70-Year Nole Anniversary: FSU Completes First Perfect Football Season

by Mike Ferguson
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Photo provided by Florida State sports information

From 1987 to 2000, Florida State finished in the top 5 every year. Over that stretch however, the Seminoles finished undefeated just once.

That was famously in 1999 as legendary head coach Bobby Bowden’s team became the first in the AP Poll era to go wire-to-wire as No. 1. It was nearly a half-century before that however, that FSU completed its first perfect season.

That season came to a close on this day 70 years ago. The Seminoles finished 8-0 with a 35-19 victory over Tampa.

Setting the Stage

At 7-0, Florida State had not felt that much resistance as it arrived in Tallahassee on Nov. 25, 1950. Through seven games, FSU had held opponent to just 35 total points.

Outside of a 14-8 win over Sewanee, FSU had defeated all of its opponents by at least 14 points. No one had yet reached double digits against the Seminoles.

In the regular season finale however, Tampa put forward a good offensive showing, but it was not enough.

The Game

Early on, it looked as though it would be business as usual for FSU. Mike Sellers got the scoring started with a 5-yard touchdown run before Nelson Italiano’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Harry Bringger gave the Seminoles a 13-0 lead.

But at the end of three quarters, the contest was even. That’s when the Seminoles seized control with 20 straight points.

Italiano and Bringger hooked up again for a touchdown — this time from 34 yards out — to put FSU ahead for good early in the fourth quarter. Italiano added a 27-yard run on FSU’s next possession. After a dismal shanked punt by Tampa, Wayne Benner scooped it up at the 11-yard-line and took it in for a touchdown.

Tampa would answer by returning the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score, but that would be the closest the Spartans would get to a comeback. Bob Schmelz put the finishing touches on the win by tackling the punter in the end zone for a safety following a blocked punt.

In addition to the three total touchdowns, Italiano finished with 159 total yards. Sellers led FSU with 108 yards rushing. Florida State finished with 247 yards on the ground.

The Season

The Seminoles improved to 8-0 with the win, but elected not to play in a bowl game that year. In just its fourth season, a perfect campaign was impressive for FSU, but it should be noted that the Seminoles didn’t beat a team that is currently a member of the FBS.

FSU shut out both Newberry College and Mississippi College. In the first game ever played at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Seminoles beat Randolph Macon College, 40-7. With the win over Tampa, FSU also claimed the Dixie Conference championship.

In Hindsight

FSU had gone a combined 16-2 in its first two seasons under head coach Don Veller, but suffered a loss in each of those campaigns. Veller would last five seasons in Tallahassee.

It would be 49 years later before the Seminoles again ran the table. In that case, a national championship and much more acclaim came with it. FSU has had just three perfect seasons in its history.

The first came on this day seven decades ago.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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