The Daily Nole

63 Days Until FSU Football: FSU Stuns Miami in 1963, 24-0

Garnet and Great, FSU Football Archivist

63 days are left until Florida State football begins the 2018 season against Virginia Tech. As part of the offseason, we’re doing a countdown that highlights players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Sunday, it was the 1964 FSU team that won nine games and changed the reputation of the FSU football program.

Today, it is the 1963 FSU team that pulled off a stunning upset of the Miami Hurricanes.

Florida State’s 1963 squad went just 4-5-1 and missed a bowl game for the fifth straight season. Yet that didn’t stop it from making a huge impact on the program.

This Seminole team emerged victorious over a favored Miami team led by a media darling. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

Miami was the talk of the college football world after head coach Andy Gustafson delayed his retirement one more year to coach the team for the 1963 season. Why did he do such a thing? Because the Hurricanes returned junior quarterback George Mira, who was widely considered the best quarterback in the nation — even Sports Illustrated featured him on their college football season preview. While it wasn’t national contenders, Miami was expected to make a splash with Mira under center.

The stage was set for an easy season-opening victory against the Seminoles. Florida State entered the Orange Bowl stadium as a significant underdog to Miami.

It left as clear 24-0 victors.

Florida State flat out dominated the ‘Canes from the very beginning of the game. Quarterback Steve Tensi and wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff started the season with an obvious connection that would show up throughout the year. The duo connected for two touchdowns in the first half as the FSU offense slowly chipped away at the Miami defense. It was only 14-0 at halftime, but the Hurricanes had little hope on the offensive side of the ball after recording less than 80 total yards.

The third quarter saw just one field goal from FSU and another shutout by the defense. With a 17-0 advantage heading into the fourth, it became obvious that the Seminoles were not going to let this one slip out of their grasp.

Biletnikoff provided the final punch in the fourth quarter. Oddly enough, it wasn’t as a receiver — it was at defensive back. Miami had driven all the way to the FSU 7-yard-line when a fourth down situation arose. The Hurricanes decided to go for it and attempt to mount a comeback in whatever way they could.

Mira threw a pass to the end zone that was easily intercepted by Biletnikoff, who was playing defensive back on the drive (which was much more common before today’s roster sizes). Biletnikoff took it back 99 yards for a defensive touchdown and interception return record. FSU was able to cruise to a 24-0 victory in front of a stunned crowd of more than 57,000.

(Photo provided by Garnet and Great, FSU Archivist)

For all the hype about Mira, the junior signal caller, threw a pair of crucial interceptions near the end zone. He finished 18-for-39 for a little over 150 yards passing. Mira would finish 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.

Meanwhile, Tensi went 13-for-20 for 149 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The top receiver was Biletnikoff with four receptions, 71 yards, and two touchdowns, in addition to his defensive touchdown.

Fred Biletnikoff scored all three FSU touchdowns in a 24-0 win over Miami in 1963. (Photo provided by Garnet and Great, FSU Archivist)

The Seminoles finally made a statement that they were no longer the third best program in the state. It also turned out to be the first victory to spark a 7-year win streak in the series as FSU would take the next six contests.

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