Date: December 30, 1982
Location: The Gator Bowl; Jacksonville, Florida
Opponent: #10 West Virginia
Today, Florida State is considered one of the best bowl programs in all of college football. The Seminoles have more bowl wins than all but five programs and the 4th best bowl winning percentage among programs with at least 25 appearances. Longtime FSU Coach Bobby Bowden has the 2nd most bowl wins in college football history. And of course, despite Virginia Tech’s efforts to convince people otherwise, FSU also has the longest bowl appearance streak in college football history, sitting at 36 years and counting.
But back in 1982, none of these platitudes existed.
Entering the 1982 season, FSU’s all-time record in bowl games was a paltry 2-7-1 (3 wins if you count the 1950 Cigar Bowl, which was a bowl that invited “small college” teams of the day). Entering the 1982 season, Bobby’s career bowl record was 2-3. Entering the 1982 season, FSU’s bowl game appearance streak stood at zero, as the 1981 team failed to receive a bowl invitation—much more exclusive in those days—despite finishing at 6-5.
The 1982 campaign was a strong season for the Seminoles. Led by tailback Greg Allen, FSU won road games against South Carolina, Miami, and end-of-year ranked #12 Ohio State. In fact, FSU rose as high as #7 in the AP poll on November 15th. However, back to back losses to LSU and UF, the latter in a 13-10 late-game heartbreaker, saw FSU knocked out of the polls (only a top 20 back then) and limping into a Gator Bowl match-up against #10 West Virginia. The same West Virginia program that young Bobby Bowden left seven years prior.
At first blush, it appeared FSU’s bowl struggles would continue. Playing in a veritable monsoon, The Mountaineers and Seminoles were locked in a 3-3 stalemate early in the second quarter. Then Billy Allen ignited the crowd and his team.
Allen, a 24 year-old Air Force veteran, received the kick, darted to the corner, and took off down the sideline leaving a trail of defenders in his wake. The result was a 95-yard touchdown, a Gator Bowl record that stood for 30 years.
From there, the blowout commenced. FSU added three more TDs and ran away with a 31-12 victory. Finishing 9-3, the win propelled the Seminoles to final ranks of 10th/13th in the Coaches and AP polls respectively.
The Gator Bowl stomping also began not one, but two NCAA record streaks. In addition to the aforementioned 36 consecutive bowl game appearance streak, the win over West Virginia also marked the beginning of a record 14 consecutive bowl game unbeaten streak, with FSU going 13-0-1 in bowls from 1982-1995.
Billy Allen’s kick return jump-started it all.