Losers of 16 straight, FSU came to Tuscaloosa in 1974 and outplayed the outrageously favored Tide. At least until the last 33 seconds of the game, that is, when Bama kicked a 36-yard field goal to lead for the first time.
Final score, 8 - 7. Larry Key scored the only touchdown of the game. But FSU's soccer-style kicker missed three field goals and had one blocked. Any of which could have won it for the Noles. It would have been an upset then akin to App State beating Michigan today.
Darrell Mudra, who coached the Noles in '74 and '75, blames himself. Now retired and fishing the Gulf almost daily, Mudra told us his team would have won if not for making "a huge error at the end of the game."
You're talking about taking a safety?
"We thought the only way they could win was to block a punt. So we took a safety to play it safe. But we didn't take into account the fact that if we didn't take a safety, they would have had to score a touchdown. They hadn't scored a touchdown the whole game. We actually missed three field goal tries (as well as having one blocked). In our first year, we didn't really have time to recruit a kicker. We found a student, a kid from Turkey who was over here because he wanted to avoid the draft.
But he was pretty terrible. We just made a mistake playing him."
You may remember FSU led Bama in every stat except punting.
"We had a good punter, and that's one reason we took the safety. We thought he'd be able to get off a good one without any rush. He had a poor kick. Then Alabama had pretty good field position. They only had one play, I think, and then kicked the (winning) field goal."
How did you get your team pumped up to nearly pull off a major upset?
think we made any special preparation. But we did a real good job defensively against their wishbone. Offensively,
we played a lot of unbalanced line and that caught them off guard.
"After that game, I heard (assistant coach) Dan Henning on the phone with an LSU coach (Bama's next opponent). They wanted to know our (game) plan. So I called Bear and asked 'are you prepared for the unbalanced line?' He said, 'You're damn right. After the fiasco with you guys we're working on it pretty hard.'"
Game photos courtesy of the Paul W. Bryant Museum