The younger generations might believe that the Florida State Seminoles have always been a college football powerhouse.
Actually at one point, they were an all women’s school and certainly didn’t play football back then. But, even after they started their football program they had only moderate success before the hiring of Bobby Bowden as head football coach.
As for my own following of Florida State, I have zero recollection of them from before the arrival of Bobby Bowden in 1976. Even then, it took Bowden a little bit of time to build that program to what it became in more recent times. Yes, he did win pretty quickly, but it was more of a Cinderella type
situation when they were mostly the underdogs instead of the big powerhouse they became in later years. Nobody expected much out of Florida State in those years.
His first season at Florida State was his only losing season, as Bobby Bowden struggled to a 5-6 record in the 1976 football season. But, that was an improvement for the Seminoles because they had gone 0 – 11 in head coach Larry Jones’ last year and then 4 – 18 under Darrell Mudra. In his first season, Bowden won more games than Florida State coaches had done in the three previous seasons combined.
During that 1976 season Bobby Bowden used returning Seminole Quarterback Jimmy Black. Black’s back up was true freshman Jimmy Jordan, a local talent from Tallahassee Leon High School. Another Quarterback on that 1976 team was Wally Woodham, who was languishing on the scout team. Woodham also had gone to Tallahassee Leon, but he was a year older and had redshirted.
When Jimmy Black had used up his eligibility, Bobby Bowden was left with true sophomore Jimmy Jordan and redshirt sophomore Wally Woodham.
The television talking heads as some people such as myself refer to the ‘expert’ commentators say that alternating Quarterbacks will never work. They could be right, but from 1977 through the 1979 college football seasons, the Florida State Seminoles played two quarterbacks pretty much equally.
Say what you like about the system, but Bobby Bowden started putting the Florida State Seminoles on the map by alternating Quarterbacks. College football people and fans started to notice and many of them from different parts of the country. Suddenly everybody wanted to see these Seminoles and everybody wondered why we hadn’t seen much from them before.
Florida State didn’t start off the split platoon Quarterbacking system all that well. They were 2-0 after their first two games with wins over Southern Mississippi and Kansas State.
The Noles then lost to old nemesis Miami, at home. Sitting at 2-1, the Seminoles won a shocking 6 games in a row before stumbling in another shocker. They were surprised by San Diego State and beaten badly by 41 to 16.
They were not down for long, bouncing back to beat the hated Florida Gators, 37 to 9. The Seminoles trounced Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl, 40 to 17, to finish off their season at 10-2.
The experts said playing two Quarterbacks equally couldn’t be done effectively, but the Seminoles did it and there was a huge differential in the talent level of those Florida State Seminole teams than the ones that would come along a little later. They just weren’t yet on the level with the Oklahoma and Nebraska teams of those days yet. But, it was coming.
Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham threw for a combined 2,400 yards in 1977 in leading the Seminoles to an amazing 10-2 turnaround and both had 2 years of eligibility remaining.
To Florida State fans, they would become known as Wally Jim Jordham and nobody seemed too upset about it. Of course, when your team had gone 4 – 29 over the 3 years before Bobby Bowden arrived and was the winner of 10 games in 1977 alone, not that many will be negative. The negative comments and feelings would come later after years of 10 or 11 win seasons. Fans of all schools have a way of becoming spoiled and Florida State fans would be no different, but in the last days of the 1970s in Bobby Bowden early years this had to be Seminole heaven.
I have the greatest life in the world, well other than being in severe pain.
But, remembering these old moments and watching game tape it’s fun to come across many things I have forgotten. I don’t remember the Wally Jim Jordham name for the two Quarterbacks at all.
Bobby Bowden clearly could not choose between them and he was having success with both. As long as nobody grumbled and started friction which apparently nobody did.
The following season, 1978, the Seminoles finished 8 – 3 with Jordan and Woodham splitting duties again. They beat rivals Miami by 10 points and Florida by 17 points and that’s enough to keep the fans happy.
By this time things began to change a little for the Florida State Seminoles football program. Bobby Bowden had begun winning some major recruiting victories including the war for All American Nose Tackle Ron Simmons. These were the kind of players that would get the Florida State dynasty of the late 1980s, through the 1990s and into the 2000 season going. Bobby Bowden and his staff became recruiting monsters and brought in talent that few had ever seen before.
In 1978, Quarterbacks Jim Jordan and Wally Woodham threw for just under 2,800 yards and 23 Touchdowns.
The Seminole losses in 1978 were to Houston out of the SWC, Pittsburgh and Mississippi State. Pitt Panthers
Houston was tough in the 1970s and Pittsburgh was in it’s hey day. You can read about how good the Pitt Panthers were in those years here:
The pair of Quarterbacks were seniors in 1979 and they led the Seminoles to an undefeated regular season. It was Bowden’s first unbeaten regular season and ironically the two Quarterback’s numbers declined dramatically in 1979.
They met the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl in a very much hyped game for those years. The Sooners were loaded featuring Halfback Billy Sims the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner.
As so often happens in sports, the Cinderella team fell to the old school powerhouse, 24 to 7.
But, the times were changing regarding powerhouse football teams.
Both Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan attended Leon High School in Tallahassee, Florida where they were a year apart. It seems to me as if they should have gone to different schools so they each could be the main guy. But, they both elected to stay in town and attend Florida State.
In 3 seasons, neither pulled away from the other in the Quarterback race. Bobby Bowden played both of them for 3 years and finished with a 29 – 6 record.
I will say that most Quarterback’s egos will not allow them to split time at the position with another guy. But, apparently Woodham and Jordan had no problem with each other.
Neither man played in the NFL and Florida State would go on to bigger and better things at Quarterbacks in the following seasons. Rick Stockstill was the Quarterback to replace Jordan and Woodham and the two quarterback system was basically done at Florida State.
But, the two Quarterbacks Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan were just the start of great things to come at Florida State.