Before they were in the ACC, before the ‘Noles football dynasty had begun, the independent Florida State Seminoles (6-5) came off a two-game win streak taking their holiday hopes down to the West Texas town of El Paso for the Sun Bowl.
T’was the night (day) before Christmas, 1966. Florida State’s legend Ron Sellers laced up his cleats as head coach Bill Peterson prepared his football team to take on the 15th ranked Wyoming Cowboys.
The game started with FSU giving up seven points in the first but a pair of touchdowns thrown by quarterback Kim Hammond tacked on 14 to take the lead into halftime. One, a 49-yarder score to Sellers, and another 59-yard bomb within minutes into the hands of late former FSU president T.K Wetherell.
“Jingle Joints” Sellers (not a Christmas pun, I swear) would go on to score another late touchdown in the 4th and finish as Florida State’s MVP of the game with six catches, 160 yards, and two touchdowns. The Wyoming defense proved to be too much as FSU would go on to lose the game 28-20.
Both teams fielded greats in Sellers and Wyoming’s James Kiick (135-yards on the ground, 42 receiving, two touchdowns) who would go on to have very successful college and professional football careers.
Kim Hammond came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes for Florida State, but it wasn’t enough to handle Wyoming’s really fierce Cowboys, who fought from behind and won 28-20 here Saturday in the 32nd annual Sun Bowl.
The Cowboy’s rugged pass rush put a severe crimp into the style of Gary Pajcic, the Seminoles starting quarterback.
Wyoming made the most of its scoring chances. The Seminoles didn’t.
Showing a national television audience estimated in excess of 15 million people – plus a crowd here of 24,380 – that its No. 1 ranking in rushing defense was no fluke, Wyoming racked FSU for minus 21 yards running.
The Seminoles netted 293 yards on passes, completing 17 of 35, but Wyoming outdid them in total defense, 364 to 272. Spurred by 211-pound Jim Kiick, who cut out 135 yards in 25 carries, Wyoming bagged 229 yards on the ground, 135 via air on nine completions in 27 throws.
Though heralded kicking specialist Jerry DePoyster wasn’t quite up to his billing – missing a couple of field goal tries and getting off some mediocre punts – he managed to keep FSU in a hole with his punts. Despite one 11-yarder, DePoyster averaged 37.3 on eight boots. John Hosack did a bright job for FSU on punting, averaging 40 yards on eight kicks, frequently neatly angled out of bounds.
Wyoming went ahead 7-0 in the first quarter after a 32-yard punt runback by Vic Washington set it up at FSU’s 31. Kiick scored from one yard out.
Checked without a first down in the opening quarter, FSU tied it on Hammond’s 49-yard bomb to Ron Sellers. Soon after the Seminoles went ahead 14-7 as T.K. Wetherell converted a short sidelines pass from Hammond into a spectacular 59-yard payoff.
Wyoming rallied quickly in the third quarter to go ahead 21-14. Driving 74 yards from the kickoff, the Cowboys scored on Rick Egloff’s 39-yard pass to Jerry Marion. Just a bit later, after FSU got backed to its eight and punted out to the 48, Kiick got loose and scored on a 43-yard power sweep.
FSU moved to Wyoming’s 10 after a fumble recovery at the 31, but an interception stymied that bid. Moments later Pajcic returned to direct a long push to Wyoming’s three. But the Cowboys rose up and held.
With 2:42 remaining Wyoming scored on Egloff’s 14-yard run. FSU got a final TD on Hammond’s 23-yarder to Sellers with 1:00 left.
One ironical and possible pertinent aspect of the game resulted in FSU kicking off to Wyoming in both the first and second half. On the coin toss, conducted well before the kickoff for benefit of television, FSU won the toss and elected to kick in order to take wind advantage. The irony was that the wind shifted the other way before the kickoff.
Pajcic hit eight of 19 passes for 78 yards, Hammond nine of 15 for 205. Sellers caught six for 160. FSU defensive standouts included Marty Kolbus and Larry Pendleton, each credited with seven tackles.
In the beginning FSU put Wyoming in a hole. Vic Washington fumbled the game-opening kickoff, recovered but was knocked down at the Wyoming seven.
Three plays got just eight yards, and DePoyster’s first punt was a 34-yarder. The Seminoles couldn’t move from the Wyoming 48, though Pajcic completed his first two passes. On third down, Pajcic’s toss over the middle was intercepted by Dick Speights at the Cowboy 27.
Kiick’s running led to a first down, but a clipping call helped check the movement. A DePoyster punt of 45 yards put FSU back on its 26.
Wyoming’s terrific rush resulted in a loss of two yards after three FSU runs. Thurston Taylor punted a 40-yarder that Washington tucked in. Suddenly he was loose on a 32-yard runback to FSU’s 31, where Jim Mankins, last Seminole in his path, nailed him.
Egloff promptly passed to Washington at the 10. Mike Davenport caught another running pass for nine yards, down to the one. Kiick dived over the middle for the touchdown, and DePoyster’s point-after made it 7-0.
Larry Green returned the kickoff 25 yards to FSU’s 29. A Pajcic pass to Taylor gained to the 37, but downs ran out. John Hosack punted to Wyoming’s 32.
Egloff’s 13-yard pass to Marion lifted Wyoming to its 48. Kiick knocked off six to FSU’s 46. The Seminoles tightened and on third down offensive pass interference against Wyoming slapped the Cowboys back to their 39.
On the next-to-last play of …Democrat article is missing this text… a 2-yard loss on third down.
When Hosack punted, however, Washington fumbled, and Moremen was there to get the ball for FSU at Wyoming’s 49.
Immediately, Hammond dropped back and pegged one to Sellers, who had raced behind Washington, catching the ball at the nine, the flanker sailed in for the TD. Frank Loner’s point kick tied it 7-7 with 5:21 left in the half.
Pete Roberts tried an onside kick for FSU. But the ball didn’t go the necessary 10 yards. Wyoming took over at FSU’s 48.
Joe Kinnan’s racking of Kiick for no gain on third down stopped the Cowboys at the 40. DePoyster’s punt was a poor one, 11 yards to the 20.
On the quarterbcak draw, Hammond dug for 10. After an offsides penalty put the Tribe back to the 31, Hammond passed to Glass at the 41. Then Hammond hit Wetherell with a sidelines shot.
Making a reaching, difficult catch, Wetherell spun away from defender Speights, then sped down the sidelines. Safety Paul Tuscano caught him too late. His diving tackle brought Wetherell down as he crossed the goal line on the 59-yard play.
Loner made it 14-7 with his conversion.
A roughing penalty against FSU on Mike Davenport’s kickoff return provided Wyoming with good position at FSU’s 46 with 1:30 remaining before intermission.
It could have been a 21-7 ball game, but Walt Sumner dropped what looked like an easy interception with an open field in from of him.
After Charles Pennie and Kinnan whacked Egloff for a loss of nine, the quarterback passed to Kiick at the FSU 25. Then Egloff ran to the 14.
Sumner’s superb defensive play averted what surely would have been a Wyoming touchdown. A receiver was open in the end zone as Egloff threw, but Sumner raced across to bat it down at the last moment. Two more passes were off target.
On fourth down, Wyoming faked a field goal, with Toscano raising up and throwing, incomplete.
FSU took over with five seconds showing on the clock. Moremen ran wide for a few yards as time ran out.
Wyoming tied it up quickly after taking the second-half kickoff and starting at its 26.
After Kiick got eight, Egloff spun away on a sweep to FSU’s 47.
Kiick smashed to the 39. Thereupon, Egloff found Marion open, well away from defender Bill Campbell. He raced in untouched on the 39-yard pass play. DePoyster’s point kick knotted it 14-14.
The Seminoles started at their 20 following the kickoff and quickly were in deep difficulty. On a play designed for Moremen to throw the halfback pass, a rugged rush pushed Moremen all the way to the six.
Hosack soon punted from the eight with the ball sailing out of bounds 40 yards away on the FSU 48.
On second down at the 43, Kiick suddenly broke loose on a power sweep to the left, cut and was loose on an all-the-way run.
After a penalty nullified one point kick, DePoyster boomed another through, for 21-14.
FSU got its initial first down of the second half on Pajcic’s tackle-eligible pass to Jack Fenwick at the 23. Swarming Wyoming defenders permitted just two yards in three more plays, however. Hosack’s punt was a 42-yarder to Wyoming’s 33.
Egloff’s passes missed. DePoyster booted a 41-yarder to FSU’s 23. A roughing penalty moved FSU to its 31 and Moremen cracked for a first down at the 33.
Then Pajcic got rocked for an 11-yard loss. A bit later Pajcic pitched back to Mankins who tried to hand off to Wetherell on an apparent reverse. But the ball was fumbled in the exchange. Wetherell picked it up but couldn’t find running room as he retreated, losing 18 yards to the four.
Hosack punted from the end zone, and it was weak, a 21-yarder to the 25.
Egloff passed to Marion at the 13. But he missed two more passes, and Kiick picked up only four on a run. DePoyster tried a field goal from the 15. It was wide to the left.
Hammond came in at quarterback for the Tribe. Moremen’s runs spurred FSU to its 29 but he was thrown back to its 41. FSU defenders held and the teams swapped kicks again, with Wyoming getting the ball this time on its 34.
Once again the two defenses held the sticks short of first downs. Hosack’s 47-yard boot on this swap pushed Wyoming back to its 23.
Then Kiick fumbled a handoff and FSU’s Larry Pendleton claimed the ball at Wyoming’s 24.
Moremen smashed for five, then for seven and a first down at the 12. Mankins pushed to the 10 as the third quarter ended.
Moremen lost five before Wyoming’s charge. Then linebacker Bob Aylward intercepted a Hammond toss, giving Wyoming the ball at its 24 following a roughing penalty against FSU.
Kiick rambled again, on a 24-yard run to FSU’s 42. Dave Hampton raced for 11 before FSU stiffened. On fourth down, DePoyster’s long field-goal try was short.
Pajcic came back at quarterback.
A pass to Sellers netted 12, and one to Bill Cox eight. On the draw, Mankins powered to FSU’s 47.
On third down, Pajcic threw to Sellers who fumbled the ball as he was tackled. The ball rolled about 20 yards to the five where Chip Glass recovered for a 48-yard FSU gain.
Green got two, to the three, but Moremen was thrown for a 3-yard setback on a sweep. A pass fell incomplete. On fourth down the Seminoles went for it, with Pajcic overthrowing Cox.
A 46-yard punt by DePoyster to FSU’s 49 got Wyoming out of the hole. That relentless rush continued and FSU was back at their 34 after three plays. Hosack punted 39 yards to Wyoming’s 26.
A 45-yard run and two 15-yard penalties – one called for grabbing a face mask, the other for unsportsmanlike conduct – moved Wyoming quickly to FSU’s 30. Don Klacking went wide for 18. An Egloff pass to Marion, coupled with another foul call against FSU, gained the Seminole seven. After Hampton ran to the three a holding penalty against Wyoming moved the sticks back to the 18.
On fourth down at the 14, Egloff looked in vain for a receiver, had plenty of time and protection. Suddenly deciding to run, he sprinted to his right and scored rather easily. DePoyster added another point, and it stood 28-14 with 2:42 left.
FSU opened at its 20 following a kickoff into the end zone. Hammond passed to Sellers for 12, to Wetherell for eight. After losing eight, Hammond again hit Sellers, for a first down at the FSU 48. Then Hammond threw to Taylor, who cut out a gain of 29 to the 22. Next play Hammond connected with Sellers on the sidelines and he raced in for a 23-yard payoff.
Going for two points, Wyoming was offsides. Bidding again for two, Hammond threw to Mankins but the ball fell incomplete. That made it 28-20 with 1:00 to go.
A foul call against Mankins on that attempted 2-point reception brought a 15-yard penalty against FSU on the ensuing kickoff. The Seminoles tried an onside boot but Wyoming recovered at the FSU 36.
The Cowboys ran out the clock.
Florida State vs. Wyoming: The tale of FSU’s only Christmas bowl game