Oklahoma 19, Florida State 36

January 2, 1965 | at Jacksonville | Attendance 50,408

Gomer Jones was in his first year as Oklahoma's head coach. He was a former assistant who moved up after Bud Wilkinson retired after 17 seasons, leaving behind a 145-29-4 record, good for an .829 winning percentage, 14 conference titles and three national championships. In his rookie season, Oklahoma was ranked as the #2 team in the AP's preseason poll and Jones won his debut over Maryland. The Sooners then suffered three straight losses, before bouncing back with five wins and a tie, including a big 17-7 victory over previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked Nebraska, to take second in the Big 8 conference.

The Sooners came into the 20th annual Gator Bowl with a 6-3-1 record. Leading the team on the field was senior guard Ralph Neely, a consensus All-American, and junior linebacker Carl McAdams, named to several all-American teams himself. Joining those two for Big 8 honors were senior fullback Jim Grisham and senior guard Newt Burton. And directing the offense was a trio of quarterbacks. Senior Bobby Page earlier in the season had become the first Sooners quarterback to run and pass for over 100 yards in the same game when he turned the trick by rushing for 149 and throwing for 107 against Oklahoma State, while two others also saw significant time, junior Ron Fletcher and sophomore John Hammond, who had led the team with just 284 yards passing on 16 completions.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma would be without the services of Grisham, Neely, halfback Lance Rentzel and end Wes Skidget. All four had signed professional contracts prematurely, in violation of NCAA rules, and were ruled ineligible to participate the night before the game.

Under fifth-year coach Bill Peterson, Florida State came into the game with an 8-1-1 record, having just beaten in-state rival Florida for the first time ever in seven tries. They used a sophisticated passing attack behind senior quarterback Steve Tensi, whose main threat was senior wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, a first team all-American, and the school's first ever.

For the biggest crowd in Gator Bowl history, a sellout of 50,408, Oklahoma won the coin toss and chose to kick off, taking the wind at its back. After two Seminoles runs gained six yards, on third down Tensi threw his first pass, and Oklahoma's Rodney Crosswhite cut in to pluck the ball out of the air that had been deflected by some players, and then ran it back for short yardage to the FSU 40.

Two Sooner runs got six, so faced with a third down at the 34, they also went to the air. Junior Howard Ehler zipped across to intercept Page's toss into the flat, and he raced 69 yards down the sidelines for the game's first touchdown. A delay of game penalty moved the Seminoles back five yards to attempt their extra point, and Phil Spooner's kick missed the uprights, so they had to settle for an early 6-0 lead. Despite an overpowering passing attack, it was the Seminoles' defense that struck the first blow.

Jack Shinholser's kickoff was returned seven yards to the Oklahoma 27. Six runs later moved the Sooners to the 47, but they stalled, and had to punt, and it went down to the FSU seven. Three plays gained just five yards, so John Hosack's 26-yard punt, a relatively short one, gave Oklahoma the ball at the FSU38.

Oklahoma pounded away from there using 11 straight runs, with Jon Kennedy and Larry Brown doing the bulk of the work. Down at the one, and faced with a third down, Kennedy hit the left side for the touchdown. Butch Metcalf added the point after for 7-6 advantage with 1:53 left in the quarter. That is how the first period ended, and it was the last time that the Sooners were in front.

Beginning at their own ten on the next series, the Seminoles drove almost the entire length of the field on the Sooner defense. First, running back Phil Spooner ran wide for 18 yards. After a holding penalty pushed the Seminoles back to the 13, Spooner dashed in again, this time for eight. Then Tensi hit Biletnikoff for the first time, and a first down at the 41. On the last play of the quarter, Spooner romped for nine to the 50. Then Spooner again was turned loose, wide to the 37. Two short passes to Don Floyd were the big keys to a first down at the 23. On the draw, Spooner shot through to the 15, and then Floyd caught one at the two but an official ruled him out of bounds, voiding it. It mattered little, as on the next play, Biletnikoff got free and hauled in a Tensi pass at the two, then skipped untouched into the end zone for six points, and a 12-7 lead. Foregoing a kick, Tensi's pass try for two points was intercepted by McAdams.

FSU kicked off twice, the first out of bounds and Oklahoma started from its 44. Mike Ringer zipped around end for 21 quick yards, moving down to the FSU 35. But two plays later, Brown fumbled and George D'Allesandro grabbed it at the 37.

Tensi immediately threw long for Biletnikoff, and it traveled about 65 yards in the air, as it eluded safe hands around the Oklahoma 20. A 16-yard pass to Floyd soon was good for a first down at the Oklahoma 44, and two plays later Floyd caught a 13-yarder at the 29. A Tensi screen to Wayne Giardino carried to the ball to the 19, where Spooner moved it another five yards on the ground. From there, Tensi fired a strike to Biletnikoff in the end zone for another score. Again, pass for the two points failed, so the scoreboard read 18-7 in favor of Florida State.

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 the ball out of bounds at the 11 with 2:59 left in the half.

Not content to sit on the ball, the Seminoles attacked. Tensi immediately threw to Bud Blankenship at the 23, and then he hit Biletnikoff at the 39. On a third straight pass play, Tensi flipped one out to Biletnikoff, who scooted away from a tackler and raced down to the Oklahoma 22 for a 39-yard gain. Biletnikoff grabbed another at the 14, and then Larry Green plowed through on a tackle slant for a first down at the seven. Tensi overshot Biletnikoff in the end zone, and Spooner gained only two before losing five on a reverse. Faced with a fourth down-and-ten at the Oklahoma ten, Tensi simply threw to Biletnikoff in the end zone for the score. The State quarterback overthrew Spooner on a pass try for two, and it was 24-7 with only 37 seconds left in the half.

On two pass completions to Ben Hart, Oklahoma got as far as the FSU 30 before time ran out. An intermission count showed Tensi with 13 completions in 21 tries for 182 yards, and Biletnikoff with seven catches for 122. About this time, 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.

Florida State's Joe Petko grabbed the second half kickoff and raced to the FSU 37. Giardino slashed for 11 yards, and then Spooner pounded away into Oklahoma territory at the 48, before picking up another three yards on his next run. Tensi's first pass attempt of the new half was aimed for Floyd, but Rick McCurdy intercepted it at the 34. Unfortunately, the Sooners got only four yards in three plays, and they punted the ball back to the FSU 26.

A Tensi to Biletnikoff collaboration for ten yards quickly moved the ball to the FSU 44, and Spooner picked up eight more to the Oklahoma 48. Green gained three, and then Tensi's long pass attempt for Floyd was barely broken up at the three. Biletnikoff grabbed a toss for a dozen to move to the 33, but McAdams intercepted another throw and galloped 26 yards with the ball to the 50.

Oklahoma lost five on a penalty, and then State's Bill McDowell threw Page down for a six-yard loss, forcing a punt. Biletnikoff was back and he gathered it in at the 11, retreated a bit for running room and fumbled, where the Sooners' Jerry Goldsby recovered at the two. The Seminoles' defense did what they could to keep the enemy out of the end zone, but on third down, Tommy Pannell went wide to the left and scored from the one. Metcalf kicked the extra point, but 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 the score remained 24-13 with 4:26 left in the third quarter.

Biletnikoff returned the ensuing kickoff to the FSU 30, but a clipping penalty dictated a start from the 18. Spooner picked up 13 yards in a pair of runs, and 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. After Tensi passed to Biletnikoff at the 50, Spooner, on a draw, slipped away from a tackler and darted for 16 to the 34. Tensi found Red Dawson at the 18, and then to Giardino, on a screen, for five more. From there, Tensi passed over the middle to Floyd for 13 yards and another touchdown on the final play of the quarter, Tensi's fourth scoring toss of the game. But once again, a pass attempt to two points failed, passing try for two failed, leaving it 30-13.

On the next Oklahoma series, the Seminoles' Frank Pennie dumped Page for a loss of eight on a double-reverse effort, and they got the ball it its own 45 after the punt. A 14-yard pass to Biletnikoff, coupled with a roughing penalty, placed Florida State on the Oklahoma 24. Tensi tossed to Biletnikoff for an apparent touchdown, but a flag was down early as illegal motion was called, and FSU was penalized to its 29. Crosswhite intercepted Tensi's next pass at the three, averting the threat.

Two plays gained only two yards, so on third down from the five Fletcher came in. He dropped back and threw long to Hart, who gathered the ball in at midfield and sprinted the rest of the way for an easy touchdown on a 95-yard play, the longest pass from scrimmage in Sooners history. Oklahoma's pass attempt for two points failed, so the game was 30-19 in favor of Florida State with 11:22 to play.

A little over a minute later, Spooner fumbled after catching a Tensi pass and Oklahoma's Bill Hill recovered at the FSU 43. The Seminole defense stepped up, as McDowell for dropped Page for a loss of nine back to the Oklahoma 48, and Fletcher's two desperate passes failed. Page's punt sailed into the end zone, so State started at the 20.

The offense moved the ball to the 34, and from there, Giardino's 52-yard sweep took the ball all the way to the Oklahoma 14 before Crosswhite finally brought him down. Spooner got to the seven in two runs. And then faced with a fourth down, Tensi found Biletnikoff for another touchdown. Spooner missed on an extra point kick, as State's kicking game continued to be a sore spot, with constant trouble on kickoffs as well, but it was still 36-19 with only 4:40 left.

Oklahoma went to work to salvage some dignity at the end of the game, starting at their own 40. Passes got them across midfield, and it was passes that kept them moving. A big one was Gordon Brown's 15-yard grab at the 13. Two passes missed, but Page found Gordon again at the two for a first down. Time was winding down, and three runs got the Sooners no closer than a half-yard away. On the final play of the game, Florida State's Dick Hermann met Larry Brown as he tried the right side, and the play was stuffed for no gain. Game over.

Florida State had pounded Oklahoma, 36-19. Tensi completed 23 of 36 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns, and Biletnikoff had collected 13 of those for 192 yards and four scores, one of the greatest receiving games in bowl history. The pair had combined for a slew of Gator Bowl records, and they were proclaimed as the Most Valuable Players. In addition to the yards they had gained in the air, the Seminoles picked up another 217 on the ground, led by Spooner's 125 on 27 carries, while Giardino picked up 82 on seven carries.

Oklahoma had to abandon whatever plans it had for running, as they managed only 74 yards. Through the air, the Sooners hit on 10 of 22 passes for 209 yards. The primary recipient was Hart, who finished with six catches for 165 yards. Linebacker McAdams was judged the Sooners' best player.

Source: Jeff Linkowski

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