First Victory over Miami

Birth of "Huff the Magic Dragon"

Can Anybody Here Snap the Ball?

Same Foe, Same Score

A Big Win

First Win at Auburn

Bobby's Ties - I

Bobby's Ties - II

Bobby's Ties - III

Bobby's Ties - IV


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Seminoles Sidelines - V

Seminoles First: Victory over Miami

Excitement built among Seminole fans as the 1958 football season neared.

  • The main cause of the buzz was the fact that FSU would finally play Flor­ida.
  • Mounting pressure from across the state, especially in the legislature, forced the Gators to condescend to schedule their sister school in Talla­hassee which had been the Florida State College for Women from 1905­46.

But the Big Game wouldn't take place until the last week of the season. In the meantime, the Seminoles gave their fans several thrills to tide them over until November 22.

  • On October 25, FSU scored its first victory over an SEC team and on the road to boot - 10-0 over Tennessee.
  • The triumph was one of six victories against two losses (Georgia Tech and Georgia) as the Noles traveled to Miami for the November 7 encounter with the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.

Miami was the first "major" school to agree to play the upstart Seminoles. By '58, the schools had met five times with UM winning every contest.

  • 1951 at Miami: Hurricanes 35 Seminoles 13
  • 1953 at Miami: Hurricanes 27 Seminoles 0
  • 1955 at Miami: Hurricanes 34 Seminoles 0
  • 1956 at Miami: Hurricanes 20 Seminoles 7
  • 1957 at Tallahassee: Hurricanes 40 Seminoles 13

The '58 campaign had been a disappointment for Andy Gustafson's squad.

  • Ranked 15th in the preseason poll, the Canes had won only once in five starts, scoring a meager 31 points.
  • As a result, oddsmakers favored FSU by 1/2 point - essentially calling the game a tossup.
  • The Seminoles had shut out their last three opponents with the Tennes­see games sandwiched between Virginia Tech (28-0) and Tampa (43-0).
  • A victory would thrust FSU into the bowl picture regardless of what hap­pened in Gainesville.
  • In an effort to inject some life into his team, Gustafson shook up his lineup going with senior Bonnie Yarbrough at QB behind a revamped line. Bon­nie had come out of anonymity to pitch for 105y and set up a TD in Q4 the week before against Vanderbilt.
  • Tom Nugent's sixth Seminole club averaged only 182 lbs per starter but challenged opponents with their speed. FB Fred Pickard ranked fifth in the nation in rushing.

The AP story on the game started like this:

The Florida State Seminoles combined speed and alertness Friday night to score their sweetest football victory in 12 seasons of play as they whipped the University of Miami Hurricanes before 31,879 fans in the Orange Bowl, 17 to 6.

  • You don't usually win a game in which the opposition gains 20 first downs to your 9 and outgains you 309-176.
  • But turnovers are always the equalizer. The Noles picked off three passes and recovered three fumbles.

With the temperature in the 70s after a light sprinkle before the game, the Hur­ricanes started the game like, well, a hurricane.

  • The fans cheered for their favorite, Yarbrough, as the usually conservative Canes opened with a 13y pass to Joe Plevel.
  • The first possession featured eight passes and four runs to reach the FSU 27. But four straight incompletions, the last on a fake FG, ended the drive.
  • That futility apparently soured Gustafson on Bonnie because he sent in his former starting QB, George MacIntyre, when Miami got the ball a second time following an INT. But the move backfired as Joe Majors intercepted an aerial and raced 42y for a TD.
  • So Yarbrough reentered and immediately drove the home team again, this time marching 68y in 11 plays for a TD. His passes and Harry Deiderich's 26y dash through RT on fourth-and-1 at the FSU 33 highlighted the ad­vance, which ended with Plevel bucking over from the 1. Gustafson deci­ded to go for two points and the lead, but FB Frank Bouffard fumbled as he hit LT.

The Seminoles extended their lead in Q2, but first they had to overcome a bad break.

  • FSU's deft ball-handling worked against them when QB Vic Prinzi faked a handoff to the TB into the line and hid the ball on his hip as he rolled out. He scampered untouched into the EZ, where he held the ball high over his head in triumph. But official Pete Williams, fooled by the fake, had blown the play dead.
  • Nugent recalled: Williams called time and came over to the sidelines. The crowd was screaming and yelling. He said to me, "I've never had this happen. I've always lived in fear that it would happen. I lost the ball. I blew the ball dead, and according to the rules that fine touchdown you got has got to come back."
    Nugent replied: They all think I'm screaming at you, but all I have to say is this: I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I've always asked people to forgive me. You just made a hell of a mistake. I forgive you.
  • FSU had to punt but quickly regained possession when Deiderich fumbled at the 13. Three plays later from the 8, Prinzi faked a handoff to Pickard, dropped back, and threw to E Tony Romeo in the EZ. As Romeo got his hands on the ball, two defenders sandwiched him, causing Tony to lose control. But Pickard, who jogged into the EZ following the fake to him, grabbed the deflection as if following a script for FSU's second TD. John Sheppard's PAT made it 14-6 with 9:53 to play in the half.
  • Undaunted, Miami cranked up another good drive. Behind the running of second stringers Theron Mitchell and Neil Fleming, UM gained a first down at the FSU 12. But a holding penalty (15y for "illegal use of hands" in those days) set them back to the 24. On fourth down, LB Ramon Rogers picked off Yarbrough's pass.

Gustafson kept trying to shake up his team in the second half.

  • He started his third-string unit with junior Fran Curci at the controls. Sticking to the ground, this group reached the 19 whereupon Gustafson sent ten first-teamers in to join Curci. The Orange Bowl crowd voiced its displeasure.
  • But UM kept pushing to the 4 where DE Pete Fleming forced Curci into a bad pitchout that Bobby Renn covered to end the threat.
  • However, Miami was knocking on the door again shortly afterwards fol­lowing T Charlie Diamond's recovery of Pickard's bobble. But after reach­ing the 6, Curci was sacked for a 5y loss (to use a term Deacon Jones hadn't invented yet), then threw an INT on the next play.

Florida State started a drive that led to a crucial FG.

  • Early in Q4, Carl Meyer broke loose down the sidelines and went the dis­tance. However, an official ruled he stepped out of bounds at the UM 26 for a 28y gain. FSU made one more first down before bogging down. So "Doctor Johnny Sheppard, that eminent foot specialist" (to quote Tallahas­see Democrat writer Bill McGrotha) booted a 22-yarder to put the Noles up 17-6.
  • The Miami coach continued his QB shuffle, sending Yarbrough back out. He led a drive all the way to the 1, but Deiderich was tackled short of the goal on fourth down. The Seminoles then ran out the clock.


  • FSU assistant Lee Corso gave Nugent a congratulatory smooch when the game ended before three FSU lineman carried their boss across the field for the ritual handshake.
  • Although Tom told reporters the victory was not as important as the one in Knoxville, he acknowledged that it meant a lot to him and the program. Af­ter answering all questions, he went from player to player, congratulating them but reminding them of the UF game in two weeks. We've got one more game to go. We're not supposed to win this one, so let's not talk about it.
  • Gustafson: FSU deserved to win. ... I felt like the team gave the effort. But we just don't do the right things at the right times. We try to throw; it's inter­cepted. We try to run; we fumble or we just plain don't make the yardage. I just don't know.


Many years later, Prinzi as color commentary on the FSU radio net­work sat in the press box at the Orange Bowl preparing for another FSU-UM game. In comes this guy who introduces himself - Pete Wil­liams. He came up to apologize. He said, "You know, it's been almost 30 years." And I said, "It's been 30 years exactly."

The '58 season will continue next issue with the Florida game ...

Reference: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)

FSU Coach Tom Nugent 1958
Tom Nugent
Miami Coach Andy Gustafson
Andy Gustafson
1958 FSU-Miami Program Cover
FSU RB Fred Pickard 1958
Fred Pickard
FSU RB Joe Majors 1958
Joe Majors
FSU QB Vic Prinzi
Vic Prinzi
FSU E Tony Romeo
Tony Romeo
E Pete Flemming 1958
Pete Fleming
FSU HB Bobby Renn 1958
Bobby Renn
FSU RB Carl Meyer 1958
Carl Meyer
FSU Assistant Coach Lee Corso 1958
Lee Corso

Birth of "Huff the Magic Dragon"

1970 FSU-Florida Program
FSU QB Gary Huff
Gary Huff
WR Barry Smith, FSU
Barry Smith
FSU QB Frank Whigham
Frank Whigham
FSU WR Rhett Dawson
Rhett Dawson
FSU RB James Jarrett
James Jarrett
FSU QB Tommy Warren
Tommy Warren
FSU RB Kent Gaydos
Kent Gaydos

Gary Huff, a 6-1 185 lb "QB from Tampa whom nobody much wanted" (to quote Bill McGrotha of the Tallahassee Democrat) was in his first year of varsity eligibility in 1970. Gary rode the pine for Coach Bill Peterson the first three games of the season.

  • The Seminoles won two of those three, beating Louisville and Wake Forest.
  • The defeat came in Atlanta at the hands of Georgia Tech.
  • Another sophomore that year, WR Barry Smith, explains Huff's situation.

He was the third-team QB, but all of us were going crazy because everybody on that team knew Gary should be the starting QB. But the coaches liked Tommy Warren because he was the senior, and Gary was only a sophomore and didn’t have the experience. Tommy was a scrambler and had a very average arm, and Gary was just throwing BBs.

Huff finally got his chance in the fourth game against archrival Florida before a sellout crowd of 42,704 at Doak Campbell Stadium.

  • The Gators came in with a 3-1 record, losing only at Alabama.
  • Unfortunately, the visitors rediscovered their potent O behind rifle-armed QB John Reaves, who connected down the middle near the end of Q1 with TE Jim Yancey on an 81y scoring toss, the longest in UF history.
  • That strike tied the score at 7 after FSU FB James Jarrett skirted RE from the 3 after a fumble recovery on the Florida 31. Starting QB Frank Whigham hit flanker Rhett Dawson on passes of 26 and 13 to set up Jarrett's scamper with 2:19 on the clock.

The Gators exploded for 21 points in Q2, thanks in part to Seminole miscues.

  • Reaves hit Willie Jackson on a look in pass from the 19 to make it 14-7.
  • A short while later, following Whigham's third INT, John directed a 41y drive that put 7 more on the board.
  • Warren came in at that point for the first time since the Georgia Tech game. But Tommy's first pass was also intercepted at the 34.
  • Florida took advantage of the short field to lead by 21 at halftime.

The third period brought more misery to the Seminoles.

  • On the opening drive, Warren fired a pass from the UF 43 to Smith at the goal. The ball was on target but eluded Barry. After an FSU first down at the 31, Tommy tossed still another pick.
  • Floridadrove close enough for a 30y FG to make it 31-7.
  • Later in the period, Warren fumbled the ball away at midfield. Then, on the next series at the start of Q4, Rocky Doddridge intercepted and ran 27y to paydirt to make it 38-7

Peterson decided to give his third string QB a chance.

  • On his first play for the Garnet and Gold, Huff threw to Garry Parris for 23y to the Florida 42. On the second play, he connected with Mike Gray for a TD.
  • On the two-point try, Huff tossed the ball to Kent Gaydos while being hit, a play that evoked the biggest cheer of the day from the home crowd.
  • The onside kick didn't work, but the Gators went nowhere and punted to the 17. After an incompletion, Huff completed a pass to Parris at the 44.
  • Another incompletion was followed by another strike to Parris to the 26. The incomplete-complete pattern continued with Dawson gathering in the pass to the 8.
  • Another incompletion, then an interference call in the EZ. From the 1, Huff faked a run into the middle, rolled out, and tossed to Smith alone in the EZ. As Barry recalled years later, "I caught my first TD and I was laughing my rear off because it was a one-yard catch."
  • But Smith continued, "A couple of minutes later, he threw me a 66y bomb for a TD. I was like, I’m going to like this guy, Gary Huff." Smith crossed the goal line with 11 seconds on the clock after Gary hit him in stride as he streaked down the sidelines.
  • The final score was a respectable 38-27. As the headline in the Panama City News-Herald said the next day, "Rout Averted By Acrobatics Of Gary Huff." The third stringer completed 8-of-15 for 230y and 3 TDs.
  • Smith has an interesting take on Peterson's approach to the Florida game each year.

We lost the game but we were kind of excited because of what Gary had done. Florida always had a lot of talent on their team. But you know that saying, "You can leave your best game on the practice field"? That's the way it was with Florida. Bill Peterson was a very emotional coach; that's why I liked him so much. But the Florida game was just way over the top. I think we always left our game on the practice field. Everybody wanted to beat Florida so badly that we all kind of tightened up when we played them.

Peterson started Huff the next week against Memphis State.

  • Gary went 14-for-25 with 1 INT in the 16-12 loss.
  • Huff started again at South Carolina but had the tables turned on him as Warren took over with 1:12 left in the first half and FSU trailing 7-0. Tommy led the Seminoles to a 21-13 win.
  • Gary's line read 10-20-67.
  • The victory was a sweet one for Peterson over his mentor from LSU, Paul Dietzel.
  • Coach Pete continued to use Huff as a change of pace to Warren the rest of the season, which ended with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses but no bowl game. Whigham did not throw another pass.

Peterson left to coach the Houston Oilers. His replacement, Larry Jones, built the offense around Huff the next two years.

Reference: What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
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Can Anybody Here Snap the Ball?

Coach Bobby Bowden had a problem as his 1980 Seminoles approached their annual game with archrival Miami.

  • Injuries had decimated his centers. Starter John Madden was questionable with a bad ankle in the previous game. His backup, Joe Merson, hurt his knee on the play after Madden went out. Next in line was G Redus Coggin.
  • Madden would start against the Hurricanes but would certainly not be at full strength.
John Madden later became Bobby Bowden's son-in-law. John and his 15-year-old son Bowden were killed in an automobile accident in September 2004.

The Seminoles had won their first three games in convincing fashion to move up from #13 in the preseason poll to #9.

  • FSU began the season with the second of five consecutive games at Tiger Stadium, beating Jerry Stovall's first LSU team 16-0.
  • Next came two blowout wins at home, a 52-0 over Louisville and 63-7 over East Carolina. The triumphs extended FSU's regular season winning streak to 18 games.
  • The Hurricanes were also undefeated: @Louisville 24-0, Florida A&M 49-0, and @Houston 14-7.
  • With Nebraska and Pittsburgh looming right after the Canes, Bowden called this three-game stretch his "Mideast crisis." "These next three will tell the story on Florida State," he said.

The game in the Orange Bowl offered a matchup of two of the top MGs in the nation.

  • Unfortunately for FSU, their senior All-American MG Ron Simmons had been sidelined with an injured ankle. He would play but would not be at full speed.
  • Miami fans had heard about Simmons for years but felt their middleman, Jim Burt, was better. He was part of a D that led the nation against the rush, allowing only 16ypg. Burt licked his chops at the prospect of playing across from either an injured starting C or a converted G.
  • The Nole D was no slouch either, having surrendered only one TD in the first three games and that on a kickoff return.
  • So smart money was on a low-scoring game. The Seminoles were favored by 4 1/2.

The crowd of 50,008, the largest for a Miami home game since 66,000 witnessed the Canes-Notre Dame game in 1971, gathered in 91-degree heat for the 4pm kickoff.

  • The Seminoles' O was hurt by problems with the snap. Altogether, the Noles rang up seven fumbles on the day, losing two. Five of the bobbles came on missed exchanges between QB Rick Stockstill and Coggin. FSU went six possessions for getting a first down.
  • After a scoreless Q1, during which the Canes missed a 47y FG, Miami got a break when FB Michael Whiting's fumble was recovered on the FSU 37. Six plays later, the threat ended when FB Greg Anderson, making his first carry of the season, fumbled on a busted play. Jarvis Coursey recovered for the Noles on the 15.
  • With 52 seconds left in the half, Miami called timeout facing third-and-10 at the 50. QB Jim Kelly threw a long pass for the EZ. Even though the ball was clearly overthrown, FSU D-back Gary Henry was called for interference on receiver Larry Brodsky at the goal line. That gave Miami the ball on the 1 with 41 seconds left. The FSU coaches felt the call was a makeup for the non-call on the previous long pass when Brodsky was jostled by Monk Bonasorte.
  • Kelly sneaked over for the TD to send the Canes into the locker room with a 7-0 lead. FSU had managed but a single first down and 46y of O in the first 30 minutes of play.

The Seminoles needed to get the offense in gear if they were to have any chance of victory.

  • QB Rick Stockstill had thrown only six passes in the first half, completing three.
  • He led a drive quickly down the field before it stalled at the 11. Bill Capece then kicked a 26y FG to cut the lead to 7-3 with 7:20 remaining in Q3.
  • The Hurricanes got the 3 points right back. Kelly passed 22y to Jim Joiner, 15 to Pat Walker, and 11 more to FB Mark Rush. Danny Miller capped the march with a 22y FG.

FSU's returned to dormancy until the closing minutes of the game.

  • The next two times FSU got the ball, it turned it over, once on an INT at its own 30 and again on a fumble at the 19. Both times the Garnet and Gold D held, and Miller missed from 45 and 36y.
  • Finally, Stockstill got the Noles moving again starting from the FSU 45. Rick hit nine passes on the drive, ending with an 11y strike to TE Sam Childers with only 39 seconds left.
  • It would seem that Bowden faced a dilemma. Trailing 10-9, would he go for the tie or the victory? Actually, Bobby never hesitated, sending in his two-point unit. Stockstill recalls: "We called timeout and, back then, ties were never a consideration for Coach Bowden, probably more so because of his personality and the fact we weren’t in a conference. Kicking the EP and tying was never an option."
  • Anticipating that his adversary would do just that if given the opportunity, Howard Schnellenberger had his Canes practice their two-point defense that week. D coordinator Rick Lantz decided to mount a rush up the middle, led by Burt.
  • Unfortunately, FSU's 2-point play called for Stockstill to throw to WR Phil Williams over the middle in the back of the EZ. Williams was open, but Burt batted it down.
  • Miami recovered the onsides kick and ran out the clock.

Schnellenberger, of course, was ecstatic afterwards.

  • "It's by far the biggest win I've ever been associated with at UM. We felt like if we could make them throw, we could win. But it almost didn't work that way."
  • Bobby had no regrets about going to two but could only shake his head. "He was open. We had 'em." When asked about the pass inteference call that set up Miami's only TD, Bowden replied, "I'm prejudiced." The Cane receiver, Brodsky, said of the call, "It surprised me as well as everybody else."
  • Stockstill: "I just remember being in the locker room and feeling all the pain and the hurt. That was my first loss as a starting QB. … I think the coaches were disappointed we lost but probably proud of the way we fought and competed in the game."
  • Many years later, Bowden reflected on the tough loss. "That's the game I found out centers are more important than QBs. ... To me, that's the game that started Miami on their comeback." He also believes he was outcoached. "Howard just did a tremendous job that day. Howard outcoached me. I got too conservative."

The heartbreaker proved to be the Noles only loss during the regular season. Their 10-1 record got them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Miami QB Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly

Miami NG Jim Burt
Jim Burt

FSU QB Rick Stockstill

FSU TE Sam Childers
Sam Childers

Miami Coach Howard Schnellenberger
Howard Schnellenberger

References: Sunshine Shootouts, Jeff Miller (1992)
What It Means to Be a Seminole, Mark Schlabach (2007)
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Same Foe, Same Score

FSU QB Wally Woodham

FSU WR Jackie Flowers
Jackie Flowers

FSU QB Jimmy Jordan
Jimmy Jordan

FSU WR Sam Platt
Sam Platt

FSU FB Mark Lyles
Mark Lyles
1979 FSU-Cincinnati program

26-21 is not a common score for a football game. Yet Florida State played games with that final tally in back to back years, 1978-9. Furthermore, the contests involved the same opponent and the same come-from-behind victor in the last minutes.

The Seminoles and the Cincinnati Bearcats met in Tallahassee October 7, 1978. Both schools were members of the Metro Conference, which did not sponsor football.

  • The schools had met for the first time on the gridiron the season before, with FSU emerging victorious 14-0 at home.
  • 1978 was part of the era of the two-headed QB for the Seminoles. Wally Woodham started for the 3-1 Noles against the Bearcats. However, Jimmy Jordan came off the bench in the second half to spark the victory.
  • With Ralph Staub's 1-2 Bearcats leading 7-0 early in Q2, Woodham hit Jackie Flowers for an 18y TD to tie the game. Wally then sneaked over from the 1 four minutes later to put FSU up 14-7. However, the Cats tied the game on a 62y pass with 2:50 left before intermission.
  • The visitors took a 21-14 lead six minutes into the second half. After FSU failed to score in Q3, Bobby Bowden sent in Jordan to shake up the O.
  • Jimmy led a 91y drive that culminated in his 5y toss to TE Grady King to make it 21-20. The Riverboat Gambler, otherwise known as Coach Bowden, went for 2, but Woodham's pass failed with 6 minutes left.
  • The Seminole D got the ball back for Jordan & Company at the Seminole 44. After moving forward at first, the Noles went into reverse and found themselves facing 4th-and-22 on their own 46 with under two minutes to play.
  • No problem - just let Jordan fire the ball to WR Sam Platt 23y down the field. Sam first gave ground to find running room, then tore away from the D to score with 1:29 remaining. FSU gave the ball to 230lb FB Mark Lyles to try to move the lead to 7, but he was stopped short.
  • The Bearcats could not pull a rabbit out of their own hat in the remaining time.
  • Jordan ended the evening 7-of-13 for 114y.
  • Bowden said, "My stomach won't take much of this."

Fast forward 13 months to FSU visiting the Queen City on November 3, 1979.

  • The Bearcat encounter was a classic trap game. The Noles had just stretched their record to 7-0 with a 24-19 triumph in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. However, all-star NG Ron Simmons was sidelined with an injury.
  • Cincy was only 2-5 with the victories over Villanova and Richmond, neither of which was a Division I-A school.
  • For three periods, it looked as if FSU's undefeated season would crumble, but this time it was Woodham who relieved Jordan to lead the comeback.
  • FSU started snappily. LB Monk Bonasarte intercepted a Bearcat pass on the game's first series. Eight plays later, Lyles' 1y crash put the Noles on top 7-0 with less than 5 minutes gone.
  • Perhaps suffering a letdown after an easy score against a decided underdog, FSU went to sleep for the rest of the half, surrendering 21 points in Q2, the last TD coming on a 1y run with only 0:39 left. Bearcat QB Tony Kapetanis from Coral Springs FL passed for one TD and ran for the other two.
  • The O didn't reawaken until late in Q3 after Woodham took over midway through the period.
  • Wally directed a 17-play 56y drive that consumed 7:35 on the clock and ended with a 7y pass to Lyle. Trailing 21-13, Bobby went for 2, but Rick Stockstill's aerial fell incomplete with 10:57 left to play.
  • Cincy made a concerted effort to regain a two-TD lead, but its drive stalled on the Seminole 28.
  • Woodham marched his troops to length of the field in ten plays. The drive included a fourth down and a third down conversion. Wally tossed a 5y scoring aerial to Flowers. RB Michael Whiting's conversion run was stopped to keep the Bearcats on top 21-19. Bonasarte recalled the TD years later.

Jackie Flowers caught a TD in the corner of the EZ ... I don’t know if he was out of bounds or not. It was a close call against a team we should have beaten pretty badly.

  • Cincy moved the sticks again before the Tribe forced a punt that sophomore Gary Henry returned 38y to the Bearcat 40 with 2:40 on the clock.
  • On the first pass, Woodham flipped a flare pass to Lyles who rambled to the 9 to put the Noles in easy FG range. So Bowden ordered runs.
  • After freshman Ricky Williams gained 1, Whiting broke free up the middle to paydirt. Dave Cappelen's kick made it 26-21 with 1:38 left.
  • Bowden afterwards: "I had a good alibi ready. Then those crazy guys go out and win the game."

Cincinnati fell to 0-3 in the series that has produced three more Seminole victories, all at the Doak - '82 (38-31), '83 (43-17), and '90 (70-21).

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

The title of this piece probably made you think it would be about a game against Miami or Florida. Actually, it's about a game with VMI.

"Big win," of course, is a relative term. And it meant something different in 1953 from what it came to mean in the Bobby Bowden Era.

  • Tom Nugent took charge of the Florida State football program for the '53 season. The Lawrence MA native had directed Virginia Military Institute to a 19-18-2 record in four seasons, including an upset of Georgia Tech in Atlanta and a 28-7 triumph in Tallahassee in 1952, a game that caught the attention of FSU administrators.
  • VMI was once again on FSU's schedule as the fifth game of the season. Nugent wanted to beat his former school as any coach would, but his successor in Lynchberg, John McKenna, raised the voltage by referring to the shifts and other offensive innovations that Nugent installed as "veneer."

Nugent's first Garnet and Gold team came into the VMI game with a 1-3 record.

  • Tom had conducted a fierce spring practice in the spirit of Bear Bryant and other coaches who want to see who really wants to play football. The 67-man squad that begin the training was considerably reduced by the end - in weight per man and numbers.
  • Nugent brought in several JC transfers to help fill the void. He also recruited a number of promising freshmen, including a QB from Miami named Lee Corso.
  • A change in the NCAA rules eliminating the free substitution that had been installed during World War II helped teams like FSU that didn't have a great deal of depth.
  • Adapting to a new system, the Noles lost to Miami (27-0), Abilene Christian (20-7), and Louisiana Tech (32-21) while registering their only win over Louisville (59-0).
  • An open date allowed Nugent to personally scout VMI against West Virginia.

9,897 fans - far short of the record 14,000 attendance FSU officials had hoped for - turned out on Halloween night at Doak Campbell Stadium to see Nugent take on his former school.

  • The Keydets were hampered by the loss of HB Mike Foley, who broke an ankle in practice two days earlier. As if to sportingly equalize matters, FSU's RB Bobby Fiveash had to leave the game after the second play with a shoulder injury suffered on D. However, his replacement, Junior Metts, a 170-pound freshman from Sanford, would fill his shoes admirably, racking up 111y in nine carries with one TD.
  • VMI's touted RB Johnny Mapp, the nation's leading rusher at that point, lost fumbles on the visitors' first two possessions, but FSU could do nothing with either break, Metts returning the favor after the second bobble.
  • Still, the Garnet D, led by 210 lb freshman T Bob Barber from Belle Glade, was stuffing the Keydets' running game. Barber would end the evening with 10 tackles and six assists.
  • After neither team threatened in Q1, Metts quick-kicked 55y to the VMI 26. Illustrating the philosophy of that time, Mapp punted right back, another 55-yarder. After another exchange of turnovers, Mapp got a bad snap and punted only 15y to the FSU 45.
  • From there, the Seminoles broke the scoring ice in just four plays. John Griner gained 5. Then Metts, on a quick-opener, ripped off 39y to the 11 where Mapp fought off blockers to bring him down. Billy Graham slashed for 3, then took it the remaining 8 to paydirt. Graham's PAT attempt was blocked.
  • After the kickoff, FSU got another opportunity to score, recovering a fumble on the VMI 31. QB Harry Massey, back to pass, ran instead to the 24. Griner made the first down at the 20, then Metts fought his way to the 3. After several attempts, Graham crashed over from the 1 on fourth down. This time Graham's EP try went wide. The scoreboard read 12-0 at the half.

VMI got back in the game early in Q3.

  • Taking the kickoff, FSU had Metts quick-kick 42y to the 29. From there, the Keydets methodically drove 71y in 22 plays, all on the ground with no run covering more than 9y. Bull-like FB Nick Servidio did most of the damage until QB David Woolwine sneaked the last 1/2y, then kicked the point to make it 12-7.
  • Soon after, Barber recovered still another VMI fumble at their 21. But a 15y penalty and a 19y sack forced a punt.
  • Later, Corso's fumble gave VMI life at the FSU 42. But Griner's INT stemmed the last threat.
  • FSU cranked up a drive in the last minutes that pushed its way to the 2 when the horn sounded.
  • The Seminoles finished with 265y rushing while holding the opponent to 146, with Mapp gaining a mere 28. The FSU D captured five turnovers.
  • A hoarse Nugent, who had tears in his eyes when he addressed the team before the game, was elated at what he called a team victory, an example of what "the greatest bunch of boys I have ever coached" could do. He added, "We gave them a little veneer," sticking the needle into McKenna.
  • 30 years later, Tom referred to the 1958 victory at Tennessee as "the most memorable one of my Florida State years." However, he added, "From a very personal standpoint, the VMI game of 1953 meant the most to me."

Nugent's first squad lost its next two games before winning the final three to finish 5-5.

FSU QB Harry Massey
Harry Massey
FSU RB Billy Graham
Billy Graham

FSU Coach Tom Nugent
Tom Nugent


1953 FSU-VMI Program

FSU QB Lee Corso

FSU RB "Buck" Metts
Junior Metts

FSU T Bob Barber
Bob Barber

FSU RB John Griner
John Griner

Reference: Seminoles: The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
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FSU LB Terry Warren
Terry Warren
FSU QB Danny McManus
Danny McManus
FSU WR Herb Gainer
Herb Gainer
FSU K Derek Schmidt
Derek Schmidt
FSU WR Pat Carter
Pat Carter
First - Win at Auburn
Prior to their visit to Auburn in 1987, the Seminoles had a 0-9-1 record at the various in­carnations of Jordan-Hare Stadium. FSU had beaten the Tigers just once, 24-3 in Talla­hassee in 1977.
  • Bobby Bowden's '87 contingent boasted a 7-1 record. The loss came to Miami 26-25 when a two-point conversion failed in the final seconds.
  • The Plainsmen, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Bo Jackson, were unbeaten in eight games, their only flaw a 20-20 tie at Tennessee. Pat Dye's club ranked #6 in the AP poll, two slots below the Noles.

The Seminoles received some extra motivation on the plane ride to SE Alabama.

  • The coaches handed each player a newspaper clipping that suggested Florida State would rather choke on its own emotion than fight through adversity.
  • Of course, the heartbreaking loss to the Hurricanes a month earlier was cited as another instance of what critics said was the Noles failure to win "the big ones."

The vast majority of the 85,170 in attendance on a cool, sunny afternoon who expected a close game went home disappointed.

  • The fired-up FSU D struck on the very first play from scrimmage when WR Duke Don­aldson fumbled into the hands of LB Terry Warren at the Auburn 37.
  • Seven plays later, the visitors went ahead on FB Dayne Williams' 2y run.
  • Late in the period, the Noles doubled their lead on a 5y pass from QB Danny McMan­us to WR Herb Gainer.
  • Derek Schmidt's 37y FG early in Q2 made it 17-0 following Warren's fumble recovery.
  • After Auburn got on the board with a 32y FG of its own, Schmidt matched that score with a 27-yarder with 2:30 left in the half.
  • Taking advantage of another turnover, McManus and Gainer connected again, this time from the 19, to make the score 27-3 at the half.
  • Auburn settled down in the second half but could muster only a FG in Q3 that was more than matched by McManus's third TD pass, this one to Pat Carter from the 6 to make the final 34-6.
  • Mickey Andrews' D finished the day with three fumble recoveries and three INTs.

In addition to providing FSU its first win at Auburn, the game created several other mile­stones.

  • Schmidt became the NCAA's all-time scoring leader with 370 points.
  • The Tigers suffered their worst loss since a 41-7 rout by Nebraska in 1982.
  • The Plainsmen last failed to score a TD 37 games earlier in a 24-3 loss to Florida in 1984.

Bowden's expressed happiness in getting a monkey off his back.

We have won big games before, but we haven't won any lately that seemed like a big game. Beating Auburn here definitely is a big game.

The '87 Seminoles culminated the regular season with a 28-14 victory at Florida, then beat Nebraska 31-28 in an exciting Fiesta Bowl to begin their unprecedented run of 14 straight top five finishes.

Bobby's Ties - I

No, this doesn't refer to Coach Bowden's haberdashery. This refers to the four tie games in his FSU career, the last one of which is the most famous. The first two deadlocks occurred in the same season, 1984, and the same number of points were scored in both games - 34.

So let's begin with Bobby's first tie of his head coaching career, at Memphis State in the fifth game of the '84 season.

  • Bowden's ninth Seminole squad traveled to Elvis's domain with a 4-0 record and #6 ranking.
    • East Carolina 48-17 at home
    • Kansas on the road 42-16
    • Defending national champion Miami in the Orange Bowl 38-3
    • Temple at home 44-27.
  • With Eric Thomas, an option QB in high school, under C and senior Greg Allen at TB, FSU ran the ball well.

3-1 Memphis State, under new coach Rey Dempsey, shocked the Seminoles with a fast start.

  • Sophomore flanker Jerry Harris took the opening kickoff two yards deep in the EZ, broke up the middle, then shifted to the left sideline. He was finally dragged down at the Seminole 20.
  • Seven plays later, Don Glosson booted a 22y FG to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
  • After forcing a three-and-out, Memphis drove to a 10-0 lead. QB Danny Sparkman hit WR Enis Jackson on a 10y aerial for the TD.
  • The Seminoles retaliated with a 15-play drive that ended with a pitchout from Thomas to Allen who scored from the 10.
  • The visitors took a 14-10 lead later in Q2 on an 11y pass from Thomas to WR Hassan Jones.
  • But a 79y pass from Sparkman to Harris put the Tigers back in front right before the half, 17-14.

The teams struggled to score through most of the second half.

  • FSU G Jamie Dukes (now a popular commentator on the NFL Network) recalled years later:

They had a great D and always played great D. They had two shutdown CBs [Derrick Burroughs and Donnie Elder] who went to the NFL, and they played the 46 D that Buddy Ryan took to the NFL.

  • Allen has similar recollections.

Nothing was clicking for us. The receivers weren’t catching the ball, and we weren’t throwing it really well, and we kept them in the game with our mistakes.

Finally, as the clock wound down, the Noles mounted a drive that started on their own 32.

  • A pair of pass interference penalties helped move the ball to the Memphis 25.
  • Freshman Derek Schmidt booted a 42y FG on the final play of the night to pull FSU into a tie.
  • The Seminoles won most of the statistical battles: 18 first downs to 11, 194 rushing yards to 126, but only 5 of 21 passing for 58y to Memphis's 9-14 for 155.
  • The Noles lost a fumble but snagged two INTs.

FSU has never played in Memphis again.

FSU QB Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas

FSU HOF RB Greg Allen
Greg Allen

FSU WR Hassan Jones
Hassan Jones

FSU G Jamie Dukes
Jamie Dukes

FSU K Derek Schmidt
Derek Schmidt

Bobby's Ties - II

FSU K Derek Schmidt
Derek Schmidt

FSU RB Tony Smith
Tony Smith

FSU RB Darrin Holloman
Darrin Holloman

Lenny Chavers, FSU
Lenny Chavers

Joe Wessel, FSU
Joe Wessel

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After going 18 years as a head coach before experiencing his first tie game, Bobby Bowden kissed his sister again at the end of the same season.

  • The Seminoles finished 1984 7-3-1 and ranked 15th to earn a bid to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The season had taken a downward turn after All-American RB Greg Allen suffered a knee injury at Arizona State in the eighth game.
  • The bowl opponent was Vince Dooley's Georgia Bulldogs, 7-4 in their second season of the post-Herschel Walker era. The 'Dogs had won at least ten games in each of the previous four seasons, even in '83 with Walker in the USFL.

The teams had played four common opponents, the results indicating evenly-matched foes.

  • Florida beat both Georgia, 27-0, and FSU, 27-17.
  • Auburn nipped the Noles 42-41 and toppled UGa 21-12.
  • South Carolina bested the Garnet and Gold 38-26 and the Black and Red 17-10.
  • Georgia downed Memphis State 13-3 after the Tigers tied FSU 10-10.

Despite averaging more points per game (35.3) than any FSU team in history to that point, the Seminoles couldn't muster even a single point in the first half.

  • Critical penalties and three turnovers put the Noles into a 14-0 hole at intermission.
  • Freshman Lars Tate scored two TDs on runs of 4 and 2y within a span of 4:18 in Q2.

The Noles fought back when play resumed.

  • Freshman Derek Schmidt's 32y FG early in Q3 removed the goose egg on the FSU side of the scoreboard.
  • Less than a minute into the final period, Tony Smith's 1y run brought State within 5 points. However, QB Eric Thomas's keeper on the 2-point conversion fell short.
  • Two minutes later, Georgia's All-American K Kevin Butler moved the margin to 17-9 when he drilled a 36y FG.

As so often happened in the Bowden Era, special teams made a crucial play.

  • With Georgia trying to run out the clock, Lenny Chavers blocked Chip Andrews' punt, smacking it toward the goal where Joe Wessel scooped it up on the 14 and ran it in to complete the 39y play with 3:58 left. It was Chavers' third block of the season and Wessel's fourth TD off of blocks.
  • Darrin Holloman then tied the score on a reverse.

The Noles and their fans had to hold their breath at the end of the contest.

  • Butler lined up for a 70y FG.
  • It fell just short as time expired.

Bowden recalled how important the kick units were.

Blocking kicks is something we have always worked on during my times at FSU. In 1984 Wessel got hot, and Chavers got hot to combine for our biggest year at blocking kicks. I think a lot of it was due to Wessel. He was a walk-on who didn't have great speed. I remember I had not been worried whether he would come back for his senior year, because I figured he couldn't start. But he might have been as valuable that year as anybody we had. He had a great knack – a great desire. And I think he was a person who just wanted to be good in some football area; he didn't care where. He had that pride. And he would get a great jump on the ball. He would get penalties for being offside, and we would look at film and see he wasn't really offside at all. He just got off faster than anybody else.

But despite those blocked kicks, the 1984 season surely was not what it might have been. We were beat at Memphis State, and we tied it. Against Georgia in that Citrus Bowl, we were beat – and we tied it again.

Reference: Seminoles! The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
Bobby's Ties - III

Bobby Bowden's third tie game at FSU occurred in the third game of the '86 season against North Carolina. A tragedy the week before and a controversial call on a game-winning FG try made this deadlock particularly frustrating.

  • The Seminoles opened the year with a 24-0 whitewash of Toledo despite six turnovers followed by a 34-17 loss at Nebraska.
  • Dick Crum's Tar Heels sported a 2-0 mark as they traveled to Tallahassee: 45-14 over Citadel and 20-0 at Kansas.

During the off week prior to the UNC contest, the Seminoles lost one of their own.

  • Pablo Lopez, a senior OT, was killed by a shotgun blast in the parking lot outside a campus dance. Lopez was in the parking lot because someone pulled a fire alarm and emptied the gym. Other FSU players had resumed the dance when the shooting occurred.
  • He was not only one of the team's best players but also one of the most popular. Bowden recalled:

We lost Pablo, and we lost our best offensive lineman, to be honest. It might have made a big difference, had we not lost Pablo.

TE Herb Gainer rushed to Lopez's side after the shooting as his friend lay mortally wounded. The 2009 stabbing death of UConn football player Jaspar Howard at a campus dance after a prankster pulled a fire alarm evoked memories in Gainer.
When I read the story about [Howard], it brought back flashbacks. I held Pablo's hand and I remember looking at the hole in his midsection -- it didn't seem like a big hole -- and I kept telling him he was going to be alright, he was going to be alright. Just hold on, just hold on. It was just so weird, like it really wasn't happening. We rushed to the hospital, teammates, students, coach Bowden showed. When Pablo died, it was ... it was really, really tough on everyone. Pablo's death took a lot out of everybody. Many players, myself included, talked about leaving school and it was a conversation many of us had that season. But we got together and decided that we needed to stick it out for Pablo. But I had nightmares about what happened. I'd wake up at all times of the night thinking about him, talking to him. Even today I still talk to him.

The #15 Noles took the field the following Saturday night with heavy hearts.

  • FSU had the first chance to put points on the board, but Derek Schmidt missed a 45y FG with 8:18 left in Q1. The Heels finally struck with 1:43 remaining in the period when QB Jonathan Hall hit WR Eric Streater from the 14 to for a 7-0 lead.
  • Schmidt misfired on another FG try, this one from 44, less than two minutes into Q2. The Noles ended the half scoreless.
  • Bowden's patented special teams finally broke the ice when Felton Hayes blocked Kenny Miller's punt out of the EZ for a safety with 9:17 left in Q3.
  • QB Peter Tom Willis, replacing Chip Ferguson, led a drive that resulted in a 28y pass to freshman WR Ronald Lewis with 2:32 left in Q3. Willis then passed to Gainer for a 10-7 lead. The reception must have been extra special to Herb.
  • Mark Maye, who replaced Hall in Q3, led a 12-play, 59y drive to the 17 early in Q4. Lee Gliarmis's FG tied the score with 12:14 left.
  • The stalemate continued until DT Gerald Nicholas recovered a fumble on the Tar Heel 28 with 1:09 left. Four plays and nearly a minute of playing time later, Bowden sent Schmidt onto the field to win the game.
  • The officials were all from the ACC in the second game of the home-and-home contract with UNC, a Southern Independent crew having worked the contest in Chapel Hill the year before.
  • One of those officials ruled Schmidt's kick wide left even though many of the fans and Noles players thought it made it through.

The '86 Seminoles finished the regular season 6-4-1 to earn a trip to the All-American Bowl in Birmingham, where they defeated Indiana 27-13.

FSU OT Pablo Lopez
Pablo Lopez

FSU TE Herb Gainer
Herb Gainer

1986 FSU-North Carolina Program

Felton Hayes FSU
Felton Hayes

FSU QB Peter Tom Willis

References: "At Florida State, UConn Stabbing Death Opens Painful Memories," Jim Henry,, 10/20/09
Seminoles! The First Forty Years, Bill McGrotha (1987)
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Bobby's Ties - IV

Bobby Bowden's fourth tie game at Florida State is the most famous of all. It's immortalized as the "Choke at the Doak."

  • The Seminoles entered the annual finale 9-1. After an early loss at the hands of - who else? - the Hurricanes, 34-20, in the Orange Bowl, FSU had risen to #7 in the AP poll.
  • The #4 Gators also sported a 9-1 mark, their loss also on the road to Terry Bowden's Auburn Tigers, 36-33.

The Seminoles had torched the Gator D in recent years.

  • FSU averaged more than 47 points the last three times it had hosted Florida: 52-17 in 1988, 45-30 in '90, and 45-24 in '92, the last two accouting for the worst defeats in Steve Spurrier's four years in charge at his alma mater. The national champion Noles had also put 33 on the board at Gainesville the year before.
  • But this game promised to be another instance of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, as the two defenses had surrendered just a little more than 15 points a game.
  • "My number one concern is their front four," said Bowden. "If they can beat you with their front four, they don't need anybody else. I hope they can't."
  • Steve also feared the Garnet D. "It'll be a big challenge to see if we can move the ball somewhat. We didn't do it very well last year."
  • Since sophomore Danny Wuerffel took over for Terry Dean at QB following the loss to Auburn, the Gators had maintained a 45ppg average. Wuerffel had hit on 65% of his passes for 1,223y and 13 TDs.
  • FSU's Danny - Kanell - hadn't been bad either, completing 57% of his throws for 2,360y and 16 TDs in his first year leading the O after the graduation of Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward.
  • Kanell was greatly aided by RB Warrick Dunn, who became just the fifth back in FSU history to gain 1,000y in a season.

The first half showed that Bowden's fears were more well-founded than his rival's.

  • The record Doak Campbell Stadium crowd of 80,210 saw the visitors dominate the first 30 minutes to lead 24-3 at the break.
  • Working from a surprise five receiver set, Wuerffel threw for three TDs in the first half, including a pair to record-setting WR Jack Jackson. The second of Jack's 6-pointers came in the last 10 seconds.
  • Florida gladly took advantage of three FSU turnovers.

Bowden's halftime demeanor inspired the team.

  • WR Kez McCorvey recalls:

The biggest thing was he had a calm voice. He didn’t berate us. No panic in his voice.

  • Bobby himself remembered what he told the team.

Now we ain’t done. If they can score 24 in the first half, we can score 24 in the second half.  But men, we have got to stop them and then we got to score.

The pep talk didn't have much effect - at least not right away.

  • The Noles took the second half kickoff and put together their best drive of the game but came away with no points after Dan Mowrey missed a 30y FG attempt.
  • UF took over at the 20 and marched 80y to seemingly put the game away. The big play was a 51y bomb from Wuerffel to Reidel Anthony. Danny finished the drive with a sneak from the one.
  • Bowden admitted thinking at that point, "This is going to be embarrassing. How bad is this going to be?"

In a prime example of the adage, "The night is darkest right before the dawn," FSU fought back in the last 15 minutes.

  • Kanell led his first TD drive of the day, hitting McCorvey on 4th and 10 to move the chains. FB Zack Crockett rumbled in from the 5 to culminate the 15-play, 84y march to cut the lead to 31-10 with 12:59 remaining in the game.
  • After LB Henri Crockett's key stop on 3rd and 1 forced the Gators to punt, FSU took over on its 40. It took Kanell & Company only 33 seconds to score again. Danny started with a 35y strike to McCorvey. Then a swing pass to Dunn gained 19 to set up a 6y pass to Andre Cooper in the front corner of the EZ with 10:04 left on the board.
  • Even when the lead was a safe 31 points, Gator OT Jason Odom was worried. He told his good friend, P Shayne Edge, "We're gonna lose." "What? Have you looked at the scoreboard, bubby?" Shayne replied. Odom explain, "Spurrier has gotten conservative. He's not attacking anymore."
  • The Seminole D forced another punt, but Edge delivered his best boot of the day. He recalled years later:

I had a punt in that game where I almost got into a fight with Peter Boulware. It was a high snap, and I ran off to the right and missed a guy. I got off the punt, but Boulware still came at me. I knocked him down and, of course, I liked to run my mouth a little bit and was talking trash to him. The punt rolled 35y, and I thought we were going to win the game.

  • But Kanell stayed red hot, completing 6 of 7 to sail downfield 73y and score on his first-ever rushing TD from the two with 5:25 remaining.
  • The UF offense, trying to at least consume some clock, moved the ball until CB James Colzie made a diving INT of a Wuerffel pass on the FSU 40.
  • Two plays later, Dunn reprised his sensational game-clinching play of the previous year. Warrick took a swing pass and rambled 37y after miraculously eluding two defenders down the sideline. From the 4, TB Rock Preston raced through a big hole at RT to pull within one with 1:45 left.
  • The Riverboat Gambler, otherwise known as Bobby Bowden, shocked many when, without hesitation, he sent Mowrey out to boot the PAT that tied the game at 31.
  • FSU got the ball back when Florida punted yet again with a scant 0:22 remaining. Starting at their own 29, FSU moved out to the 48. But Kanell, unable to find an open receiver, ran for the first down but came up inches short in bounds at the 43. The clock expired before the Noles could line up and spike the ball.

Naturally, reporters grilled Bowden on his decision to go for the tie.

I felt like, if you're behind 31-3 and you have a chance to tie it up, you'd better go ahead and do it. I wish we could've won it, but that would've really been asking too much.

Bobby went against the advice of his staff.

They have nine votes, one each. I have 10. I simply did not want to lose, not after coming from that far behind.

Kanell tried to explain the comeback surge.

Every time we scored, I came back to the bench and said the same thing. "It's not over yet." Things were just clicking.

I thought we'd go for two, but coach Bowden felt we had come to far to not get something out of it.

LB Derrick Brooks defended his coach's choice.

We did something unprecedented. We all understood that. Coach Bowden felt that we battled back so hard he didn't want us to lose. It was just as sweet as a victory.

A stunned Spurrier told reporters:

I don't know what happened to our defense. I thought we were in good shape.

Years later, Edge opined:

I think that game hurt Spurrier more than any loss we ever had in the time I was there. It was bad.

After a long time to reflect, Bowden summarized the comeback like this.

Steve Spurrier took his foot off the pedal, and our offense started making big plays. ... It's a tie but really it should be among my favorite wins, because it felt like a win. There's probably nobody better we love to beat than Steve since I've been here. I guess I enjoyed that tie as much as any win I've ever had.

The last quarter heroics, during which Kanell hit 18-of-22 for 232y and Mickey Andrews' D held the Gators to 133y in the second half, tied the NCAA record for largest comeback in the final period.

After Florida won the SEC championship 24-23 over Alabama the following Saturday, the Sugar Bowl set up what amounted to a 60-minute overtime between the Noles and Gators. But that's a story for another day.

1994 FSU-Florida Program

Florida QB Danny Wuerffel
Danny Wuerffel

FSU QB Danny Kanell
Danny Kanell

FSU WR Kez McCorvey
Kez McCorvey

FSU RB Warrick Dunn
Warrick Dunn

FSU FB Zack Crockett
Zack Crockett

FSU CB James Colzie
James Colzie

FSU RB Rock Preston
Rock Preston

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Video of Q4 Comeback

 References: Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football, Bobby Bowden with Mark Schlabach (2010);
What It Means to Be a Gator, Mark Schlabach (2008)