The Daily Nole

40-Year Nole Anniversary: FSU Outlasts Florida to Complete Perfect Regular Season

Garnet and Great, FSU archivist

When legendary head coach Bobby Bowden arrived at Florida State, the Seminoles were a dismal 2-15-1 all-time against rival Florida. The Gators would edge FSU in Bowden’s first season, but over the next few years, Sunshine State supremacy would take a dramatic shift.

On this day 40 years ago, FSU would beat Florida for the third straight time. The victory for the Seminoles clinched their first perfect regular season since 1950. The loss also cemented Florida’s first winless season since 1946 — the year before FSU started playing football.

The Seminoles were 10-0 and ranked No. 5 in the country as they arrived in Gainesville to take on 0-9-1 Florida on Nov. 23, 1979. FSU had won the previous two match-ups by a combined 45 points, but for three quarters, Florida gave its rivals all it wanted. In the end, the Seminoles reigned supreme, 27-16.

FSU never trailed in the contest, but the contest was knotted at 10-10 heading into the fourth quarter. The Seminoles led 10-0 at the break on a 42-yard field goal by Dave Cappelen and a 21-yard scoring strike from Jimmy Jordan to Hardis Johnson. Florida drew even in the third with a field goal of its own and a 2-yard touchdown run from Carl Prioleau after Bill Piorillo intercepted Jordan and returned it inside the FSU 5-yard-line.

In the fourth quarter, FSU wasted no time going ahead for good. With just more than 12 and a half minutes to play, Mark Lyles scored from 20 yards out to give the Seminoles a 17-10 advantage. They would start their next drive from the Florida 10-yard-line after Walter Carter intercepted Larry Ochab on a pass that appeared to hit the ground.

The Gators’ defense would stand strong, stopping Lyles short of the goal line, but kicker Bill Capece entered the contest and calmly knocked through an 18-yard field goal to extend the lead back to 10 with less than 11 minutes to play in the game.

Luck may not have been on the Gators’ side on the controversial interception by Carter, but they did get a bit of it with less than two and a half minutes to play when Ochab’s pass downfield was tipped by FSU’s Gary Henry and into the arms of Florida’s Chris Faulkner for a 25-yard touchdown. Florida missed the 2-point conversion and a failed onside kick attempt make the comeback effort an uphill battle as FSU proceeded to march 40 yards in just four plays.

With 1:10 to play, FSU put the game away on Lyles’ second touchdown run of the day — this one from just a couple yards out. Paul Piurowski’s interception of Ochab would put an exclamation point on the third straight victory for FSU over its arch-rivals.

Ochab passed for 270 yards for Florida in the loss, but was intercepted five times. In addition to Carter and Piurowski, Henry, Bobby Butler and James Gilbert also snagged interceptions for the Seminoles. FSU totaled six takeaways. Reggie Herring tallied a team-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble.

Offensively, backs Lyles and Michael Whiting carried the Seminoles as the two rushed for 151 and 123 yards, respectively. The score may have been even more lopsided had it not been for three missed field goals by Cappelen. The Gators were held to just 39 yards rushing on 23 carries. Florida’s Cris Collinsworth led all receivers with five catches for 88 yards.

FSU would go on to lose to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 24-7, but the No. 6 national ranking in the final AP Poll was the highest ever for the program at the time. Florida State would beat the Gators for a fourth straight season in 1980, but the 1979 contest would be its last win in Gainesville until 1987. It happened on this day four decades ago.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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