At the end of the 1964 football season, Florida State was awarded their fourth bowl appearance, but by far their most significant bowl invitation in their short football existence since starting the football program only 17 years prior, against the Oklahoma Sooners who had been playing football since 1895.
Before discussing the game which took place on January 2, 1965, I would first like to try to give you a historical perspective of what was going on during this time period in America.
Our country was less than 2 years removed from the assassination of the U.S. president, the White House Chief of Staff had just resigned in disgrace after an encounter with another man in a DC area restroom (yes, even back then some of our politicians were frolicking in public bathrooms), China had just detonated their first nuclear weapon, an escalating and un-winnable war was being fought in Southeast Asia, American citizens were building bomb shelters due to the fear from the threats of the Cold War, the race to explore the limits of outer space was in full stride, and civil rights differences and issues were brewing and about to come to a head.
Three and half months before the New Years Day showdown between the Seminoles and the Sooners, the Gator Bowl itself was making headlines due to the upcoming concert by the Beatles during their first ever American tour. This concert managed to go off despite the storm brewing around it (literally and figuratively), and despite the controversy it generated with the largest contingent of media ever to cover a concert tour, due to;
A) Hurricane Dora tearing through Jacksonville the day before the concert, leaving most of the city without power for several days. Despite the hurricane, over 23,000 fans braved up to 45 MPH wind gust and steady rain to attend the $5 concert, where Ringo Starr's drums and the microphone stands had to be screwed into the stage flooring to prevent them from flying off due to the high winds.
2) With civil rights being a heated issue in America in 1964, the Beatles had refused to perform at the Gator Bowl when they found out that the concert was going to be segregated. Paul McCartney went on record about their disapproval of the situation and their lack of understanding of segregation in the first place. John Lennon said, "We never play to segregated audiences and we aren't going to start now. I'd sooner lose out appearance money." When they were assured that the audience at the concert would not be segregated by race, the concert went off as schedule to a desegregated audience.
D) With the south being the south back then, there were similar segregation issues with their accommodations at the Hotel George Washington that were unable to be resolved. In the end, the Beatles canceled their stay in Jacksonville and chose to stay in Key West due to segregation differences with the hotel, but used the hurricane as an excuse to avoid Jacksonville altogether until arriving the day of the concert.
VIII) On the Beatles flight from Key West to Jacksonville on the day of the concert, their airplane the "Beatles One" was forced to circle the Jacksonville airport for several hours and was prohibited from landing until the wheels of Air Force One's were up and President Lyndon Johnson had left the city after surveying the hurricane disaster zone that was Jacksonville.
During the 1964 football season, the Noles head coach was Coach "Pete" (Bill Peterson), whose words of wisdom still ring true even today. These include:
"You guys line up alphabetically by height."
"I want you guys to pair up in groups of three and then line up in a circle."
"Lead us in a few words of silent prayer."
"You guys have to run a little more than full speed out there."
"Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl."
"I'm the football coach around here and don't you remember it."
"I used to have this slight speech implement and couldn't remember things before I took the Sam Carnegie course."
"Just remember the words of Patrick Henry - 'Kill me or let me live.'"
"The greatest thing just happened to me. I just got indicted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. They had a standing observation for me."
Also on the staff and in his second year coaching the receivers was assistant coach Bobby Bowden, who had the nations best WR, a future NFL hall-of-famer by the name of Fred Biletnikoff. Freddie was catching passes from Steve Tensi and together they helped change the college football landscape, from the 3 yards and a could of dust, to the newfangled, high flying, aerial assault that revolutionized the way college ball was played.
Please hit the jump to continue.
The best of the pre-Bowden years was 1964, when Florida State erupted into the national spotlight with a high-octane passing attack and a rock-ribbed defense.
Florida State came into college football relatively late. A women's college until 1946, the school started its football program in 1947 and went 0-5 in its inaugural season. After some growing pains, it began to dominate the small-college ranks, defeating Wofford in the 1950 Cigar Bowl. (The Cigar Bowl was held in Tampa, in case you're wondering.) The Seminoles moved into the big time in 1952 and gradually upgraded the program.
The biggest upgrade came when 40-year-old LSU assistant Bill Peterson took over as head coach for the 1960 season. Peterson - who died in 1993 - summed up the difficulties facing his young program. "The fact is, when I came to Florida State, we had no male alumni over 40. Since Tallahassee was a small city of about 50,000, few alumni were still in the city. The school was independent and therefore had neither a winning tradition nor an identification with a conference."
Peterson became known for such malapropisms as instructing his team to "pair up in groups of threes and line up in a circle," or "line up alphabetically by height." Steve Tensi, his quarterback in 1964, says that Peterson "was so enthusiastic, so wrapped up in what he was doing, that sometimes his mouth would get ahead of his brain. But we always knew what he meant."
Peterson brought more than garbled syntax to Florida State. He also brought a pro style passing game to a college world still largely in the thralls of three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust. Tensi recalls Peterson bringing in San Diego Chargers coach Sid Gilman to Tallahassee for high-level instruction in the passing game. Peterson also had a knack for finding promising coaching talent. His assistants at Florida State included Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, and Bowden, who assisted at FSU from 1963 through 1965.
Florida State had its moments before 1964, including a win over Tennessee in 1958 under Tom Nugent, a 3-3 tie against Florida in 1961, and wins over Georgia in 1961 and 1962. But the losses equaled or surpassed the wins, as Florida State was unable to achieve sustained excellence.
Until 1964. Peterson had a talented group of seniors, including Tensi, a strong-armed quarterback from Cincinnati, his favorite targets Fred Biletnikoff and Don Floyd, and center Jack Edwards.
On the other side of the ball, Florida State featured a dominant defensive front known as the "Magnificent Seven", or sometimes the "Seven Magnificents." George D'Alessandro, Frank Pennie, Jack Shinholser, Avery Sumner, Max Wettstein, Bill McDowell, and Dick Herman comprised the seven. The defensive backs became known as the "Forgotten Four."
The Magnificent Seven and the Forgotten Four posted a trio of shutouts to open the season. Miami fell 14-0, TCU 10-0, and New Mexico State 36-0. The first two wins were on the road. Biletnikoff exploded out of the blocks, with nine catches and a pair of touchdowns against a Miami team quarterbacked by his younger brother Bob.
Fred Biletnikoff had been a solid player as a sophomore and junior, playing both offense and defense, as did everyone in 1962 and 1963. He even scored on a 99-yard interception return in a win over Miami in 1963. The NCAA relaxed substitution rules the following season, permitting unlimited substitutions as long as the clock was stopped. Since the clock always stopped on changes of possession, this allowed teams to have distinct offensive and defensive teams.
Free to be a specialist for the first time, Biletnikoff became a great receiver. The 6'5 Tensi was a prime beneficiary of Biletnikoff's skills. "He wasn't that big and he wasn't that fast," Tensi recalls, "but every time I looked down field, he was open and every time I threw him the ball, he caught it. He ran great routes, could jump, and caught the ball like he had glue on his hands."
Bobby Bowden was Biletnikoff's receivers coach but deflects credit for his development. Bowden said, "Well, I wish it was the coaching, but he was a natural. When I came down here, I coached the wide receivers. He was a defensive back but he could really catch the ball. Our offensive coordinator, Bill Crutchfield, made a receiver out of him and he was just a natural."Source: Looking Back... Relive Florida State's 1964 Football Season by Jim Summer theACC.com
FSU started the 1964 season beating the UM Canes 14-0 at the Orange Bowl on 2 Tensi to Biletnikoff TD's, for the second straight year and only the 3rd time in 11 games since the beginning of the rivalry in 1951. FSU would go on to win 7 straight games and 8 out of the next 9 games in the series.
Next, the Noles traveled to Fort Worth to take on Texas Christian, and shut out the Frogs despite playing a sloppy game, thanks to linebacker Bill McDowell, who recovered 2 fumbles and blocked a FG attempt to go along with his 8 tackles.
The following week, New Mexico State visited Tallahassee. After dispatching the Aggies by a score of 36-0, the Seminoles were the only team to be undefeated, untied, and unscored upon in the country.
The nation started to finally take notice after the Noles manhandled the 5th ranked Kentucky Wildcats 48-6 in Tallahassee for homecoming.The Tensi to Biletnikoff combo got together for their 4th and 5th TD's of the season, and this win earned the Noles the #10 ranking in the country.
From the Tallahassee Democrat, 10/11/1964, page 1
Stop the world!...FSU wants it to catch up!
TALLAHASSEE, FL - The proud Seminoles made Homecoming confetti out of Kentucky's press clippings here Saturday afternoon. They turned the Wildcats every way but loose and won by the unbelievable score of 48-6.
It was a rout from the start. FSU scored the first two times it got the football, led 21-0 by the end of the firs quarter.
After their unprecedented 5-0 start to the season, the still 10th ranked Seminoles were brought down back to earth in Blacksburg by the Virginia Tech Gobblers (yes, they were the Gobblers, ha-ha), 20-11, handing FSU their first loss of the season despite the 7th Tensi-Biletnikoff TD of the season, and a school record breaking 38th reception by Fast Freddie.
Florida State's winning streak came to an end in a perplexing visit to Blacksburg. Peterson's team out-gained Virginia Tech 423 yards to 191 but couldn't put the ball in the end zone. Tensi recalls, "We could move the ball all we wanted up to about their 20. It was easy. They couldn't stop us. But then something would go wrong."
The visitors turned the ball over three times and lost the ball on downs several other times. The Hokies flummoxed Florida State on a tackle-eligible play when Bob Schweikert hit Eric Johnson for a score in the second period. Schweikert finished off the `Noles with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs. Tensi passed for 288 yards and Biletnikoff caught a school-record 11 passes for 182 yards, but the scoreboard read Virginia Tech 20, Florida State 11.
Tensi says, "This one brought us back to reality. We were getting a little full of ourselves."
Source: Looking Back... Relive Florida State's 1964 Football Season by Jim Summer theACC.com
FSU sought and found "Redemption" the following week against Southern Mississippi by a final score of 34-0.
But it was much the rejuvenation of the "Seven Magnificents" - the defensive unit - as anything else that brought the Seminoles' first victory over Southern since 1956. FSU had gone to bat nine times against the Mississippians over the years, had won only twice.
The following week, with an injured Freddie helplessly watching from the sidelines, the Noles and 2-4 Houston fought to a 13-13 tie.
Next the NC State Wolfpack came to Tallahassee and their howls were silenced by a 38-6 final score, which included 2 more Tensi to Freddie TD's. Now with a 7-1-1 record, the Noles were hoping to receive a Gator Bowl invitation from the two Gator Bowl representatives who met with FSU's AD and Coach Pete after the game. However, no invitation was received and it was speculated that only a win the following week against the despicable UF reptiles would guarantee the Seminoles the Gator Bowl invite.
It would be a considerable understatement to say that Florida and Florida State had a tense relationship in those days. It took the state legislature and Governor LeRoy Collins to compel Florida to play its upstart siblings. The first six games were in Gainesville. Florida won them all, except for the 1961 tie. But Florida was coming to Tallahassee in 1964, bringing with them the nation's top-ranked pass defense, helmets with "Never FSU, Never" taped on the side, and a private plane that flew over the stadium dragging behind it a banner that read "Never."
The Gators were 5-2. A Gator Bowl bid waited for the winner.
Source: Looking Back... Relive Florida State's 1964 Football Season by Jim Summer theACC.com
Win, lose, or draw against the filthy swamp lizards from down the road in Tally the final week of the season, the Noles will be assured of their finest season since the unbeaten campaign of 1950 when they were playing in a lesser league. Here is the game recap from the Tallahassee Democrat.
The girls' school did it!...Oh, did it ever do it!
What it was was like absolutely and positively and emphatically and decisively.
Florida State University, clearly the best football team on the field on this sunny Saturday afternoon, whipped what was supposed to be the University of Florida's best team ever. The score was 16-7.
The classic passing combination of Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff busted Florida wide open with a 55-yard touchdown collaberation in the second quarter.
Then Les Murdock kicked three field goals, a 24-yarder, a 34-yarder and a 40-yarder.
The Seminoles were ahead 13-0 when Florida got its lonesome TD with 9:03 to play on the bright work of Jack Harper, who caught a 35-yard pass from Steve Spurrier, then crashed in from six yards out on the next play.
After that Florida tried an onside kick. FSU's Larry Williamson claimed it at Florida's 48, and the Seminoles drove in from there for Murdock's decisive 40-yarder.
The trio of 3-pointers was a school single-game record, boosted Murdock's field-goal total for the season to a school-record total of nine.
Immediately after the game Florida State accepted a bid to the Gator Bowl. If Georgia Tech beats Georgia next Saturday in Athens the Yellow Jackets will be the opponent for the Jan. 2 classic in Jacksonville.
A packed crowd of 43,000 whooped it up before, after and during. Pre-game catcalls from the crowd brought a mild jest from Florida Coach Ray Graves who smiled and said: "I think FSU may be overemphasizing football."
Florida State had never beaten Florida, gaining only a 3-3 tie in six tries, all at Gainesville. Since 1947 when Florida State College for Women became Florida State University its athletes have endured "girl school" taunts.
During the week Florida players wore stickers on their helmets in practice reading "Never, FSU, Never." The thrust may have added considerable fuel to FSU's already blazing fire.
Florida State sprung an unusual offensive formation, with Red Dawson shifting from end to fullback. It was designed to disrupt the work of the "monster" in Florida's defense. The device may have had telling psychological impact. It appeared to confuse Florida for a time.
If Florida had planned to put a concentrated and continuous rush on Tensi, as it had most other passers this season, execution verged on a total failure. Tensi had more than enough time to throw on almost every attempt. He was thrown for a loss just once.
Against the top-rated pass defense in the country, Tensi struck for 190 aerial yards.
Pending a study of game films, an inevitable conclusion was that middle guard Jack Shinholser was a considerable Seminole hero. Time after time Shinholser cracked Florida's offensive line, kept steady pressure on UF's center and quarterback.
Florida State's magnificent defensive line cut Florida's vaunted running game into little pieces, limiting the Gators to a net of 57 yards rushing.
Heralded Larry Dupree got just 20 yards in nine runs as Florida State choked off one UF effort after another.
The Seminoles fumbled away the ball to Florida at the FSU 19 on the second play from scrimmage. Florida fumbled twice in penetration to FSU's one, and the Seminoles claimed the last one.
Florida State was all of the first quarter getting out of that hole, had to call on the punting toe of John Hosack three times before the period ended. And the sophomore, subbing for the injured Ed Pritchett, responded big to the pressure, had a 32.5 average for four boots.
A significant tipoff to FSU's superiority was the fact that the Seminoles were obliged to punt only once more after getting out of that first-quarter hole.
FSU's aggressive defense helped force five Florida fumbles, and the Seminoles claimed four of them. The Tribe intercepted two passes. FSU lost two fumbles and had one pass intercepted.
Save for that early shot paved by the fumble and Florida's scoring drive, the Seminoles permitted no deep exploration into their territory.
Lonesome end Charles Casey gave the Tribe trouble, but mainly in the last quarter with the Seminoles rather comfortably ahead. He caught nine passes for 129 yards as Florida hit 12 of 24 throws for 178 yards. Spurrier completed nine of 20, and Tom Shannon, who started, three of four.
Tensi connected on 11 of 22 throws for 190 yards. Biletnikoff a decoy much of the way and well covered by Florida, caught only two, for 78 yards. End Don Floyd latched on to seven, however, for 85.
FSU's two primary running backs, Wayne Giardino and Phil Spooner, each gained more on the ground than the entire Florida team. Giardino had 72 yards in 19 carries, Spooner 71 in 21.
Spurrier was obliged to punt seven times, for a 34.2 average, and save for one to FSU's 10, none did great damage. And Spurrier ended up with minus 17 yards rushing, was almost completely hemmed up on his option rollouts.
The outcome, ending six years of FSU frustration against the Gators, left Florida with a 5-3 record. FSU ended its regular season with a 8-1-1 chart, a showing exceeded only by an unbeaten 1950 season which came at a time when the Tribe was playing in a lesser league.
Florida State ground out 15 first downs, Florida nine. The Seminoles netted 142 yards running, outdid Florida in total offense, 332 to 235.
The game was remarkably free of rules infractions. There wasn't a single roughing penalty. Florida got taxed a total of 24 yards, FSU just 10.
In the beginning Florida cut out a quick advantage.
The Seminoles won the toss, received. On the second play from scrimmage Giardino fumbled and Pat Purcell recovered for Florida on FSU's 19.
Shannon fumbled but re-claimed it for a yard loss. Then Shannon threw to Gary Thomas at the 11 and Dupree cracked the middle for a first down at the eight.
Two more whacks by Dupree and Florida was on the one with third down. Whereupon Shannon again fumbled, and George D'Allesandro covered the ball for FSU at the two.
Spooner's running worked the ball to the 12, just short of a first down, and Hosack punted up to the Florida State 45.
Alan Poe slashed for eight yards and Jack Harper made it a first down at the 34. But Shinholser smashed Spurrier for a yard loss. Two passes missed and Spurrier punted into the end zone.
Three runs pushed FSU to its 29, and Hosack punted 36 yards to Florida's 35.
After Harper got nothing on a run, Florida went into action without huddling and Spurrier found Casey with a 22-yard pass at FSU's 43.
But Poe was decked for minus two. Spurrier gained nothing on a run. A pass failed. Spurrier punted to the 10.
Spooner got four. Tensi, living dangerously, tossed to Floyd for six at the 20. And finally, in the last minutes of the quarter, FSU forged a first down on Giardino's 3-yard stomp. But soon Hosack's third punt of the quarter was necessary. He got a high snap, managed to get off a boot to Florida's 48.
John Feiber pounded for 11 yards to FSU's 41, and Dupree led on to the 37 as the second quarter started. There a backfield-in-motion called stymied the Gators and Spurrier punted to the 17.
Tensi uncorked one to Floyd for nine but Giardino lost 10. Then Tensi threw long and Allen Trammell intercepted at Florida's 47...About as good as a punt.
But Trammel got only two on a run and Feiber just three. Trying to sweep on third down Spurrier fumbled and Howard Ehler topped the ball for FSU at the Seminoles' 45. It was FSU's first favorable field position of the day.
Promptly Tensi dropped back, got plenty of protection and time, threw long, long to Biletnikoff who had outrun Trammell. It was an easy catch at about the 13 and Biletnikoff cruised on in for six points on the 55-yard play. Murdock kicked the point for 7-0.
Florida got to its 37 on Shannon's 10-yard pass to Casey, but a holding call soon set the Gators back to the 31. Shannon passed again to Casey, who fumbled at midfield. Maury Bibent recovered for the Seminoles at the FSU 42.
Two Spooner runs lifted FSU to Florida's 45. Giardino was suddenly loose on a 19-yard ramble up the middle to the 26. But Giardino then lost a yard. Two passes fell incomplete. Murdock's long field goal try was wide to the right with 5:01 left in the half.
Florida couldn't move, punted to FSU's 34.
A Tensi to Red Dawson pass gained 22 to Florida's 40. Giardino slammed to the 30. Spooner lost a couple but Tensi rolled for a first down at the 28 with 24 seconds to go. Then he lost 10. Then he passed to Dawson for a short gain on the final play of the half.
At intermission FSU led in first downs, 6 to 5, in total yardage, 151 to 119. FSU had hit five of 12 passes, Florida four of nine.
Marquis Baezler wheeled the kickoff out for Florida, got up to his 34, fumbled and Ehler grabbed the ball for FSU.
Spooner, on a draw, dug to the 34. Spooner got two, Giardino four. Tensi threw to Floyd for a first down at the 13. Spooner got to the six but it was erased by a backfield-in-motion call. Tensi found Floyd with an 11-yard pass at the seven.
Spooner was stopped at the six. On fourth down Murdock booted a field goal from a slightly wide angle - an official 24-yarder. And FSU led 10-0.
On a key third-down play Dick Hermann nailed Dupree on a sweep, and Florida punted to FSU's 40.
Tensi sailed one to Biletnikoff and it might have been a 60-yard touchdown. All alone, Biletnikoff caught it at Florida's 37, stumbled and slipped out of bounds. It was a 23-yard gain. But the Seminoles bogged down, and Murdock's field-goal try was wide.
Still stalled, Florida punted, a 32-yarder by Spurrier to FSU's 49.
Giardino sprinted for five. Spooner struck for 15 to the 31. Giardino, in three carries got to the 21, but fumbled on his last run and Jim Burkhart recovered for Florida.
Casey dropped a pass on FSU's 40 after getting behind an FSU defender. Might have scored on a 66-yard play had he held on. Then Shinholser whammed Spurrier for a loss of four. Then Spurrier punted to the FSU 43.
A Tensi-to-Floyd pass picked up 18 to Florida's 37 on the first play of the final quarter. Giardino slashed through for 14 to the 23, dug on to the 15 in two more runs.
On fourth down Murdock kicked a field goal from the 24 for a 13-0 lead.
And suddenly Florida struck.
Casey started it with a 10-yard catch from Spurrier. Then Casey caught another, for 14 yards at FSU's 47. Febier ran for six.
Then Spurrier hit Harper with a long one and Maury Bibent pulled him down on the six after a 35-yard gain. On the next play Harper bulled into the end zone on a strong, determined off-tackle run. Jimmy Hall added a point to narrow things to 13-7 with 9:03 to play.
Florida tried an onside kick, Guard Larry Williamson, in action for the ailing Dale MacKenzie, covered it for FSU on the Florida 48.
Promptly the Seminoles moved in for a 3-pointer that virtually locked it up.
Tensi's 26-yard pass to Floyd at the 22 started the important movement. But the Tribe got stopped at the 21. Murdock socked home a 40-yarder on fourth down for a 16-7 lead with 6:42 left.
Florida came back throwing and Winfred Bailey intercepted a desperate Spurrier pitch at the FSU 34.
Tensi passed 11 yards to Floyd, but the Seminoles got no further than midfield, had to punt.
Florida, starting with 3:30 left, pushed quickly to FSU's 41 on two Spurrier passes to Casey. But Bill McDowell intercepted one, raced to Florida's 32. The clock showed 1:42.
FSU stuck to the ground, and Florida held for three downs at the 24.
With less than a minute left, Florida got nowhere. Spurrier got slapped for a 6-yard loss by Frank Pennie, back to the 13. Gary Thomas caught a short pass at the 14, and that ended it.
Tensi thinks this is "still one of the biggest wins in school history. It was like a Super Bowl. It put us on the map."
Bowden agrees. "It was very big and something that has to happen if you're going to ever reach the heights you want to reach... to beat your big in-state rival."
In addition to the Cigar Bowl, Florida State had lost to Texas Western in the 1955 Sun Bowl and to Oklahoma State in the 1958 Bluegrass Bowl. The Gator Bowl was a big step up, as was Florida State's opponent, tradition-laden Oklahoma.
Source: Looking Back... Relive Florida State's 1964 Football Season by Jim Summer theACC.com
With 6 weeks to prepare for their Gator Bowl showdown with the Oklahoma Sooners, FSU came out with their guns blazing and spanked the Sooners by a final score of 36-19.
First, let's take a look at it from the Sooners point of view, from The Daily Oklahoman
A polysyllabic pair-Tensi to Biletnikoff-and some unlucky surprises combine to defeat the Sooners
If 1965 continues at the same unhappy pace for OU football, it might be wise to put a roof on Owen Field and make it a classroom. The first sunrise of the new year brought to light the fact that four Sooner players had signed professional football contracts before their college eligibility had expired. The reverberations from this disclosure have been felt across the country, and in all likelihood will lead to a new relationship between the colleges and the pros . Coach Gomer Jones drew praise and admiration from all corners for his prompt and forthright action in immediately dismissing the four from the team and sending them home.
January 2 was no better. The Gator Bowl became a snakepit as a mouthful of a passing combination (Tensi to Biletnikoff,- the poor announcer had to say it 13 times) was more than a handful for the Sooners. The splendid Steve Tensi (23 for 36 for 303 yards) never hit the turf . For all the Sooner fans know, his uniform may not have had to be cleaned all season (bad news for Cheer detergent). Fred Biletnikoff, the All-America flanker back, caught a touchdown pass for every syllable in his tongue-twister of a name and had 13 catches for 192 yards all day.
Except for the football game and the unpleasantness about professional contracts, the Gator Bowl was an unqualified success for Oklahoma. Which is a way of saying that the food, the weather and the scenery were just dandy.
Jacksonville is a city of just over 200,000 situated in northern Florida 15 miles from the Atlantic. America's oldest city, St . Augustine, is 30 miles to the south, palm trees grow along main thoroughfares, the temperature stays generally in the 70's during early January and the sea food is abundant and delicious.
First on the scene were the team, coaches, athletic department officials, players' wives and the press, who flew to Jacksonville Dec. 26. Between practices and strategy meetings, Gator Bowl hosts provided the customary jaunts and diversions which are part of the post-season game ritual. There were visits to the dog races and a hocky game, a private screening of a yet-to-be-released motion picture and after the bowl a deep-sea fishing expedition (final : no fish caught, several sea-sick) and a trip to Marineland .
Sooner fans began pouring in, which is an accurate expression, on New Year's Eve. The biggest problem facing most was whether to order lobster, shrimp or crabs for dinner that night. The next day there was something else to worry about. By midmorning the OU supporters were busy convincing each other that clouds really do have silver linings and at the Sooner breakfast on the day of the game, spirit was typically high.
And to those not emotionally involved with the Sooners, the game was exciting and highly entertaining. One of the best analyses of the bowl was given by Norman Transcript sports editor Jim Weeks. Jim's examination of OU's rocky 1965 start follows :
Perhaps the reason for Florida State's victory was best summed up by the Sooner player who said, "It was just a pro offense against a college defense." Anytime the outcome of a game is summed up in one statement, it's being oversimplified. But that remark comes as close as any to describing what happened. The Florida team amassed 303 yards passing, more than the Sooners gained rushing (71) and passing (209) combined . . .
Some statistics that coaches normally think mean something in analyzing a game were amazingly even. Each team got the ball 13 times with the opportunity to start an offensive series. However, Florida State turned one of these into a one-play touchdown when defensive back Howard Elder returned a pass interception 69 yards for the first score of the game. Including punts, the Seminoles had the ball 73 plays from scrimmage and the Sooners 70-no significant difference. . .
Florida State discovered what it needed to know when it marched 90 yards in 12 plays to go ahead to stay, 12-7, in the second quarter . It was the first drive of any length that the Seminoles had and it gave them a chance to analyze the OU defense. They learned that the Sooners were going to play a coverage-type defense instead of a strong rush against the Seminoles' primary weapon, the passing attack. This meant that the Sooners were using seven players- the three deep backs, two ends and both linebackers- to cover potential receivers and rushing the passer with only four linemen. The Seminoles changed their passing strategy to take advantage of this defense on the next two series. The change worked. They scored two more touchdowns and had a 24-7 halftime lead that the Sooners were never able to overcome.
They fortified their protection for Tensi by sending only three receivers downfield, leaving five linemen and two other backs to fight off the four outmanned Sooner rushers. They sent the tight end, Bill Dawson, only about five yards across the middle to hold the OU linebackers and safety in position and gave flankerback Biletnikoff and split ends Don Floyd and Doug Blankenship a chance to maneuver in the territory guarded by the OU ends and halfbacks on either side . Since Tensi was assured more time to throw, the potential receivers also had more time to get in the clear .
Tensi faded to pass 36 times. He never was forced to run with the ball or hang on to it and accept a loss. Florida State proved that if he had enough time, a receiver can get into the clear even when he is guarded by more than one defender.
Only an ostrich with his head stuck in the ground could believe that the loss of three veteran senior players on the offensive team didn't hurt OU's chances of winning the game. When tackle Ralph Neely, fullback Jim Grisham, halfback Lance Rentzel and reserve end Wes Skidgel signed those undated professional contracts nearly a month ago they gambled on the integrity of men who broke the rules to enlist them. Unfortunately, they also gambled with something that wasn't theirs alone to risk . They risked their own reputations but worst of all their bonus checks cost their teammates and loyal fans a higher price . Their actions reflected on every "name" college football player in the country . . .
It was obvious that the OU ground attack which was to be relied on so heavily suffered with one of the team's best blocking linemen and two top running backs out of the game. The Sooners made only five first downs and 71 yards rushing . They had a net loss of eight yards rushing in the second half . To keep the ball away from Florida State, OU had to establish a time-consuming running attack. It did on its first touchdown drive in the first quarter but was unable to make the ground game go after that . In fact, the Sooners had to abandon the running attack in the second half to move the ball at all. It's also unrealistic to think the ineligible players would have made a difference in the final outcome, but perhaps the game would have been closer. The signing incident merely brings an unfortunate situation to the public's attention .
There's nothing wrong with a professional football career or the benefits of a good job after the playing career has ended . However, these things must be kept in the proper perspective by both the professional teams and the college players .
The four Sooner players admitted before leaving Jacksonville that what they had done was wrong. Actually they probably did no more than some other players in other bowl games. It's unlikely that among all the players being sought by the pros, that only four on one team would sign before competing in their final college game. They simply got caught.
"It was our own stupidity," said Rentzel but it was not the Sooners' "stupidity" or the fact that they got caught or that OU lost the football game that is the real point .
Warm weather and palm trees lend proper atmosphere as Sooners leave for practice. The point is that these four players had lost their sense of values . Whether realizing it or not they put their personal gain above everything else .
Perhaps guard Ed McQuarters, who did not have an outstanding season and was not highly sought but was drafted by St. Louis, gave the only answer that will remedy the situation. When asked why he hadn't signed, McQuarters answered with a question: "Do you think I would do that to Gomer Jones after all he's done for me?"
Here is how the hometown Tallahassee Democrat reported on the Gator Bowl and the events that followed.
For the biggest crowd in Gator Bowl history, Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff threw just about the biggest farewell party in any bowl's history.
And Florida State clobbered Oklahoma here Saturday afternoon 36-19.
Tensi threw five touchdown passes and Biletnikoff caught four as a sellout 50,408 rubbed their eyes and blew their horns.
The incredible Biletnikoff caught 13 passes for 192 yards. No one in bowl history ever caught that many. The equally dazzling Tensi completed 23 of 36 for 303 yards.
FSU racked a hatfull of Gator Bowl records - including most points scored by one team and most first downs (29). All of the figures involved in Biletnikoff's catching totals were Gator Bowl records. So were all of Tensi's figures.
This 20th Annual Gator Bowl was, altogether, an amazing spectacle on a warm, sunshiny day that followed clouds of confusion on Thursday and Friday.
It's a moot question whether Florida State was hurt more by the loss of kicking specialist Les Murdock (held out because of the possibility of ineligibility) or Oklahoma by the absence of Fullback Jim Grisham, Tackle Ralph Neely, Halfback Lance Rentzel and End Wes Skidget. All four signed pro contracts prematurely and were ruled out of the game on Friday.
Each of the Oklahoma players lost were offensive specialists, and it was on defense that the Sooners had most of the difficulty Saturday.
FSU had constant trouble with its kickoffs, as well as extra point attempts. The Seminoles made not one extra point.
Despite the overpowering passing attack, it was defense that struck the first blow for FSU. Howard Ehler intercepted a Sooner pass and skipped 69 yards for a touchdown that brought an early 6-0 FSU lead.
Oklahoma came back quickly for a 7-6 lead following a 26-yard punt that gave the Sooners a start on the FSU 38. Jon Kennedy scored from the one.
That, incidentally, was the only time FSU punted all afternoon.
The Seminoles were behind no longer than it took to move the ball in on the next series. They reeled 90 yards with Tensi throwing 15 to Biletnikoff for the payoff early in the second quarter.
By halftime it was 24-7 with Tensi pitching 14 and 10 yards to Biletnikoff for following touchdowns.
At this point FSU followers were making so much fuss with their horn blowing that the public-address announcer indicated they were drowning out national television play-by-play. He requested that they cease, and they slowed down some.
Oklahoma cut the score to 24-13 with 4:30 left in the third quarter, scoring after recovering a fumble on the FSU 2-yard line. Tommy Pannell got that one from a yard out.
FSU immediately went 70 yards for a fifth TD, Don Floyd taking a 10-yard scoring pass from Tensi.
Oklahoma trimmed the score to 30-19 on the most sensational bit of the day, a 95-yard pass play with Ronnie Fletcher, a 5-9, 157-pound substitute quarterback, on the throwing end and Ben Hart, a 6-2 Negro speedster, catching.
Hart was dandy, finishing with six catches for 165 yards.
Oklahoma had to abandon whatever plans it had for running - and managed only 74 yards. The Sooners hit on 10 of 22 passes for 209 yards.
FSU got a final touchdown with 4:40 to play when Tensi tossed seven yards to Biletnikoff to climax an 80-yard push.
Tensi and Biletnikoff collaborated for one other touchdown, a 24-yard play rubbed out by an illegal motion call.
In addition to 303 yards via air, the Seminoles got 217 on the ground. Phil Spooner was the leader, getting 125 yards in 27 runs. Wayne Giardino picked up 82 in seven, including a 52-yarder that paved the final touchdown.
Floyd, out briefly just before halftime with the wind knocked out of him, caught five Tensi throws for 52 yards.
FSU defenders - led by Frank Pennie, Disk Hermann, Bill McDowell, and Jack Shinholser - had their brightest moment at game's end when they waged a successful stand against four Oklahoma runs inside the two.
Tensi and Biletnikoff were aclaimed by pressbox vote Most Valuable Players for FSU, and Oklahoma Linebacker Carl McAdams was judged the Sooners' best.
Immediately after the game seven Seminoles signed pro contracts. Tensi, Floyd, Center Jack Edwards and Murdock were penned by the San Diego Chargers. The Oakland Raiders signed Biletnikoff and Hermann. Tackle Avery Sumner went with the Detroit Lions.
Biletnikoff made the biggest cash haul. The speculation is that the contract calls for about $100,000 on a 2-year, no-cut basis.
At the start, Oklahoma won the coin toss and chose to kick off, taking the wind at its back.
On the third down, after two runs gained six to the 36, Tensi threw his first pass - and Rodney Crosswhite cut in to intercept a toss that was deflected by two or three players. Crosswhite ran it back for short yardage to the FSU 40.
Two runs got six. On third down at the 34, Oklahoma went into the air, too. Ehler zipped in to intercept Page's throw into the flats and the Tavares junior raced 69 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown.
Terry Garvin kept him going with a clearing block about half way.
Phil Spooner's extra point try missed after a delay penalty put the Tribe five yards further out.
Jack Shinholser's kickoff was returned seven yards to the Oklahoma 27.
Six runs lifted the Sooners to the 47. There they had to punt, and it was a good one, to FSU's seven.
FSU worked the ball up to its 12, then kicked back. John Hosack's boot was relatively short, up to the FSU 38.
Oklahoma pounded in from there, on 11 straight runs. Jon Kennedy and Larry Brown did the big work. From the one, on third down, Kennedy hit the left side for the touchdown. Butch Metcalf added the point for 7-6 with 1:53 left in the quarter.
Florida State immediately drove 90 yards to go ahead 12-7.
From the 10, Spooner spun wide for 18 to the 28. After a holding penalty pushed the Seminoles back to the 13, Spooner dashed in again, for eight. Then Tensi hit Biletnikoff for the first time, a first down at the 41.
On the last play of the quarter, Spooner romped for nine to the 50. Again Spooner was turned loose, wide to the 37. Two short passes to Floyd were the big implements in paving a first down at the 23.
On the draw, Spooner shot through to the 15. Floyd caught one at the two but an official ruled him out of bounds, voiding it.
No matter, Biletnikoff got free, hauled in a Tensi toss at the two, scooted untouched into the end zone for six points. But Tensi's passing try for two points was intercepted by Carl McAdams.
FSU kicked off twice, the first out of bounds and Oklahoma started from its 44. Mike Ringer whipped around end for 21 quick yards, to FSU's 35. But two plays later Brown fumbled and George D'Allesandro grabbed it at the 37.
Tensi threw long, long - 65 yards in the air - and it just escaped Biletnikoff around the Oklahoma 20. A 16-yard pass to Floyd soon was good for a first down at the Oklahoma 44. However, two plays later Floyd caught a 13-yarder at the 29. A Tensi screen to Giardino carried to the 19. Spooner struck to the 14. Then Tensi whipped another to Biletnikoff in the end zone for a third TD.
A passing try for two points again failed.
Oklahoma tried again, getting another good start after a kickoff, at its 40. Two third-down pass completions, Page to Hart for 13 and 16 yards, spurred the Sooners to the 29. But, on another third down, Shinholser shot through to drop Page for a seven-yard loss back on the 36. Page punted out of bounds at the 11 with 2:59 left in the half.
Tensi immediately threw to Blankenship, at the 23, then hit Biletnikoff at the 39. On a third straight passing play, Tensi scooted one to Biletnikoff who scooted away from a tackler, raced to the Oklahoma 22 for a 39-yard gain. Biletnikoff grabbed another at the 14. Larry Green smashed on a tackle slant for a first down at the seven.
But Tensi overshot Biletnikoff in the end zone, Spooner gained only two, then lost five on a reverse. Fourth down now, and Tensi simply threw 10 yards to Biletnikoff in the end zone for the score.
Tensi overthrew Spooner in a passing bid for two. It was 24-7 with 37 seconds left in the half.
On two pass grabs by Hart, Oklahoma got as far as FSU's 30 before time ran out.
An intermission count showed Tensi with 13 completions in 21 tries for 182 yards, Biletnikoff with seven catches for 122.
Joe Petko raced to FSU's 37 with the second-half kickoff. Giardino slashed for 11 yards to the 48. Spooner dug to Oklahoma's 45. But Tensi's first pass of the half, aimed toward Floyd (now back in action), was intercepted by Rick McCurdy at the 34.
But the Sooners got only four yards in three plays, punted to FSU's 26.
A Tensi-Biletnikoff collaboration for 10 yards sparked a quick move to the FSU 44, and Spooner kicked off eight to the Oklahoma 48. Green got three. Tensi's long pass to Floyd was barely broken up at the three. But Biletnikoff caught a 12-yarder at the 33.
Then McAdams intercepted a Tensi pitch and galloped 26 yards to the 50.
Oklahoma lost five on a penalty, then Bill McDowell slung Page down for a 6-yard loss. The Sooners punted. Biletnikoff gathered it in at the 11, retreated for running room, fumbled and Oklahoma's Jerry Goldsby recovered at the two.
On third down, Tommy Pannell went wide to the left and scored from the one. Butch Metcalf kicked the point for 24-14. However, FSU was offside on the play and Oklahoma chose to accept the penalty and go for two points.
Brown missed Hart on an option pass into the end zone. So that sent it back to 24-13 with 4:26 left in the quarter.
Biletnikoff returned the kickoff to FSU's 30 but a clipping penalty dictated a start from the 18. So the Tribe drove 82 yards to a payoff that came on the last play of the quarter.
Spooner picked up 13 in two runs. Giardino hit for three. An official ruled that Spooner's fumble on the next play, with an apparent Oklahoma recovery, came after the whistle had blown. Tensi passed to Biletnikoff at the 50.
Spooner, on a draw, slipped away from a tackler, raced for 16 to the 34. Tensi passed to Red Dawson at the 18, then to Giardino, on a screen, for five more.
Promptly, Tensi passed over the middle to Floyd for 13 yards and touchdown No. 5. Again a passing try for two failed, leaving it 30-13.
Frank Pennie's dumping of Page for a loss of eight on a double-reverse effort stymied Oklahoma's next effort.
FSU had a crack from its 45 after a punt.
A 14-yard pass to Biletnikoff, coupled with a roughing penalty, placed FSU on the Oklahoma 24. Tensi tossed to Biletnikoff for an apparent touchdown but a flag was down early. Illegal motion was called and FSU penalized to its 29. Tensi's next pass was intercepted by Crosswhite at the three.
On third down, Fletcher came in, reared back and threw long to Hart, who gathered the ball in at midfield and raced for an easy touchdown on a 95-yard play. The clock showed 11:22 to play.
With 10:17 to go, Oklahoma got another chance when Spooner fumbled after catching a Tensi pass. Bill Hill recovered for Oklahoma at the FSU 43.
But Page was racked by McDowell for minus nine back on the Oklahoma 48, and Fletcher's two desperate passes failed. Page punted into the end zone.
FSU drove 80 yards to score with 4:40 left.
Big lick was Giardino's 52-yard dash from FSU's 34 to Oklahoma's 14. It was a sweep with Giardino outmaneuvering tacklers before Crosswhite finally brought him down.
Spooner got to the seven in two runs. On fourth down, Tensi passed to Biletnikoff for a TD. Spooner missed on an extra-points kick. It was 36-19.
Then Oklahoma moved from its 40 to final frustration on the FSU one-yard line.
Passes got the Sooners across midfield, and passes kept them going. A big one was Gordon Brown's 15-yard catch at the 13. Two passes missed but Page found G Brown again at the two. A first down.
Three runs got Oklahoma on closer than a half yard. On the last play of the game, on fourth down, Dick Hermann met Larry Brown as he tried the right side, and Mr. Brown got nothing.
From the Tallahassee Democrat
With the 20th Annual Gator Bowl over and Florida State having completed what may be its greatest performance ever, All-America Flanker Back Fred Biletnikoff signed with the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League.
Oakland Coach Al Davis, smiling happily along with Biletnikoff's attorney, Babe Starry of Tallahassee, inked what is believed to be a $100,000 contract and the most lucrative ever accorded an FSU player.
Biletnikoff signed in front of the ABC television cameras with well wishers pushing and shoving to get a glimse at Florida State's first All-American.
With the game three-quarters gone, a worried Davis made his way down from the press box to a little cubbyhole behind the FSU bench. There he sat and heaved and sighed every time the hard-hitting Oklahoma defenders pounced on his boy.
Davis had said before the game that he expected to sign Biletnikoff.
Before Fred signed in front of the cameras, Detroit Lions' Scout Lou Creekmur tapped Biletnikoff saying, "No chance for Detriot, Fred?"
"No sir, I've decided to sign with Oakland," Fred replied over his sholder as he was being beckoned from every side.
Later in the dressing room Creekmur commented on Biletnikoff's choice to play for the Raiders.
"He signed with Oakland and that's all I can say." And abruptly turned on his heels and walked away.
Biletnikoff and Quarterback Steve Tensi, who put on the greatest passing spectacle ever witnessed in the Gator Bowl, were the last to reach the delerious FSU dressing quarters under the east stands. It took them approximately 30 minutes as fans, young and old, clambered and pushed to get an autograph and offer their congratulations.
Said one rabid father decked out with all the FSU paraphinalia, "I want my boys to get their autograph." He shoved them into the crowd of wild fans around the two heros.
After the official signing on the east side of the field. Davis, Starry and Biletnikoff made their way to the other sideline on the west for a post-game interview with ABC Commentator George Ratterman, the former Cleveland Brown.
It was short and quick, the usual TV questions and answers that always follow with the game's outstanding player.
As Biletnikoff departed Ratterman said:
"The boy is the greatest college receiver I've ever seen. He and Tensi put on one of the greatest passing performances that I believe I've ever seen college or professional."
Biletnikoff and Tensi were met by Fred's Mother at the gate a short distance from the FSU locker room.
Tensi got there first, helmet in hand and kissed Mrs. Biletnikoff, "We did it, Mom, you know it's the last time Freddie and I will be together," he said.
Biletnikoff, by now the one target of photograhers and pounding Seminole supporters, finally got to his Mother.
"How'd you like it, Ma?" Fred said.
"It was fine," said Mrs. Biletnikoff as she pulled him close.
Five minutes and 59 shoves later, she said, "It was Fred's decision as to who he would sign with. It's a long way from home (Erie, Pa) but we're happy if that's what he wanted to do."
In the FSU dressing room, there was another happy American Football League coach.
"Biletnikoff has tremendous pro potential," San Diego Charger Head Coach Sid Gillman said after he had corralled four FSU players.
"No I wouldn't want to compare him with our Lance Alworth. Fred's a college senior and Lance's a three-year veteran. I'm sure Biletnikoff will have a fine career."
Davis, in the meantime, was getting the signature of FSU linebacker Dick Hermann on the dotted line.
He reflected on his busy day.
"I can't say how happy we are to get Fred. Gee, was I proud of him out there today. I think beyond a doubt that he is the best college receiver in the land."
After the interview with Ratterman, Davis had hollered to Biletnikoff. "We'll take care of you, Fred." He clarified this statement.
"A boy that signs with any professional team has reservations about the organization he will be responsible to. There's a certain amount of pride involved as to what the boy thinks of the club management and likewise what the management thinks of the boy.
"I just wanted to assure Fred that we're with him all the way."
From the Tallahassee Democrat
The Florida State University Seminoles broke a dozen or so Gator Bowl records Saturday afternoon in a convincing 36-19 victory over the Oklahoma University Sooners.
One record was broken even before the game started when 50,408 people filed into the Gator Bowl on a sunshiny, spring-like afternoon. This was the largest crowd ever to watch a game here.
All 50,408 - plus a national TV audience - got their money's worth in a game that had everything, but mainly it had Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff, who were named co-winners of the FSU most valuable player trophy.
Tensi broke four passing records and Biletnikoff broke four receiving records. Several team records were also broken. Tensi threw for 5 TDs, four of them to All-American Biletnikoff.
More than 12,000 FSU fans from the Big Bend followed the team here but before the day was over the Seminoles had thousands more of "live" fans from all over Florida and undoubtedly many more via TV.
This marked the first time ever that FSU, playing outside of Tallahassee, had a predominantly partisan crowd. The ovations the team got when it came on the field was reminiscent of the FSU-Florida game last November in Tallahassee.
One impressed fellow was heard to comment "FSU really isn't a girls school anymore, is it?"
The game itself was a football fan's dream. The number of points scored by FSU was a Gator Bowl record. The combined total of both teams, in points and yards gained, set records. And FSU's Seven Magnificents put the icing on the cake with a magnificent goal line stand at the game's end.
There was just never a dull moment.
There were so many Tallahassee people here that it looked like old home week before the game. Jacksonville's Roosevelt Hotel lobby Saturday morning resembled the Floridian Hotel during a political rally, except that everybody here was on the same side.
Traffic wasn't too much of a problem. Most FSU fans were here early and brought lunches. The Tom Raker family gets the prize for the most enterprise - they brought a trailer and camped out within walking distance of the Gator Bowl.
FSU assistant Coach Bob Harbison and wife Jane almost needed a trailer. They got settled in a second-floor hotel room and had to move out when Miss America decided she wanted their room. But the Harbisons were comfortably settled elsewhere in the hotel.
The public-address announcer got the biggest laugh of the day when he told the fans to drive carefully when leaving the stadium "and you'll get there sooner." The crowd reaction reminded him that he had said the wrong word. Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooners - and he said "I guess I said the wrong word."
Having national TV coverage is not without its problems. Stadium vendors sold long, loud horns, but at halftime they begged the fans not to blow them because "they're ruining the TV coverage."
The introduction of players, preceding the game, caused the game to start 20 minutes late. And the TV time outs - called strictly to work in commercials - added to the extra length of the game.
But nobody cared. And darned few left before the final whistle. All in all, it was quite a day, a very satisfying day for FSU.