Template:Infobox NCAA FCS football yearly game

The 1978 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship Game was a postseason college football game between the Florida A&M Rattlers and the UMass Minutemen. The game was played on December 16, 1978, at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas. The culminating game of the 1978 NCAA Division I-AA football season, it was won by Florida A&M, 35–28.[1]

This was the first season of I-AA play, and the first championship game for the newly formed division. The game was also known as the Pioneer Bowl,[2] a name that had been used starting in 1971 for various NCAA playoff games held in Wichita Falls.


The participants of the Championship Game were the finalists of the 1978 I-AA Playoffs, which began with a four-team bracket.

Florida A&M RattlersEdit

In 1978, Florida A&M was a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), a Division II conference. The university had successfully petitioned the NCAA for Division I classification (Division I-AA in football), which took effect on September 1, 1978.[3]

Florida A&M finished their regular season with a 9–1 record; their only loss was to Tennessee State.[4] Ranked third in the final AP Poll for I-AA,[5] and then having defeated Grambling State in the Orange Blossom Classic played on December 2, the Rattlers were the at-large selection to the four-team playoff. They defeated Jackson State, the South selection, by a score of 15–10 to reach the final.

UMass MinutemenEdit

UMass finished their regular season with an 8–3 record (5–0 in conference)—all of their losses were to Division I-A programs; Villanova, Harvard, and Rutgers.[6] Tied with Western Kentucky for fourth in the final AP Poll for I-AA,[5] the Minutemen were the East selection to the playoff. They defeated Nevada, the West selection, by a 44–21 score to reach the final.

Game summaryEdit

The game was played in a strong wind, estimated at 20–25 miles per hour (32–40 km/h).[7] It was a factor, especially with Florida A&M, as Sammy Knight punted six times for only 45 total yards; he also had two punts blocked.[7] UMass led early, going ahead 6–0 on two field goals. Florida A&M held a 14–6 lead at halftime, but trailed twice in the second half, as UMass had leads of 15–14 and 22–21. Two fourth quarter touchdowns by fullback Mike Solomon then provided Florida A&M with the winning margin. Florida A&M won without completing a pass from scrimmage, as quarterback Albert Chester went 0-for-7 with two interceptions;[8] he did successfully pass for a two-point conversion, and ran for two touchdowns.

Florida A&M placekicker Vince Coleman, who was 3-for-3 on extra points, would go on to play 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, most notably with the St. Louis Cardinals.[9]

Note: contemporary news reports listed attendance as 14,000 (estimated);[8][10] NCAA records indicate 13,604.[11]

Scoring summaryEdit

Scoring summary
Quarter Time Drive Team Scoring Information Score
1 10:18 9 40 MASS 20-yard field goal by Sandro Vitiello 0 3
2 10:14 4 (-2) MASS 20-yard field goal by Vitiello 0 6
2 8:30 55 FAMU Albert Chester 1-yard touchdown run, Vince Coleman kick good 7 6
2 4:22 49 FAMU Chester 4-yard touchdown run, Coleman kick good 14 6
3 6:54 3 8 MASS Cliff Pedro 1-yard touchdown run, 2-point pass incomplete 14 12
3 1:57 37 MASS 29-yard field goal by Vitiello 14 15
3 2 71 FAMU Mike Solomon 65-yard touchdown run, Coleman kick good 21 15
4 12:56 3 13 MASS Pedro 9-yard touchdown reception from Mike McEvilly, Vitiello kick good 21 22
4 8:14 1 28 FAMU Solomon 28-yard touchdown run, 2-point pass good (Emanuel White from Chester) 29 22
4 3:15 8 55 FAMU Solomon 20-yard touchdown run, 2-point pass failed 35 22
4 0:00 MASS Chris Kurtz 34-yard touchdown reception from McEvilly, 2-point pass failed 35 28
"TOP" = Time of Possession. For other American football terms, see Glossary of American football. 35 28


Game statisticsEdit

1 2 3 4 Total
Rattlers 0 14 7 14 35
Minutemen 3 3 9 13 28

File:Rudy Hubbard - Tallahassee, Florida.jpg

Template:AmFootballGameStatistics Template:AmFootballGameTopPlayers [8][13][10]


  1. "UMass Toppled in Bowl, 35‐28". The New York Times. AP. December 17, 1978. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  2. Climer, David (July 22, 1978). "I-AA Finals Set At Pioneer Bowl". The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee): p. 20. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  3. Cooper, Barry (August 31, 1978). "Florida A&M granted Divison 1 status". Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida): p. 1B. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  4. "Florida A&M Rattlers 1978 Schedule". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Reno gets playoff berth". Billings, Montana. November 21, 1978. p. 1-B. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  6. "Massachusetts Minutemen 1978 Schedule". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Cooper, Barry (December 17, 1978). "FAMU (cont'd)". Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida): p. 7A. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "A&M figures". Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida): p. 5D. December 17, 1978. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  9. Homer, Jody (May 12, 1985). "Cards` Rookie Looks Like a Steal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Schmitz, Brian (December 17, 1978). "FAMU Rattlers Strike Back For I-AA Championship". Fort Lauderdale News (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): p. 10C. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NCAApdf
  12. Cooper, Barry (December 17, 1978). "FAMU captures a national title". Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida): p. 1A. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  13. Schmitz, Brian (December 17, 1978). "FAMU Wins It All, 35-28". Fort Lauderdale News (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): p. 1C. Retrieved May 13, 2019.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Template:NCAA Division I Football Championship Game navbox Template:Florida A&M Rattlers football navbox

Template:1978–79 NCAA Division I championships navbox

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