This past weekend, the Noles avoided starting the season 0-3 for the first time since Bobby Bowden took over the program in 1976. That year the team took on Memphis State, Miami and Oklahoma to start the season, all on the road, and only managed to tally two touchdowns between all three losses.
For the first time ever, Florida State faithful were finally able to witness their new head coach Bobby Bowden take the field under the lights in Tallahassee. The underdog Seminoles squad had not won a home game since the home-opener the previous season in 1975 against Utah State. Prior to that, the Noles had not won in Tallahassee since barely edging Tulsa 23-21 all the way back in 1972. After more than 3 long seasons had passed, only a single home victory was there to show for it in 16 tries at Doak Campbell: 1-4 in 1975 and a combined 0-11 the previous two seasons.
"We must beat Kansas State. We need to beat Kansas State. If we win, we've got hope to keep winning, maybe put a string together. If we win, we'll have the hope to maybe turn this thing around. If we lose... well, I don't want to talk about it. If we lose, we'll be 0-4," Bobby Bowden told the media.
"The players are anxious to prove themselves in front of these people," he said. "I'd like the team to win for a lot of reasons, but none more than for the players themselves. They want to show the people they can win, and they want to show them they deserve their support."
A familiar face to many Florida State fans, or maybe more accurately a familiar head, graced the sidelines for the first time. Fred "The Head" Miller was part of both teams who previously recorded home victories in Tallahassee. Against Tulsa in 1972, Miller accounted for 65 total yards between 15 carries and one reception. In the 1975 contest with Utah State, the FB gained 36 yards on 11 carries.
Due to injuries, Miller was forced to hang up his pads & cleats early, but that didn't stop him from still being there to support his team his senior year. For the first time since his playing days ended, he donned a uniform and entered Doak Campbell Stadium. This time as a cheerleader.
Gone was Fred Miller the hard-nosed football player, but it was the first time the garnet and gold crowd got a glimpse of Fred "The Head" the hardcore fan, a fixture at FSU games for years to come.
Trailing 0-10 at halftime, it looked to be another long and disappointing night for the home team. The second half, however, was all Noles.
True freshman kicker Dave Cappelen put FSU on the board with a 24-yard field goal to make it 3-10.
1:30 minutes later, senior quarterback Jimmy Black connected with fellow senior TE Ed Beckman for a 17-yard pass to tie the game.
Beckman's 95 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions earned him the Offensive Player of the Week among Southeastern Independents.
Early in the 4th quarter, Cappelen gave the Noles their first lead of the game when he connected on a 41-yard field goal.
Led by Jimmy Heggins who finished the game with 21 total tackles and an interception, the defense held Kansas State scoreless the entire second half.
with 2:46 to go in the game, Jimmy Black sealed the victory when he connected with true freshman WR and local Tallahassee product, Kurt Unglaub for a 26-yard score.
On October 2, 1976, head coach Bobby Bowden took to the field of Doak Campbell Stadium for the very first time and was victorious for the first time when he walked off, saying ,"I'd rather have an ugly win than a beautiful loss."
Bowden finished the 1976 season winning his final two home games in close contests with Southern Mississippi and Virginia Tech, but fell short of a winning overall record at 5-6.
The next season, Bowden lost only one home game, led FSU to their first 10-win season in program history and first bowl victory since 1964. The rest is history and of all the games Bobby Bowden earned at Florida State, it all started with that first one, on this day in 1976.