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Bowden's first Jacksonville trip was a wild one

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 31, 2001

JACKSONVILLE -- After three consecutive trips to the national title game, Florida State fans might not be overly excited about Tuesday's Gator Bowl against Virginia Tech.

That wasn't the case when the Seminoles played in this game for the first time in 1965. Before that, the Seminoles had appeared in three other bowls: the 1950 Cigar in Tampa against Wofford, the 1955 Sun against Texas Western and the 1958 Bluegrass against Oklahoma State.

"At that time, you can imagine how big it was," said coach Bobby Bowden, who was an FSU assistant at the time. "Florida State had never been to one like that."

Just to receive a bid, the Seminoles had to beat Florida at Doak Campbell Stadium in the regular-season finale. Despite flashes of brilliance in a relief role from UF's sophomore quarterback, Steve Spurrier, the Seminoles won 16-7; it was their first win against the Gators, who made their first trip to Tallahassee.

Although FSU beat Oklahoma 36-19 in the Gator Bowl, Bowden's strongest memory has little to do with the game. FSU receiver Fred Biletnikoff was at the center of a struggle between the Lions of the NFL and the Raiders of the AFL. Representatives from both teams camped in the lobby of FSU's hotel and weren't exactly cordial toward one another.

"I can remember them yelling at each other," Bowden said. "They might have nearly come to blows."

Biletnikoff, who had 13 catches for 192 yards and four touchdowns (a penalty nullified a fifth), signed with the Raiders on the field after the game.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: The last time FSU played in the Gator Bowl, on Dec. 30, 1985, freshman quarterback Chip Ferguson threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors.

"Hopefully, history will repeat itself," freshman quarterback Chris Rix said.

DID YOU KNOW?: The Seminoles are 3-0-1 in the Gator Bowl. They've beaten Oklahoma (1965), West Virginia (1982) and Oklahoma State (1985) and tied Penn State (1967).

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