By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Contributing Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It was Doug Dickey’s best Florida team.
The 1975 Gators went 9-2, losing an early 8-7 decision on the road at North Carolina State, then reeling off six straight wins -- four in Southeastern Conference play -- before the traditional hiccup against Georgia (a 10-7 loss), followed by wins over Kentucky and MIami to wrap the season.
For UF, ranked 13th in the nation, the reward was a date with No. 17 Maryland (8-2-1), the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, in the Gator Bowl.
The date represented a chance to win 10 games in a season for the first time in school history, a chance to finish a season ranked in the top 10 for the first time and provided Dickey, in his sixth season at UF, with a shot at his first postseason win in six tries (0-3 at Tennessee; 0-2 at Florida).
That’s a lot of firsts for the taking.
Spoiler alert: As Florida bowl performances go, this one ranks way up there ... among the worst.
Maybe even first worst.
To the time capsule we go.
THE DATE: Dec. 29, 1975
IN THE HEADLINES THAT DAY
· High-powered pumps sucked cold water from a coal mine in Northeastern India in an effort to reach at least 372 minors trapped 1,120 feet below the surface, but the government said the rescue could take up to 10 days and that it would be a miracle if any were still alive.
· As a concession to independent black African nations, South Africa was prepared to offer to withdraw its troops from war-torn Angola if its interests in a multi-million dollar hydraulic project are protected, according to The Johannesburg Times.
· Implementation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord in the Sinai Desert hit its first snag yesterday when the two sides disagreed on the location and size of an Egyptian early warning station in the Sinai.
IN THE THEATERS
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” -- starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher
“The Hindenburg” -- starring George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft and William Atherton
“The Adventures of the Wilderness Family” -- starring Robert Logan and Susan Damante
ON THE TUBE
ON THE RADIO
(Billboard’s Top 3 songs of 1975)
“Love Will Keep Us Together” by The Captain and Tennille
“Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell
“Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John
3-bedroom, 2-bath home (avg. cost): $39,300
1 pound of coffee: $1.40
Microwave oven: $168
Gallon of gasoline: 44 cents
Pair of Foster Grant sunglasses: $5
THE GATOR BOWL SET-UP
When Dickey came to Florida, he inherited a wonderful core group of “Super Sophs” that rewrote SEC passing records. Dickey, though, wasn’t a drop-back passing attack guy. He preferred the wishbone and eventually got the right personnel to run his offense, starting with quarterback Don Gaffney and fullback Jimmy DuBose, who led the league in rushing in ’75 with 1,307 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
UF, which also boasted tailback Tony Green and wide receiver Terry LeCount, came into the Gator Bowl averaging 27.5 points and 402 yards of offense and were a 9-point favorite to win the game.
Maryland, which had lost to Penn State and Tennessee to go with a tie against Kentucky, wasn’t given much of a chance and you better believe Coach Jerry Claiborne milked that perception.
“We need to show people we belong here,” Claiborne said
So much for that vaunted Florida offense and all those other milestones for the taking.
Maryland quarterback Larry Dick threw a touchdown pass, tailback Steve Atkins rushed for 127 yards and Mike Sochko kicked two field goals, as the unranked Terrapins handed the Gators their first shutout loss in more than four years, strangling UF 13-0 in the 31st edition of the Gator Bowl.
As The Tampa Tribune put it, “This was the night Florida was supposed to complete a 10-win season for the first time in school history, enhance its chances at a national top 10 ranking and show the nation it deserved being mentioned in the same breath with the college football elite. Instead, the Gators were thoroughly shut down by Maryland’s defense and their grand schemes were turned into a 13-0 embarrassment.”
Florida managed just 210 yards of total offense, with all but 28 of them on the ground. UF quarterbacks Don Gaffney and Jimmy Fisher combined to complete just three of 19 passes and tossed a trio of interceptions, two of which set up 10 Terps points. DuBose finished with a quiet 95 yards.
Florida’s last shutout came in Week 3 of the 1971 season, a 38-0 home loss against No. 8 Alabama.
IN THEIR WORDS
“Mistakes of execution and concentration will almost always get you beat. ... We had turnovers early in the game that put our backs to the wall the rest of the night.”
--UF coach Doug Dickey.
“We felt we had to play mistake-free football. We just did not turn the ball over. And I think our defense had a lot to do with the way Florida played on offense.”
--Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne.
“We didn’t play like a 9-2 team.”
--Gators DE Mike Smith.
“This program’s on the way up. There are a lot of guys behind me who really want to work for this, push for this, to help Florida become a championship team.”
--Senior team captain and DL Sammy Green, after his final game as a Gator.
“Everybody blew up. The Gator Bowl must be our jinx.”
--Florida DT Scott Hutchinson, speaking about the stadium, not the bowl game, after the Gators lost for fourth time in five trips to the Jacksonville venue.