Date: December 6th, 1980
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Opponent: No. 19 Florida Gators
1980 was the dawning of Bobby Bowden’s first “Golden Age” in Tallahassee. As you may recall from an earlier play in the countdown, FSU’s Class of 1977 was destined for greatness. Ron Simmons, Bobby Butler, Paul Piurowski, Reggie Herring, Bill Capece were among the household names that inherited a 3-8 squad and went undefeated in the regular season by their 3rd year. The senior class had bigger goals in 1980, and entered their regular season finale with one more hurdle to clear. Bobby had taken a laughing stock program to a bonafide national contender status in less than 4 years, but the hungry Gators came to Tallahassee in the midst of the NCAA’s largest single season turnaround in history. Something had to give, but it wasn’t the veteran Nole defense and a couple fearless defensive backs named Monk Bonasorte & Keith Jones.
After the 1979 dream season ended in defeat to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Florida State came out blasting the following September, steamrolling their first 3 opponents 131 to 7. After falling to Jim Kelly’s Hurricanes, knocking off #3 Nebraska in arguably FSU’s biggest win to date, then silencing Dan Marino’s #4 Pitt team in consecutive weeks, the ‘Noles cruised through the remainder of the schedule until UF came a knockin’.
In a rivalry series full of streaks, 1980 proved to be a transitional year, marking the end of FSU’s first run that lasted 4 glorious years. UF’s head coach Charley Pell was “fully committed to winning” as our friends on the Nolecast are fond of saying, and the early-to-mid 80’s belonged to Florida. The Gators achieved a record setting turnaround, going from 0-10-1 in 1979 to 8-4 in 1980(how did they do it?! #fullycommitted). But before the torch changed hands, the 1980 Seminole team had one last chance to best their bitter foe from Gainesville.
On yet another gorgeous Tallahassee afternoon in early December, the #3 ranked Seminoles hosted UF in front of a record crowd 53,772. There was little to cheer for early, as UF rolled into halftime with a 13-3 lead, having outgained FSU by a whopping 228 to 35 yard margin. Bowden had some locker room mojo working, as the Noles returned with laser focus, taking the lead early in the 4rd quarter on Rick Stockstill’s second TD connection to wide receiver Hardis Johnson, the difference maker on offense this day. With the offense finally coming alive, it was now the defense’s job to shine in what would be their final half of football at Doak Campbell Stadium.
To this point, FSU had not allowed a single point during the 4th quarter of any games in 1980. That is not a misprint. FSU had outscored all its opponents 96-to-zero in the final quarter. With the Gators driving across midfield trailing 17-13 with less than 5 minutes on the clock, it was time for a drill. What’s that you say? A 4th Quarter Drill? Those didn’t exist back then. We’re talking about a Tip Drill.
FSU defensive backs Monk Bonasorte and Keith Jones came to FSU from disparate parts of the country. Jones was a home state product out of quaint Wildwood in central Florida, while Monk was a city slicker hailing from Pittsburgh. Monk was a multi-year All-American defensive back, and held FSU’s single season and career interceptions records until some guy named Terrell Buckley came around. Monk was the fire in backfield.
On the other hand, #28 Keith Jones roamed the secondary looking to take off heads. The 5’10” safety made a legendary hit against Nebraska that long-time Seminole fans will never forget. Jones arrived at the football with cruel intentions to knock you out cold. Jones was also a cool calculating customer in the classroom, becoming FSU’s first back-to-back Academic All-American, and graduating Magna Cum Laude.
With 4:00 to play, UF freshman QB Wayne Peace dropped back from the FSU 40, pump faked and tossed a skinny post to a streaking Cris Collinsworth. Yes, that handsome Cris Collinsworth. Bonasorte was playing deep middle and skied to reach the falling football as Collinsworth delivered a punishing shot to Monk’s ribs. While a risk-averse DB might’ve knocked the ball straight down, Monk redirected it towards his streaking teammates just before getting driven violent into the turf by pretty boy Collinsworth. A streaking Keith Jones dove to make an acrobatic interception at the UF 8, his 2nd interception of the half.
The huge play preserved the incredible 4th quarter scoreless streak for the defense, the 4th consecutive victory over the Gators, FSU’s 25th win in its past 27 games, sent the seniors off with a 39-8 record, and propelled Florida State back to the Orange Bowl for a rematch with Oklahoma and an outside shot at a national title.
After the game, Gator coach Charley Pell was fully committed to congratulating the winning team. “I’ve never been so happy to see a graduation take place,” said Pell, of those seniors’ last stand against Florida. “We should come and cheer at the FSU graduation ceremony.”
As we know, the late Monk Bonasorte later secured a job within the FSU athletic department and became a stabilizing figure during volatile times in the program’s history. The phrase “Odell Haggins IS Florida State” is uttered often, but the same can be said for Monk Bonasorte and his passion for everyone he helped along the way at FSU.
Keith Jones became a staple of Florida State through a distinguished broadcasting career, both in radio and television. While he still hosts a weekly radio program, Jones is perhaps best known for his years as color analyst alongside Paul Kennedy on the Sunshine Network, broadcasting all the non-prime time games from FSU’s glory years.
You have to wonder how many times Keith and Monk talked about that Tip Drill over the years. Ironically, Jones has served as an adjunct lecturer at Florida State since 1999 in the field of...Risk Management.
“Why did you forego the safer option in pursuit of a more rewarding, albeit highly risky outcome, Monk!?”
Nah. It was totally worth it this time.