The Daily Nole

54 Days Until FSU Football: Bizarre 1954 Game vs. NC State Lost in History

Garnet and Great, FSU Football Archivist

There are 54 days left until Florida State football returns for the 2018 season opener. As part of the offseason, we’re doing a countdown that highlights players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Tuesday, it was former linebacker Marvin Jones, who wore No. 55 during his illustrious career.

Today, we’re going off the beaten path to talk about the 1954 FSU-NC State contest that featured an incredible string of absurd events.

College football is no stranger to the unique twists that happen, thanks to outside factors. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and general tragedies have altered many contests and brought solemn reminders of the world surrounding the sport.

In 1954, despite the destructive aftermath of a hurricane and a polio outbreak in Tallahassee, Florida State and NC State played a football game. The background of this contest makes it truly bizarre and one of the stranger games to ever be “lost to history”.

First, let’s start with the storm. “Hazel” was a Category 4 hurricane that formed in early October. It struck the Caribbean Islands and Bahamas first, causing widespread damage and over 400 deaths. Storm trackers expected Hazel to lose strength as it made its way up the eastern United States, with a path that generally hugged the coast.

Instead, Hazel got more powerful as it approached North Carolina, and it made an inward turn towards the state. It continued as an extratropical storm all the way into Canada before dissipating.

NC State’s campus was spared from the worst of the storm. But the rest of the state was severely damaged, with 19 people killed and over 15,000 homes destroyed. Despite the gravity of the situation, the Wolfpack insisted on playing the home game on its scheduled Oct. 16 date.

Yet that’s not even the strangest factor. At the same time this was occurring, an unusual polio outbreak was occurring in Tallahassee. To get a better idea of why this outbreak was so incredible, read this Gerald Ensley piece that helps describe the panic that struck the southeastern United States.

At one point, a bus carrying the local high school football team to one of their games was pulled over by a law enforcement officer and told to turn back. The opposing school did not want to risk their players contracting the “Tallahassee Strain”.

Again, this apparently did not register on the radars of either FSU or NC State.

How did the actual game go? Pretty boring, all things considered. The Seminoles won a 13-7 slugfest that involved six combined turnovers, four committed by Florida State. The “Sunshine Scooter” Lee Corso was unable to get into a rhythm throughout the entire contest.

Instead, FSU found its offensive scores behind the arm of senior Harry Massey, who attempted just four passes on the day. But two of them went for touchdowns.

The crucial play happened in the fourth quarter. Down 7-6, the Seminoles’ defense forced a punting situation near NC State’s goal line. The attempt was blocked by Florida State’s Ronnie Schomburger, but the NC State punter picked up the ball and ran to the 13-yard line, which would’ve been enough for a first down.

But the referee came in and ruled that the blocked kick did not cross the line of scrimmage. Thus, Florida State did not have a fair chance to receive the ball, so the ball was declared dead where NC State’s George Marinkov recovered it (the 3-yard-line). Florida State scored two plays later on Massey’s second touchdown pass of the game.

The rest of the 1954 season went wildly different for each program. FSU finished 8-4 overall after a loss in the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile, NC State went 2-8 in head coach Earle Edward’s first year.

There’s no larger significance to the 1954 game between the two teams. But as far as college football oddities go, it’s certainly worth another look.

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