football Edit

Memories of Garnet and Gold: FSU's first Fiesta Bowl

Longtime FSU fan Jim Joanos reflects on some of his favorite memories on the football team. This time, he takes a look at the Seminoles' first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.

It was December 1971. The Florida State University football team had finished the regular season 8-3 under first-year head coach Larry Jones. The team was invited to play Arizona State in the first ever Fiesta Bowl game in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 27. I had some vacation time available and decided to go to the game. I would not only go but would drive out and take the wife and kids. It seemed liked a good idea to do some traveling and give the kids an opportunity to see more of the country.

Several days before the game we loaded up the old Mercury Comet and started West. Late in the first day we drove through the devastation left by a recent hurricane along the coast of Mississippi. After spending the first night somewhere in Louisiana, we drove to San Antonio, Texas, the next day. San Antonio had changed considerably since I had been there in 1956 for the first month of my three years in the Air Force.

We enjoyed a boat ride in the newly cleaned up and renovated river area, got introduced to Mexican food for the first time and visited the historic Alamo all in one day. The next day we drove to El Paso and spent most of the day we were there across the river in Mexico. I was looking for a chess set and ended up buying three of them. After the first one, I could not turn down the deals I got thereafter. The next day in New Mexico, we learned everything we needed to know about “Billy the Kid.”

Next, we had a great time in Arizona. In Tombstone the kids emulated the “gunfight at the OK Corral," drank soft drinks in a saloon, saw a “gunfight” and visited the “boot hill” cemetery. We went to a movie set near Tucson resembling a small western town where several movies have been filmed. On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant in a Mexican cave, complete with four musicians going from table to table singing and playing music. When we got to Phoenix, we checked in to the same hotel where the FSU team was staying and saw several players.

On the day of the game, we got to the stadium early in order to enjoy the festivities. Luckily, we were seated next to a friendly cab driver who interestingly filled us in about some wonderful stories about the Phoenix area.

It turned out to be an exciting game, a passing duel between two future NFL quarterbacks, FSU’s Gary Huff and Arizona State's Danny White. In the end Huff passed for 347 yards to White’s 250. On the ground Arizona State picked up 200 yards to FSU’s measly 72.

The Seminoles had the lead at halftime 28-21, but had a bad third quarter in which they barely had the ball and were outscored 10-0. Late in the fourth quarter, FSU was tied 38-38. On a late drive by Arizona State with less than a minute to go, the Sun Devils scored a touchdown to get the final lead. The game had come down to who had the ball last would win, and that was Arizona State, 45-38. Despite being on the losing side, Huff’s performance was so outstanding that he was awarded Most Valuable Player honors.

FSU’s receivers were very busy that day as three of them had 100 or more passing yards: Barry Smith 143, Rhett Dawson 108 and Kent Gaydos 101. Dawson’s catches included three for touchdowns. Smith also garnered 143 yards on kickoff returns and ran the ball once for 13 yards. He would be selected as an All-American at the end of the season. In addition to his performance as a receiver, Gaydos threw a pass for 14 yards for a touchdown on a lateral from Huff.

There were lots of Seminoles who played well and added to FSU’s cause. Bare foot kicker Frank Fontes accounted for 13 points on three field goals and four extra points. Fullback James Jarrett (48 yards) and tailback Paul Magalski (42 yards) were FSU’s leading ball carriers. Duane Carroll punted seven times for 294 yards. Two of FSU’s defensive backs, J.T. Thomas and Eddie McMillan, who both later played in the NFL, were especially fun to watch, as were FSU linebackers, Dan Whitehurst, Larry Strickland and Clint Parker.

We got up early the morning after the game and headed North in Arizona. The further we drove the colder it got. We spent a short time in Sedona that included an exciting mountain ride in a pink Jeep and eventually made it to the Grand Canyon. It was spectacular! We spent the night in Sedona. When we got up, we were greeted by a white town. It had snowed heavily during the night.

We drove east through the Painted Desert, but this time it was all white, not the variety of colors that we had hoped to see. Our drive through Albuquerque is remembered mainly for the icy highway and need for caution because of the weather. That night we were introduced to Mexican Sopapillas at a neat little café in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The last two days of our trip we stopped at several civil war sites.

The trip had not only been fun it had been very meaningful. We had attended a historic event in football, the beginning of the Fiesta Bowl games. More importantly to our family, we had an educational experience that has very much enriched our lives. We learned that going to a football game can include lots of valuable experiences in addition to the ones we witness during the three to four hours of the game.