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    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    FSU Retro Look Back: Steve Tensi

    Quarterback Steve Tensi was one half of a dynamic duo with Pro Football Hall of Famer Fred Bilenikoff. The 6'5" Tensi from Cincinnati, Ohio lit up the field with aerial bombs to sure handed Biletnikoff. Both Tensi and Biletnikoff played in the mid-60s under innovative FSU coach Bill Peterson.

    Steve Tensi who was at FSU from 1962-1964 was the first FSU quarterback to have a win over the Gators in 1964. The Noles, clearly the best football team on the field on this sunny Saturday afternoon, whipped what was supposed to be the University of Florida's best team ever. The score was 16-7.

    The classic passing combination of Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff busted Florida wide open with a 55-yard touchdown collaberation in the second quarter. Then Les Murdock kicked three field goals, a 24-yarder, a 34-yarder and a 40-yarder.

    Under Peterson’s strong hand, the Seminoles with Tensi and Biletnikoff were becoming a force to reckon with. The 1964 season was seen as a pivotal one. FSU football was about to mature into a contender for the national title. Nothing would be the same again.

    The Kentucky game remains a classic. Ranked No. 5 in the nation, the Wildcats were prohibitive favorites. The Seminoles, many assumed, were in for a whippin’. They were dead wrong.

    Peterson’s Seminoles hosted their ranked rivals at a packed Doak Campbell stadium – 40,000 people – where many in the stands wore Kentucky blue, there to enjoy another easy victory. The only real question was the margin of Kentucky’s inevitable victory. They were partially right. Victory was in the air from the opening kickoff, but it was the Seminoles who dominated.

    FSU’s defensive squad, called “The Magnificent Seven,” smothered the vaunted Kentucky offense. Tensi led the Seminole offense, rifling accurate passes downfield to a phenomenal receiver named Fred Biletnikoff. The air attack was balanced by a ground game featuring fleet halfback Phil Spooner.

    “I led the way on the right sweep with Spooner right behind me,” MacKenzie recalled. “Phil would actually put his hand on my belt and guide me as he read the defense.”

    FSU beat Kentucky 48-6. And that single touchdown came only after a bobbled Seminole punt return that gave the Wildcats the ball on FSU’s six-yard line. Even so, “it took Kentucky four downs to score that touchdown,” MacKenzie said. “And after the score, our ‘Magnificent Seven’ on defense cried, they were so disappointed.”

    Afterward, the Seminoles were ranked 10th in the nation and were coming on like a garnet and gold freight train. The Noles went went 9-1-1 that year.

    For the season, they were rewarded with an appearance in the Gator Bowl against Oklahoma. For the biggest crowd in Gator Bowl history, Steve Tensi and Fred Biletnikoff threw just about the biggest farewell party in any bowl's history.

    And Florida State clobbered Oklahoma here Saturday afternoon 36-19. Tensi threw five touchdown passes and Biletnikoff caught four as a sellout 50,408 rubbed their eyes and blew their horns.

    The incredible Biletnikoff caught 13 passes for 192 yards. No one in bowl history ever caught that many. The equally dazzling Tensi completed 23 of 36 for 303 yards.

    FSU racked a hatfull of Gator Bowl records - including most points scored by one team and most first downs (29). All of the figures involved in Biletnikoff's catching totals were Gator Bowl records. So were all of Tensi's figures.

    Steve Tensi later played in the pros for the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos from 1965-1970. He was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 1981.

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