huddle, and Ron Wallace, who was from my hometown [Macon GA], came over to me and said, 'J.T., don't worry about it. You'll do it again. We're going to block this kick again.' I thought, Block it again? Are you kidding me?"
  • Just as FSU made a FG in the first half when given a second chance, UL got another opportunity. Lightning wouldn't strike twice, would it? Had any team ever blocked FGs on back-to-back plays?
  • On the snap, Thomas came fast again but reached the kicker a split second after sophomore LB Dan Whitehurst (Adel GA) blocked the ball. Senior DE Ronnie Wallace (Macon GA) picked it up and raced all the way to the Louisville 23 before being tackled. No flag this time.
  • Corso: "Mancha ran across the field and said, 'That's the last alumni favor you get.'"

Barry Smith, a sophomore WR on the '70 Seminoles, recalled many years later:

I've got buddies who played on that Louisville team, and they still can't believe we beat them. ... Coach Peterson was so mad at us for the way we played in that game that we had a scrimmage the next morning. We were back there at 8:30 in the morning he was so upset.

What would turn out to be Bill Peterson's last FSU team finished 7-4 but did not go to the post-season in that era when bowls had not yet proliferated.

Reference: What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)

1970 FSU-Louisville Program Cover

Coach Lee Corso, Louisville
Coach Lee Corso

LB Tom Jackson, Louisville
Tom Jackson

DB James Thomas
James Thomas

QB Tommy Warren, FSU
Tommy Warren

DT Robert McEachern, FSU
Robert McEachern

WR Rhett Dawson, FSU
Rhett Dawson


Reference: Pure Gold: Bobby Bowden, an Inside Look as told to Steve Ellis and Bill Vilona
Memorable Game - FSU @Florida September 24, 1960

1960 Florida State Football Handbook
Coach Peterson lecturing

Eddie Feely, FSU QB
Eddie Feely

K Ken Kestner, FSU
Ken Kestner

Don't read this article until you read the Interesting Story above about a Gator player who made a tough decision before the FSU game.

The third meeting between the Seminoles and Gators served as the second game for both teams' 1960 season.

  • Florida defeated FSU 21-7 in 1958 and 18-8 in '59, both at home according to the contract that called for the first six meetings to take place in Gainesville.
  • Both teams started the season with what would later become known as "rent-a-win" games. UF beat George Washington 30-7 while Bill Peterson's first Seminole squad downed Richmond 28-7.
  • Peterson put together a staff that included four future head coaches: John Coatta, Vince Gibson, Don James, and Ken Meyer.
  • Bill brought with him from LSU the three-team system created by Paul Dietzel to maximize talent utilization in that era of limited substitution. Bill called his first team, which played both ways, the Chiefs, the #2 O platoon the War Party, and the #2 D unit (mostly sophomores) the Renegades. (The 3-6-1 record for the season would prove that any system works best when you have talented players.)

The crowd of 38,000 at Florida Field saw a defensive struggle from start to finish.

  • UF featured a running attack (55 attempts for 262y) while FSU favored the pass despite the gusty north wind (11-of-26 for 99y with 2 INTs).
  • The game was not as close as the 3-0 final score indicated. Penalties, a fumble, and Gibson's fired-up D prevented the bigger and more experience Gators from cashing in on four scoring threats.
  • The only points came on a 25y FG by Tallahassee sophomore Bill Cash (an interesting name considering the pre-game bribe attempt) with 6:31 to play in the first half.
  • FSU nearly took the lead in the second half when QB Eddie Feely, a product of Gainesville High, directed a march to the UF 28. But on fourth-and-one, Feely was stopped cold by Pat Patchen.
  • The Noles had a chance to tie the game in Q4, but Ken Kestner's 39y FG attempt was deflected by Nick Arfaras. Lindy Infante (future college and NFL O-coordinator) caught the pigskin and returned it to the FSU 27.
  • The Seminoles' last gasp came with 2:56 left when Bobby Dodd Jr. (son of the legendary Georgia Tech coach) intercepted Feely's pass on fourth-and-five from the Florida 45.
  • The Gators then ran out the clock, ending on the FSU 4.
  • The bribery target, Jon MacBeth, played 31 minutes, carrying five times for 20y at FB and making three tackles as LB.
1960 Florida - FSU A 1960 Florida- FSU B
(L) FSU's Tony Romeo (80) leaps at Larry Libertore; (R) Lindy Infante (33) gains 5 for Gators.

Peterson took the loss hard.

  • He had come so close to doing what the Gators considered impossible. "Keep your heads high, boys," he told the team. "It's a darn shame to lose one when you play like that."
  • Bill would tie Florida the next season before finally getting the first victory in 1964.

The Associated Press story on the game explained the bribery attempt in the second paragraph.

References: Sunshine Shootouts: The Greatest Games Between Florida-Florida State,
Florida State-Miami, Miami-Florida
, Jeff Miller
Top of Page
Two Backups Beat ASU

Part of the money-making but team-killing road schedules arranged by AD Clay Stapleton (1971-3) were two games at Arizona State in 1983-4. In both cases, a backup QB sparked thrilling Seminole victories.

October 29, 1983

  • Bob Davis (jr. Warner Robins GA) came off the bench when starting QB Kelly Lowrey sprained his knee late in Q3. The Noles trailed 10-7.
  • Davis completed 8 of 12 for 104y as he directed two Q4 TD drives.
  • He culminated the first drive with a 38y strike to RB Roosevelt Snipes (soph. Sarasota), then threw a 2-point pass to WR Weegie Thompson (sr. Midlothian VA) to put the Noles ahead 22-19 with 8:03 left.
  • Many years later, Bobby recalled:

Our QB gets knocked out in that game, and we had to go to Bob Davis, a kid from Warner RObins [GA], whoes dad was a high school coach. Now he didn't have that much game experience. That was back when I was calling plays and, on Davis's fourth play, I called for a pass and he hit it about 40y for a TD. I remember when I called it, the coaches were saying, "You better throw something easy, throwing something he can complete to give him confidence."

  • ASU regained the lead on a 35y pass with 5:08 on the clock.
  • After an exchange of punts, the FSU O took the ball on their 18 with only 1:28 left and needing a TD to overcome the four-point deficit.
  • On fourth-and-5 from the 23, Bob connected with TE Tom Wheeler (sr. Port Orange) for 16 to keep the 10-play drive in motion. Two plays later, Wheeler snagged another aerial and ran to the 10.
  • Cutting it about as close as you can, Davis hit Jesse Hester (jr WR Belle Glade) on a square out from the 10 with 6 seconds left to cap the 82y drive that took exactly 82 seconds.
  • Bowden revealed after the game that FSU had used only two plays during the winning drive, the pass to the WR and a "drag" pattern to the TE.
  • Afterwards, Davis didn't know how to react to his hero status. "Before, I was pretty much unheard of."

November 3, 1984

  • Wildcats QB Jeff Van Raaphorst had a field day against the Noles D, throwing for 532y, the most by an opponent in FSU history, to put 44 points on the board. But it wasn't enough.
  • This time it was sub QB Kirk Coker (jr. Perry) who played the game of his life. Starter Eric Thomas (jr. Lake Park GA) limped off with a hip pointer late in the first half with FSU down 20-10.
  • After falling behind 17-0, the Noles had come back in part because of a 7y return of a punt block by S Joe Wessel (Miami sr.) who would later coach Bowden's special teams.
  • Coker admitted afterwards, "When I saw Eric motion over to the sideline that he couldn't throw the ball because his hip hurt so bad, my heart fell right down into my shoes." You couldn't blame Kirk since he had attempted only one pass in his college career.
  • But on his first snap, he connected with WR Hassan Jones (soph. Clearwater) to spark a drive that produced a 1y TD run by Greg Allen (Milton sr.) with only 0:06 left to narrow the gap to 3 at the half.
  • Hester again starred in the desert, snagging 28 and 69y scoring passes from Kirk sandwiched around an 81y TD run by Allen to produce a seemingly comfortable 38-23 lead.
  • But Van Raaphorst couldn't be stopped, throwing a 14y TD pass to make it 38-30 going into Q4.
  • FB Cletis Jones (jr. Miami) ran 2y to put the margin back to 15 before Wessel struck again with a 34y return of a blocked punt to give FSU its biggest lead of the night, 52-30. That produced enough of a cushion to withstand two more ASU drives.
  • Coker finished the evening 8-of-11 for 203. Allen amassed 223 on the ground. The two special teams TDs helped the Noles survive an amazing 36 first downs by the Wildcats.
  • The teams combined for 1219y, 651-568 in favor of the home team.

Afterwards, Bowden remarked, "[Arizona State] seems to bring out the best in our second-string QBs."

RB Greg Allen FSU
Greg Allen
QB Jeff Van Raaphorst, ASU
Jeff Van Raaphorst
1983 FSU-Arizona State Program

QB Bob Davis, FSU
Bob Davis

WR Jesse Hester, FSU
Jesse Hester

QB Kirk Coker FSU
Kirk Coker

S Joe Wessel, FSU
Joe Wessel

WR Hassan Jones, FSU
Hassan Jones

References: Stadium Stories: Florida State Seminoles - Great Moments in Team History, Gary Long (2006)
Tales from the Seminole Sidelines, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis (2004)
Top of Page
Profile - Ron Sellers - I
Ron Sellers, FSU 1966
Ron Sellers

QB Gary Pajcic
Gary Pajcic

Coach Bill Peterson
Coach Bill Peterson

Top of Page

Ron Sellers played for FSU from 1965-8, leaving as the most prolific pass receiver in NCAA history.

  • Ron played football and basketball at Paxon High School in Jacksonville with his lifelong best friend, QB Gary Pajcic. The two had started first grade together.
  • Gary was voted the #1 high school football player in Florida his senior yea,r and both boys made all-state in basketball. "We were state champions in basketball - I think we only lost nine games in three years of high school," Ron recalls.

Colleges recruited Pajcic harder than Sellers.

  • Ron received three offers in basketball and four in football. However, Florida withdrew its scholarship a week before national signing day in 1965. A Gator coach told the stringbean receiver (6-4 but only 160) that he was not major-college material. Years later, head coach Ray Graves told Ron,"You were the number-one mistake I ever made in recruiting."
  • When the Paxon pair visited Georgia, coach Vince Dooley promised Ron, "If you and Gary will come to Georgia, I promise you I will switch to a more balanced passing attack, and we'll throw a lot more than we're passing right now." In 1988, while in New York for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Sellers met Dooley, who congratulated him. When Ron reminded Vince of his promise decades earlier, Vince laughed. "Ron, I'm sure glad you didn't trust me because if you had ever gone to Georgia, I never would have gone to a passing attack!" Ron told him, "I knew that."

Ron may not have known it at the time, but FSU offered him a scholarship to cement the deal with Pajcic.

  • FSU assistant Bob Harbison, who was recruiting Pajcic, thought Sellers looked like Abe Lincoln and, agreeing with Graves, was not much of a football player.
  • Another FSU assistant, John Griner, told Harbison, "I believe if you take this guy Sellers, you can get Pajcic."
  • Harbison checked with head coach Bill Peterson. "Can't play, too fragile," replied Pete.
  • But Bob called back to Bill as signing day loomed to say that signing Sellers was essential to coralling Pajcic. "So I told him to sign him," recalled Peterson. But Harbison didn't have an extra scholarship for Sellers to sign. Pete told him to mimeograph one. "You gotta be flexible in this business."

Not expecting Sellers to make much of an impact, Coach Pete told Ron he could play both football and basketball.

  • However, after he had a great year on the freshman football team, Peterson told him not to play basketball any more because it conflicted with spring practice.
  • Ron played freshman roundball with Hugh Durham, later the coach at FSU, and future NBA Hall-of-Famer Dave Cowens. But Sellers doesn't regret giving up hoops. "I couldn't jump very well, so basketball wasn't going to be my long-term future, anyway. I made the right choice."

Pajcic starred with Ron on the frosh team, which played a five-game schedule.

  • Sellers caught 10 TD passes and 700 receiving yards, which would have been astounding numbers for varsity competition.
  • Although he wishes his frosh stats could have counted for his college career, he thinks freshmen should still be ineligible for varsity sports.

Your freshman year is so important in making it academically. My freshman year, we signed 74 freshmen to football scholarships. It was unlimited back then. Four years later, only 13 of us graduated. There were seven or eight who graduated a year later as fifth-year seniors.

Peterson, a pioneer of the passing game in college, licked his chops in expectation of Sellers joining his varsity.

References: What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Profile - Ron Sellers II

Sellers started at WR from the very first game of his sophomore season (1966). Ron had a good game in the opener against Houston but also had to endure an embarrassing incident.

  • QB Kim Hammond threw a 68y TD pass to Sellers in Q3, but the play was called back because of offsides.
  • Returning to the huddle, Ron demanded, "Who in the hell was offside?" "You were," replied Hammond.
  • When the offense watched film on Monday, Sellers was further chagrined to see that he had a good 5y head start on everyone else on the play.
  • He learned a lesson. "After that, whenever I caught a pass and there was a penalty, I never opened my mouth again for the rest of my career. It was a very humbling thing, and I realized it happens to all of us."
  • The Tallahassee temperature was 95° at the 6 pm kickoff against Houston. Ron lost 17 pounds during the game off his 165 lb frame. A sportswriter nicknamed Sellers "Jingle Joints," and it stuck.

After the 21-13 loss to the Cougars, the Seminoles traveled to Miami.

  • Sellers caught his first varsity TD pass in the game. And the QB who threw the 27-yarder to him was none other than his childhood friend Gary Pajcic, who took over for Hammond.
  • Ron says of Gary: "He was very, very confident. I played with Roger Staubach and Bob Griese in the NFL, and Gary had as much command of the huddle as anyone."
  • FSU upended the Hurricanes 23-20.

Sellers remembers the game at Syracuse that season for two reasons.

  • "It was the first time I'd ever seen snow, and it was cold as heck."
  • "It was also the first time I ever really got hurt in college. I separated my shoulder but still played the rest of the game."
  • The Orangemen, with not one but two future NFL Hall of Fame backs in Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, won 37-21 as Little scored three TDs.

Returning home with a 4-4 record, the Noles needed to win both their last two games, both at home, to have a chance at a bowl game.

  • Despite his separated shoulder, Ron caught an 86y TD pass from Gary against Wake Forest to spark the 28-0 triumph.
  • FSU romped over Maryland 45-21 to clinch a berth in the Sun Bowl.

In the first of three bowls Sellers would compete in, Wyoming beat FSU 28-20 in El Paso.

  • The Cowboys star RB was Jim Kiick, who would team with Csonka in the Miami Dolphins backfield for several Super Bowl titles. Kiick gained 135y on 25 carries.
  • Sellers caught two TD passes from Hammond, one for 49y, the other for 23. Altogether, he snagged six balls for 160y, his best output of the season.

Sellers finished his sophomore season with 55 receptions for 874y - a fine performance but Ron was just warming up.

WR Ron Sellers
Ron Sellers

QB Kim Hammond
Kim Hammond

QB Gary Pajcic
Gary Pajcic

Top of Page

References: What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
Colossal Upset - Almost

FSU Coach Darrell Mudra
Coach Darrell Mudra

Larry Key, FSU
Larry Key

1974 FSU-Alabama Football Program

Aaron Carter, FSU
Aaron Carter

FSU-Alabama 1974
FSU D hits Jack O'Rear from his rear and his front. 73 is Randy Coffield and 53 is Brian Schmidt.

FSU-Alabama 1974 - 2
John Harmeling zeros in on O'Rear

Darrell Mudra took over a Florida State program that had just gone 0-11 in 1973. Faced with a daunting schedule put together by former AD Clay Stapleton to help defray the athletic department's $300,000 debt, Mudra coaxed some competitive performances from his new team.

  • The opening game brought Pittsburgh to Tallahassee as the back end of a home-and-home contract. The Panthers sported sensational sophomore RB Tony Dorsett.
  • The Seminole D held Tony to 81y while FSU freshman Larry Key gained 63. Pitt broke a halftime tie with a Q3 FG and hung on for a 9-6 victory.
  • In the game, Mudra unveiled his unique in-game coaching style. He sat in the pressbox because he believed he could better understand the game with the improved view. He didn't even call plays, just relaying advice to his assistants.

Mudra's team fought valiantly to break the losing streak.

  • Colorado State prevailed in Campbell, 14-7.
  • A trip to Kansas resulted in a dispiriting 40-9 loss.
  • The Week 4 opponent was Baylor, which would win the Southwest Conference and play in the Cotton Bowl. The Bears were happy to escape with a 21-17 victory after trailing 17-0 at the half.

Next came a Stapleton special - an October 12 trip to Tuscaloosa to play Bear Bryant's #2-ranked Crimson Tide.

  • The game was considered so lopsided that there was no national betting line on it. The bookies in Alabama pegged the Tide a 34 point favorite.
  • Figuring he needed a gimmick to throw Bama out of kilter, Mudra accepted assistant Bob Harbison's suggestion of an unbalanced line.
  • The strategy worked as FSU dominated the first half with twice as many first downs and twice as much yardage as the Tide. The home crowd of 58,000 never expected their boys to trail 7-0 as the teams left the field at halftime.
  • Long-time Alabama radio announcer Richard Forney wrote, "I don't think I've ever seen an Alabama team as flat as Bama was that day."
  • Playing without starting QB Richard Todd, out with a knee injury, Alabama was lucky to trail by so little. Ahmet Askin, FSU's soccer-style kicker, missed a 26y FG and had a 33-yarder blocked.
  • Key scored what turned out to be the game's lone TD with a 6y slant off LE to culminate a 78y, 9-play drive on FSU's opening possession. The key plays were a 14y scamper by Ron Coppess, a 26y pass from Coppess to Jim Everett, and a 13y pass to Rudy Thomas as Bear's D tried to adjust to the Noles' new formations.
  • Another ingredient of FSU's success was deploying freshman Aaron Carter as a rover on D. He played DB, LB, and E, utilizing his great quickness. "Our defense did an exceptional job of stopping their triple-option game," Mudra said later.

Needless to say, Bryant expressed his unhappiness to his team at the intermission. Still, they struggled to move the ball in the second half.

  • The home team finally got on the scoreboard late in Q3 following a fumble recovery at the FSU 31 as Buckey Berrey kicked a 44y FG.
  • The Seminoles took the ensuing kickoff and drove all the way to the 2, but Askin missed a chip shot from the 9.
  • The Seminoles held on until only 1:27 showed on the game clock. Facing a fourth down at his own five, Mudra had punter Joe Downey run out of the back of the EZ to take a safety that narrowed the lead to 7-5. The coach explained afterwards that Bama had come close to blocking several punts earlier in the afternoon.
  • The strategy backfired as the free kick traveled only to the Alabama 45 and was returned 7y.
  • Jack O'Rear hit Ozzie Newsome for 32y to the 16. It was the third string QB's only completion of the day.
  • Alabama lost 3y on the next three plays to create 4th-and-13 on the 19 with 33 seconds remaining.
  • Enter Berrey, a 6-1, 200 lb sophomore from Montgomery, who booted the FG to give the Tide its 32nd straight victory at Denny Stadium.
  • The Seminoles could boast of being the first team to hold Bama without a TD in its own stadium since Bryant took the helm in 1958.
  • Forney remembers walking past the visiting coaches booth as he left the press box after the game.

I glanced into the command headquarters from where Darrell Mudra had almost directed the upset of the year. There were gaping holes in the wallboard. One of the Alabama sports information department student assistants told us later that as the winning FG passed through the uprights the FSU coaching staff had gone into a frenzy, kicking and punching holes in the walls.

I ran into Coach Bryant sometime later that year and asked if he had seen the holes left by the Florida State staff. He hadn't seen them, but he had heard about them, he said as he gave that hard, hard look. "And I sent Coach Mudra a bill for $600," he said. I'll bet it was paid.

The statistics favored the Noles.

  • 19-13 edge in first downs
  • 207y rushing to 157
  • 138y passing to 72
  • Each team lost two fumbles and neither had an INT.

In his team's silent dressing room afterward, the Bear, with a Bandaid on his nose and sweat dripping from his brow, praised the Seminoles to the media.

If I were you, I would be in the other dressing room. I've never in my life seen a team that was so much better coached than our team than Florida State today. We didn't have any offense, of course. There's bound to have been someone who played well, but I couldn't name one now. I did see Leroy Cook make some big plays.

We underestimated them badly. Not only
the players, the coaches as well. I don't blame the players as much as I do myself and the staff. We didn't take them seriously because they hadn't won in such a long time.

The hero admitted his nervousness before his game-winning FG.

It was frightening. You better believe I was scared to death. I was thinking our offense could get close enough for Danny [Ridgeway, the short-distance specialist] to kick it and I wouldn't have to go in. When I started to go in I was trying to tell myself to calm down. Then when I got under it, I just knew I had hit it bad. When I looked up it was just dropping over. It was the biggest moment I've ever had since I came here.

Mudra praised his team.

It was a hell of an effort by our team. It was a heartbreaker. I just hope we can get this one out of our system. We caught Alabama hurting a little at quarterback and it's too bad we couldn't pull it out. I don't think I've ever had a team that was quite so prepared both offensively and defensively. That's about as satisfying an effort as you'll get without losing

The Tide would finish the season 11-0 and SEC champs before losing to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, 13-11.

In the meantime, the Seminoles sought to end their losing streak, which had now reached 17.

To be continued ...

References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Seminoles! The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
Top of Page
Losing Streak Finally Ends

Part I

After the heart-breaking loss at Alabama, the Seminoles had to regroup quickly to face archrival Florida in Tallahassee.

  • The Noles hung in for three quarters, trailing only 10-7 entering the final period.
  • However, Gator QB Don Gaffney led two TD drives to make it 24-7 before Jimmy Black threw a 16y TD pass to Mike Shumann with 2:40 left to make the final score more respectable.

FSU then embarked on a three-game road swing.

  • Leading only 7-6 at the half, Auburn scored 31 unanswered points in the second half.
  • Memphis State scored three TDs in the first 9 minutes en route to a 42-14 romp.
  • The Seminole losing streak had reached 20.

Next up was the other in-state rival, Miami, celebrating homecoming on a Friday night.

  • Despite their recent miseries, the Noles had won seven in a row in the Orange Bowl.
  • The Hurricanes had lost only twice, to Auburn only 3-0 and 28-7 to Notre Dame.
  • The Noles also benefitted from the fact that UM's outstanding MG Rubin Carter was out with an ankle injury.

FSU started strong before the meager crowd of 19,785.

  • Despite losing RB Larry Key with a sprained ankle in Q1, the Noles led 14-0 at the break.
  • Freshman RB Leon Bright scampered 14y to paydirt with 3:51 left in Q1.
  • Early in Q2, QB Steve Matheson fired a 23y pass to Joe Goldsmith on 3rd-and-10, and the TE ran another 25y for the Noles' longest scoring play of the season to that point.

FSU fans knew it wouldn't be that easy, and they were right.

  • Ahmet Askin missed his second FG of the game, 35y in Q3, to keep Miami two possessions behind (to use a phrase that didn't become popular in football for 25 years).
  • The Canes finally penetrated the EZ with 11:21 left in the game on a 77y pass from sophomore Frank Glover, whom Coach Pete Elliott had substituted for the ineffective Kary Baker at QB, to Witt Beckman, whose brother Ed played TE for the Garnet and Gold.

The Seminoles responded with a clutch drive that would cement the victory.

  • Jeff Leggett ran 12y to the 1, then plunged over on the next snap to push the margin to 14 again. Leggett had not been on the original travel roster, but when FSU injuries mounted during the week, he was told to catch a flight to Miami on a private plane to join the club.
  • The TD allowed the Noles to survive a late Cane score. Glover lateralled to SE Steve Marcantonio, who lofted a pass to E Phil August for an 80y TD with 5:55 on the clock.
  • DB Joe Kamps, whom August stiff-armed on his way to the EZ, got revenge with four minutes remaining when he intercepted a Glover pass at FSU's 25 to extinguish UM's last gasp.
  • Normally when you break a losing streak, players carry off the head coach on their shoulders. Since Mudra was in his usual perch in the press box, the Noles instead hoisted O coordinator Dan Henning.
  • In the locker room, the team gave the game ball to senior O guard Bob Jones. He had cried openly following the loss to Alabama. Tears again rolled down his face, but this time they were tears of joy.

FSU lost its last two games at home, 56-21 to Virginia Tech and 23-8 to Houston, to finish 1-10.

1974 FSU-Florida Program

QB Jimmy Black, FSU
Jimmy Black

Mike Shumann

Leon Bright, FSU RB
Leon Bright

References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
Top of Page
First - Renegade Appears

Scott Warren, FSU
Scott Warren

Reggie Herring, FSU
Reggie Herring

Homes Johnson, FSU
Homes Johnson

1978 FSU-Oklahoma State Program

Chief Osceola riding Renegade

Dave Capellen, FSU

Jimmy Jordan, FSU
Jimmy Jordan

Top of Page

Bobby Bowden entered the 1978 season, his third in Tallahassee, with a 15-8 record at FSU.

  • The Seminoles started eight sophomores on D. "They were gonna have to sink or swim," recalls Bowden.
  • Nevertheless, the preseason AP poll put the Noles 18th.

The season began with a trip to Syracuse.

  • Junior DE Scott Warren and sophomore LB Reggie Herring sandwiched vaunted QB Bill Hurley, knocking him out of the game with three broken ribs.
  • Sophomore TB Homes Johnson, told five minutes before kickoff that he would make his first start, racked up 135y in 17 carries.
  • Leading 7-0 heading into Q4, FSU put the game away with a 21-point explosion.
  • The Seminoles won the first down battle 28-5 and amassed 587y to 148 for the Orangemen.
1978 FSU-Syracuse Program

The next week, Oklahoma State provided the opposition for the home opener.

  • One of the greatest traditions in college football began that September 16, 1978. A rider dressed in Seminole Indian garb rode an apaloosa horse named Renegade onto the field.
  • The idea was hatched in 1962 in the mind of Bill Durham when he was voted onto the FSU homecoming court that year. He couldn't get the university to approve his plan.
  • 16 years later, Durham, now a Tallahassee businessman, had a conversation with Bowden, who recalled that West Virginia, his previous school, had a traditional mascot similar to FSU's "Sammy Seminole," who was played by a performer from the FSU Circus.
  • Durham seized the moment to mention his horse-and-rider idea. Bowden liked the concept but had trouble selling it to AD John Bridgers. Bobby's wife Anne volunteered her services and helped make the idea a reality.
  • Durham provided the authentic costume as well as the steed. He and his family remain in charge of selecting and training both the horse and the rider.
  • In future years, the rider would be called Chief Osceola, and the pregame ritual would conclude with the rider planting a flaming spear at midfield.
  • The regalia worn by the rider would be designed by women of the Seminole tribe each year.

The Seminoles celebrated the debut of Renegade with a 38-20 victory over the Cowboys.

  • The game started badly with OSU recovering a fumble in the EZ with 4:24 left in Q1 to take a 6-0 lead.
  • The Seminoles took control with 17 Q2 points. After a Dave Cappelen FG cut the lead in half, the Seminoles D created turnovers that led to two TDs in the last two minutes of the half. After DB Mike Kincaid recovered a fumble, Jimmy Jordan fired a 35y pass to Johnson with 1:31 remaining. 19 seconds later, FSU scored again following a fumble on OSU's first play after the kickoff. Jordan threw 32y to Kurt Unglaub for another 6-pointer.
  • The Seminoles kept the heat on in the second half as Johnson scored two more TDs on an 8y run and a 2y pass from Jordan for a 38-20 victory.

The Noles ended the season with a 38-21 victory over Florida for an 8-3 record but failed to get a bowl bid.

Reference: Seminoles! The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
"The Most Bizarre of His Victories"

Florida State's 1983 trip to New Orleans to play Tulane in the Superdome started badly and didn't get much better thereafter.

  • When the Seminoles arrived at the airport, no busses awaited them.
  • It turned out that Central Florida, with former FSU Coach Bill Peterson as their AD, arrived two hours earlier en route to play Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond. A Louisiana state tropper approached Peterson when he deplaned and asked, "Are you the football team from Florida?" Spotting the police escort and the row of air-conditioned buses, Bill replied, "Yes.".
  • After a 30-40 minute wait, a string of school busses finally arrived to bring the Seminoles to their hotel. However, the schedule disruption worsened because of a jackknified tractor trailor that shut down traffic from the airport to downtown.
  • To make matters worse, when the FSU contingent arrived at the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, they found a horde of people in the lobby in an angry mood because the hotel's computer had crashed, preventing anyone from checking in.
  • Many Seminole players, tired of waiting to experience the delights of the Crescent City, wandered a few blocks over to Bourbon Street.

Let Bobby Bowden continue the story.

When we have our pregame meal the night before [the game], it was out there in the open where anybody in the hotel could just walk through. You were distracted as heck. No privacy.

Then we get up and get ready for the game and find out [QB] Kelly Lowrey still has the flu. And there was also all that stuff going on about their QB [Jon English], who was the coach's son and had an eligibility question. The NCAA says, "You can't play him." And their coach, Wally English, says, "I'm going to do it anyway." And he got a court injunction. We ain't even played the game yet.

Jon English was playing for his third four-year institution after transferring from Iowa State during the summer. The NCAA ruled that he had to sit out a season. Yet he played in all three Tulane games under a court order that forbade the school to obey the NCAA decision.

The 2-0 Seminoles didn't live up to their #9 ranking as they played their second straight game in Louisiana, having beaten LSU 40-35 the week before.

  • FSU started the game by driving to the Green Wave 3 only to have Treg Songy intercept Lowrey's pass and race 99y to paydirt. Coach Bowden recalls, "Kelly had to chase that guy for 80 yards, and he was dead."
  • Lowrey struggled to get untracked, going 0-for-6 in Q1.
  • Tulane struck again on the first play of Q2 when Curt Baham returned a punt 77y to double the lead to 14-0.
  • The Florida State O, the most productive in the nation after two games, responded with three TDs to take a 21-14 lead into the locker room as Lowrey finally got into a rhythm.
    • Greg Allen ran in from the 8.
    • Jessie Hester gathered in a 55y TD pass from Lowrey.
    • Allen plunged over from the 1.

The second half told a different tale as the Green Wave held the Noles to 7 points.

  • English led three scoring drives. The first ended with a 39y sprint by Elton Veals to tie the score at 21.
  • The second resulted in a 39y FG by Tony Woods, and the third produced a 15y scoring pass to Wayne Smith to give the Greenies a 31-21 lead as most of the 35,463 in attendance went wild.
  • The Seminoles pulled within 3 as Lowrey sneaked 1y.
  • Wood kicked a 40y FG to complete the scoring at 34-28.

Bowden remembers what happened after the game.

I had this ring that Ron Clark of Palatka had given me. Woo, it was a pretty thing. A garnet and gold ring - the garnets spelled FSU. I took a shower and laid it down. I was one of the last to get out. When I came back to my locker, it was gone.

Two years later, FSU opened the season at Tulane.

  • Bobby returned to Palatka that summer on his annual tour.
  • The Seminole Club there gave him an expensive hand-crafted knife.
  • Bobby knew exactly what to say.

We're going back to New Orleans to play Tulane again this fall. And after the game ... I'm going to take this knife, and we're going looking for that ring!

  • The group roared with laughter.

Within two weeks of the upset in the Superdome, a New Orleans judge refused to grant a permanent injunction against the NCAA's ruling. As a result, Tulane forfeited all games in which English played. So Bowden gained a victory but lost a ring from his hectic trip to the Big Easy.

Tulane QB Jon English
Jon English

FSU QB Kelly Lowrey
Kelly Lowrey

1983 FSU-Tulane Program

FSU RB Greg Allen
Greg Allen

FSU WR Jessie Hester
Jessie Hester

Top of page

References: Tales from the Seminoles Sideline, Bobby Bowden with Steve Ellis (2004)
"A Good Story about a Bad Game," Charlie Barnes, Unconquered: Seminole Boosters Magazine (June 2014)
Notre Dame Comeback #1

1994 Florida State-Notre Dame Program

QB Danny Kanell vs Notre Dame
Danny Kanell

FSU LB Derrick Brooks
Derrick Brooks

Warrick Dunn vs Notre Dame
Warrick Dunn runs against Notre Dame 1994

ND QB Ron Powlus vs FSU
Ron Powlus passing vs FSU

WR Kez McCorvey, FSU Hall of Fame

With Florida State scheduled to play Notre Dame in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, we remember two FSU-Irish games from the 1990s. In both of them, QB Danny Kanell led a late drive to produce a Seminole victory.

The first game occurred in 1994 in Orlando, the site of the Champs Sports Bowl.

  • The previous season, undefeated FSU, ranked #1, visited South Bend in another "Game of the Century" against #2 Notre Dame. The home team prevailed, 31-24, to jump to the top spot.
  • The Fighting Irish, hard hit by graduation with ten starters from '93 drafted by the NFL, entered the game with a 5-3 record. "If we can beat Florida State, that would save our season," said senior LB Justin Goheen.
  • Four days before the game, ND's 57-year-old Coach Lou Holtz said, "We've lost three games. It's not like I've been charged with murder, although I feel like it sometimes." If his team lost in Orlando, Holtz would experience the most losses since his first year in South Bend, 1986 (5-6).
  • The Noles had lost once in eight games - to long-time nemesis Miami, 34-20. #8 FSU would need to win out to stay "on the fringes of the national championship race."

With injured RBs Lee Becton and Ray Zellars suited up again, although neither was 100%, ND hoped to run the ball on the Noles as they did in '93.

  • "Last year they manhandled us," said FSU LB Derrick Brooks. "Guys like [T] Aaron Taylor and [C] Tim Ruddy treated us like little kids."
  • On this day, however, the Noles held the Irish to 138y on the ground, putting pressure on rookie QB Ron Powlus.
  • Instead, Garnet and Gold TBs Warrick Dunn and Rock Preston combined for 328y and two TDs. "I thought they'd throw the ball a little more," Holtz admitted afterwards.

However, it took awhile for the Seminole offense to get warmed up.

  • After a scoreless Q1, FSU got on the scoreboard with a 20y FG by Dan Mowrey with 10:51 left in the half.
  • On its next position, FSU drove inside the 20 again but had to settle for another Mowrey FG, this one a 30-yarder. The big play in the drive was a 46y scamper by Preston.
  • Brooks intercepted a Powlus pass and returned it 24y. With the Noles driving for at least a 9-point lead, Irish CB Bobby Taylor hit Kanell on a blind side blitz forcing a fumble, which he dribbled before picking it up and rambling 57y for a TD. Suddenly, Notre Dame led 7-6.
  • On the last possession of the half, the Seminoles mixed passing and running to move to the 23. Preston broke through the left side for an apparent TD but was ruled out at the 2. The Noles had to settle for another Mowrey 3 and a 9-7 halftime lead.
  • The Irish gained just three first downs and 80 total yards in the first 30 minutes of play.
Rock Preston Scores against ND
Rock Preston scores TD.

Notre Dame regained the lead in Q3.

  • Scott Cengia booted a 39y FG with 4:48 left to take a 10-9 lead.
  • Preston struck again with a 28y TD run with 0:55 left in the period to give FSU a 15-10 lead. The five-play drive featured key Kanell completions to Kez McCorvey for 20 and 'Omar Ellison for 17. Coach Bobby Bowden decided to kick the point for a 16-10 advantage.

The lead didn't hold up.

  • The Noles moved deep into ND territory but bogged down. Mowrey missed a 44y FG that could have produced a two-score advantage.
  • Starting from their own 26, the Irish embarked on a TD drive. Playing 4th and 2 from the Nole 11, Powlus hit WR Derrick Mayes in the corner of the EZ behind CB Clifton Abraham to tie the game. However, Cengia's EP boot hit the upright to keep the score tied with 5:17 remaining. When Bowden was asked after the game why he hadn't gone for two when the score was 15-10, he gave two reasons. "I knew they were going to miss their extra point" and "Six is better than five."
  • After Tiger McMillon returned the kickoff to the 32, FSU embarked on a relentless march. On the very first play, Kanell faked a handout and hit McCorvey for a 49y over-the-shoulder catch at the 19. FB Zack Crockett gained 5 and 6y. Two plays later, Dunn pranced into the EZ from the five with 2:53 on the clock. Mowrey's EP made the score 23-16.
  • Powlus moved the Irish in a desperation attempt to tie the game. However, one play after a crushing hit by DE Peter Boulware made him woozy, Ron threw a fourth-down incompletion to seal the victory.

The stats indicated the game wasn't as close as the 7-point margin indicated.

  • FSU gained 27 first downs to 11 for the Irish.
  • The Seminoles held a whopping 517-221 advantage in total yardage.

The Noles clobbered North Carolina State 34-3 the next week before coming from 28 down in Q4 to tie Florida 31-31. The Sugar Bowl set up a rematch with the Gators, which the Noles won, 23-17.

Notre Dame beat Air Force and tied USC to earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, a 41-24 loss to Colorado that made the Irish's final record 6-5-1.

Reference: "Don't Look Now," Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated, November 21, 1994
1995 Florida State Football Media Guide
Seminoles Sidelines Archive | Top of Page
Notre Dame Comeback - II

Notre Dame Comeback - I

The 1995 Seminoles finished 9-2 to earn an Orange Bowl berth against Notre Dame. The New Year's night clash would mark the third straight season the two schools met on the gridiron.

  • FSU's defeats both came on the road at Virginia - their first ACC loss after 29 victories since joining the conference in '92 - and at Florida.
  • Lou Holtz's Irish also entered the game with a 9-2 record with losses at the hands of Northwestern, the surprise team of that season, and Ohio State.
  • Notre Dame, winners of its last six, was ranked #6 with Florida State two notches below. Yet the oddsmakers installed FSU as an 11-point favorite.
  • Bobby Bowden was seeking a ninth consecutive season with 10 victory and a top five finish, both NCAA records.

The Fighting Irish bolted out of the starting gate.

  • Autry Denson ran for 48y and Marc Edwards gained 28 on the game's first two plays. However, the drive ended with Scott Cengia missing a 35y FG attempt.
  • ND scored later in the period on a perfect 39y scoring strike from QB Tom Krug, making only his second career start, to WR Derrick Mayes.
  • The Seminoles tied it when QB Danny Kanell connected with WR Andre Cooper for 15y with 6:08 remaining in the opening stanza.
  • Cengia's 20y FG put the Irish back in the lead as Q1 ended.
  • The second period belonged to the Seminoles. The only score came when Kanell scrambled on third down from the 10 and threw to Cooper, who outjumped a defender to make the catch in the EZ. Scott Bentley's second PAT made it 14-10 with 2:30 left in the half.
  • Holtz gambled by trying a fake punt from his 21 with 50 seconds left before intermission. The play gained 29y on a pass to Edwards from punter Hunter Smith. But Sean Hamlet's interception three plays later ended the threat.
 Kanell On RunKanell Down
Danny Kanell on the run and fallen.

The adage that God is a Notre Dame fan seemed to hold true early in Q3.

  • The heavens opened and a heavy rain began to fall, helping to neutralize FSU's high-voltage passing attack.
  • The run-oriented Irish used the wet conditions to their advantage. Midway through the period, they ran the ball seven straight times to reach the FSU 39. Having lulled the Seminole secondary, Krug lofted a pass to the EZ towards Mayes, who was closely defended by CB Samari Rolle. Mayes outleaped Rolle and tipped the ball into the air. Then he turned and almost nonchalantly caught it. Notre Dame led 17-14 at the 8:04 mark.
  • Kanell threw an INT to end one FSU drive, then Bentley missed a 42y FG with 1:40 left in the period.
 Derrick Mayes' TD vs FSU
Derrick Mayes catches TD pass.

The Fighting Irish momentum carried over into the last quarter.

  • Kanell inadvertently stepped on the end line while back to pass for a safety.
  • Notre Dame took the ensuing free kick and scored again just two minutes later. A 51y burst by TB Robert Famer, the longest run of his career, set up Krug's 4y pass to TE Pete Chryplewicz to make the score 26-14 with 11:43 left.
  • "At that point, I wouldn't have given you a plugged nickel for our chances," Bowden said afterwards.
  • Fortunately, Cooper didn't share those sentiments. He told Kanell before they took the field that they could do it. Danny might have needed some encouragement since he admitted afterwards to having flashbacks to the 1994 Miami game in the same stadium, a 34-20 loss in which he played poorly. "It was very rough for me. One good thing is I'm a lot more mature than I was last year; I can put things behind me a lot better."

The Noles took just five plays and two minutes to cut the lead to 5.

  • The march covered 73y and culminated in an 11y TD pass to E. G. Green with plenty of time, 9:57, remaining.
  • After the D forced a three-and-out, Dee Feaster returned the punt 41y to the ND 30.
  • Six plays later, Kanell hit Cooper from the 3 to take a 27-26 lead.
  • Danny found Cooper again for the 2-point conversion with 6:09 to go.
  • FSU's D recovered a fumble, and even though the O didn't score, it ran the clock down.
  • Finally, Krug was flagged for intentional grounding in the EZ for a safety with 2:02 left to make the final score 31-26.

The victory ran Florida State's record against Notre Dame to 3-1.

  • Cooper set an Orange Bowl record with three TD catches to earn the MVP award. He said that the players wanted to continue Coach Bowden's bowl winning streak. "We had one streak ended with the ACC this year; we didn't want to see this one end."
  • Wayne Messam led all FSU receivers with 103y on six catches, while Green had 99 on five.
  • FSU had 26 first downs to 17 for the Irish. However, the total yardage count was much closer, 478-425 in favor of the Noles.
  • Bowden: "It seemed like the national championship. We were lucky to win the darn game."

1996 Orange Bowl Program cover

Notre Dame QB Tom Krug
Tom Krug

FSU WR Andre Cooper
Andre Cooper

FSU WR E. G. Green
E. G. Green

FSU RB Dee Feaster
Dee Feaster

FSU WR Wayne Messam
Wayne Messam

Bowden Carried Off After Orange Bowl Victory
Bowden after the victory