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Football was the hot topic of conversation in Tallahassee last week as hometown Florida State took on archrival Florida for the state championship and beat 'em. But the citizens could not agree on which aspect of State's situation was worth talking about. Was it best to grumble on about how the lunkheads from all those bowls had overlooked the Seminoles? Or to revel over how good it feels now that Florida doesn't automatically beat up on Florida State anymore? Or to fall back on the topic that has kept Tallahassee abuzz the last two seasons—State's two-headed junior quarterback, Wally Jim Jordham?
Well, the bowls were worth a snarl or two, because with its 8-3 record Florida State certainly deserved a chance to play in one of them. And sure, the Florida game, which the Seminoles won just about as expected, 38-21, was a nice subject for a chat. But when it came to full-blown oratory there just wasn't anything to catch listeners' interest like a discussion of Florida State's pleasantly freakish quarterback.
Of course, the Seminoles don't really have a double-domed signal-caller. It just seems that way, what with Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan, two local boys, both being so good that nobody, not even Coach Bobby Bowden, can decide which of them should be in there playing most of the time. "Wally and Jimmy are the quarterback," says Bowden, doing a lot to clarify the situation.
Perhaps the reason Tallahasseeans cannot come to grips with the phenomenon of Wally Jim Jordham is that they have not had time to get accustomed to a wealth of talent at any position, much less quarterback. And nothing demonstrates the rapid improvement at State better than what has transpired recently in the series with Florida.
For years the Gators simply chomped down on and spit out one Seminole team after another. Oh, occasionally a Fred Biletnikoff or a Ron Sellers would come along, cradle a scoring pass or two and help upset Florida, but from the series inaugural in 1958 until two years ago, a stretch of 19 games, the Seminoles won only twice. And why not? Florida has been a force in football for more than half a century. As recently as 1947, FSU was the Florida State College for Women.
In the fall of that year the first men enrolled, the school's name was changed and a football team emerged. The Seminoles enjoyed a modicum of success in the '50s and '60s, but in 1973 the program went bust. An 0-11 disaster that year was followed by a 1-10 finish in '74 and a 3-8 record in '75. Enter Bowden, a glib, religious country gentleman whose first two words—"Beat Florida"—were exactly the ones Seminole supporters wanted to hear. He failed to do that in '76, but last year State bused down to Gainesville and thrashed the Gators 37-9. There also were nine other victories, including a 40-17 romp over Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl. Although this year's Seminoles failed to receive a bowl bid, they are probably better than several teams that did, and they sure made it clear last Saturday who is No. 1 in Florida.
What Bowden has done is build a big-play defense around spectacular 6'4" End Willie Jones and Guard Ron Simmons and match it with a wide-open passing offense that can score from the parking lot. Last year the Seminoles passed for 2,466 yards and 18 touchdowns. This season they let fly for 2,749 yards and 23 touchdowns.
In two seasons Jordan has completed 188 passes for 2,666 yards and 24 touchdowns. Woodham has completed 192 for 2,592 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jordan has handled 832 snaps from center, Woodham 925. This year Jordham has propelled Florida State into the nation's top 10 in total offense and scoring. Wally Jim's average of 249.9 yards a game passing ranks third. Were he really just one guy, with 206 completions, Jordham would rank right behind such luminaries as Stanford's Steve Dils and Mike Ford of SMU in individual passing statistics.
According to Bowden, Jordan has a slightly stronger arm and a slightly quicker release. Woodham has a slightly better touch and is a tad ahead as a field leader. "Jordan's my bomber and Wally can pick people apart," Bowden says, which may or may not be verified by the fact that while Jordan averages 13.1 yards a completion, Woodham nets 13.4.
Last season Jordan started the first three games, won two of them and threw for five TDs. Woodham, in relief, hit seven of 10 passes. Woodham then sought out Bowden and said, "I want you to know I'm not happy." The next week, at Oklahoma State, Jordan hit six of 11 passes, but Florida State fell behind 17-3. So Bowden sent in Woodham, who led the Seminoles to one touchdown, ran for a second and passed for a third. So Woodham became the starter and won five straight. Against Florida Woodham started and completed six of 10 passes, but it was Jordan and his 13 completions that were really responsible for State's victory. For weeks before the Tangerine Bowl, Bowden equivocated over who would start. He chose Jordan, and Jimmy swept the game's MVP honors by throwing 18 completions in 25 tries in the 40-17 win. Despite which, Bowden said, "I'm still not sure I made the right decision." Woodham, playing the fourth quarter, threw 10 passes and hit seven. Two were for TDs.