Thursday September 5, 2013History Lesson: A Trip Down Gators vs Hurricanes Memory Lane
Florida quarterbacks Kerwin Bell, left, and John Reaves both had memorable games against Miami.
Florida quarterbacks Kerwin Bell, left, and John Reaves both had memorable games against Miami.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Allow me to provide some perspective to Saturday’s game between Florida and Miami that should put just what this once-bitter series meant back in the days into proper context.
Twenty years before UF and Florida State ever took the field against each other in 1958, the Gators and Hurricanes already had played 19 times, skipping only the first season following World War II when soldiers were returning home to become college students.
The series was so big that from 1953 until 1979, it was the last game on both team’s schedules 24 of those 27 seasons. So when UF announced in 1987 that it was dropping UM as an annual opponent it was a really big deal in this state.
At the time, Florida Athletic Director Bill Arnsparger said publicly the move was being made so the Gators could play a more “national schedule,” but home-and-home contracts with the likes of Michigan State and Washington -- as well as a two-game reboot of the series against the Hurricanes -- had to be cancelled when the Southeastern Conference expanded and moved to an eight-game schedule. UF requires a minimum number of home games to fund its athletic budget.
So here it is, 26 years since the annual series shut down with the 1987 game, and the Gators and Canes will meet for just the sixth time over that span. No current players have any real sense of the historical significance rivalry -- which dates to 1938 and is led by UM 28-26 -- but view it, understandably, as a battle between in-state heavyweights.
Many hardcore fans do, too.
But it’s so much more than that.
So it’s off to Memory Lane, folks, for a look at five of the most memorable games the Gators and Hurricanes played (plus a mention of a few more).
The choice for the top of the list, by the way, wasn’t even close.
[Note: The embedded video presumably is a South Florida television report revisiting the both famous (if you’re a Gators fan) and infamous (Canes fan) game of 1971.]
1) “THE FLORIDA FLOP"
Score: Florida 45, Miami 16
Date: Nov. 27, 1971
What happened: UF senior quarterback John Reaves entered the final game of his career needing 344 yards to eclipse the all-time career passing yardage record of 7,544 held by Jim Plunkett, the 1970 Heisman Trophy winner from Stanford. When Reaves had amassed 330 yards, the record seemed a foregone conclusion when UM was forced to punt with just under eight minutes to go -- until UF’s Harvin Clark went 82 yards for a touchdown with the punt. Miami ball. After another UM punt, Reaves again appeared poised to reach the milestone -- until he threw an interception. The Hurricanes, down 45-8 and driving deep into UF territory, were on the verge of running out the clock. The Gators sidelines knew how close Reaves was. “Let ‘em score!” shouted Clark, the senior cornerback, who led the lobbying efforts of UF coach Doug Dickey. At first, Dickey hesitated, but eventually yielded to his players. By changing his mind, he changed history, too. Miami faced a second-and-7 at the Florida 8 when quarterback John Hornibrook took the snap, as UF’s defense collectively and intentionally dropped to the artificial surface (basically assuming push-up positions), allowing Horibrook to run in untouched (and unchallenged) for a touchdown. The Gators got the ball back, Reaves got his record and the UF team, en mass, raced for the Orange Bowl fountain behind one of the end zones and took a victory dive. Miami’s coaches were positively furious, hurling verbal obscenities in the direction of the UF staff (one member in particular).
Numbers of note: Reaves finished 33 of 50 for 348 yards and four touchdowns, pushing his career total to 7,581 yards. ... Hornibrook was just 1-for-13 for 19 yards and two interceptions. ... The 29-point margin marked the most one-sided game in the series since Florida won 43-6 in 1952, and the 45 points remain the second-most ever scored in the series. ... UF finished the season 4-7, Miami 3-8.
Quotes: Miami coach Fran Curci was livid, choosing not to shake an opposing coach’s hand for the first time in his career. “It was the worst thing I have ever seen in football. I used to admire Doug Dickey as a coach -- his record speaks for itself -- and a man, but what he did shows absolutely no class. I think he made a fool of himself.” ... And then there was the UF slant. “I would rather have not had to do it that way, but some records are worth going after, I guess,” Dickey said. “I did not mean to embarrass the Miami football team in any way. I certainly did not give our kids instructions to fall down like that. I was a little disappointed they did.” ... Curci was told of Dickey’s remarks: “I don’t believe him.” ... Reaves: “I was completely shocked and surprised. It felt kind of ridiculous, and yet it felt kind of great.”
2) OPENING NIGHT IN TAMPA
Score: Miami 32, Florida 20
Date: Sept. 1, 1984
What happened: He started preseason practice fifth on the UF depth chart, but when Dale Dorminey blew out his knee four days before the season opener against defending national champion Miami, little-known Kerwin Bell, a walk-on from Mayo, Fla., got the start for the Gators on a sweltering night at Tampa Stadium. With 41 seconds to play, Bell threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Neal to give the 17th-ranked Gators a 20-19 lead. Enter sophomore Bernie Kosar, who nine months earlier led the Hurricanes to an incredible comeback and upset of top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to clinch the program’s first national crown. All Kosar did was march the Canes 72 yards in five plays -- and just 29 seconds -- the last a 12-yard touchdown to Eddie Brown with :07 left. On the last play of the game, Hurricanes safety Tolbert Bain intercepted Bell and went 59 yards for the touchdown, thus the deceptive final score.
Numbers of note: Kosar tied a school record with 25 completions, while tight end Willie Smith set one with 11 receptions. ... UF scored just six points on three drives that penetrated the UM 5. ... Bell, in his first game, went 15 of 30 for 159 yards, accounted for a TD running and passing, and threw two interceptions. ... The win was Miami’s 13th straight, dating to the previous season. The Hurricanes had defeated Auburn just five days earlier in the Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands.
Quotes: “Too bad it wasn’t close,” said UM defensive line coach Butch Davis. “I really wish it had been close.” ... “It came down to one play,” Florida coach Charley Pell said. “I’m proud of how we played.” ... Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, in just his second game with the Hurricanes after jumping from Oklahoma State, “We were physically and mentally drained after the Auburn game and we had to really push them hard during practice this week, but we were bound and determined to win.” ... Kosar was asked about his thoughts before the final drive. “I said a little prayer.”
3) BROCK'S REVENGE
Score: Miami 38, Florida 33
Date: Sept. 6, 2003
What happened: When he signed with UF in 2000, Brock Berlin was the USA Today National Offensive Player of the Year and far and away the most decorated quarterback ever landed by Coach Steve Spurrier. Two years later, after spending the bulk of his career watching Rex Grossman, Berlin transferred to Miami, which made for quite the storyline when the Gators, under second-year coach Ron Zook, came calling in 2003. Many a Florida fan (and maybe a player or two) was having a good ol’ time at Berlin’s expense as the No. 21 Gators went up 33-10 with just over six minutes to go in the third quarter. They weren’t laughing when the Hurricanes, ranked third, scored the game’s final 28points, with Berlin firing a pair of touchdowns, to ignite an incredible comeback in game littered with future NFL players.
Numbers of note: Berlin finished 27 of 41 for 340 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. ... The Gators rotated three quarterbacks: Chris Leak, Ingle Martin and Gavin Dickey. ... UF rushed for 178 yards, led by Deshawn Wynn’s 100 on eight carries, while UM got 127 ground yards from tailback Frank Gore. ... Miami’s Devin Hester scored on a 97-yard kickoff return to open the game and teammate Sean Taylor went 67 yards with another in the first quarter. ... The 23-point advantage was the largest blown lead by a Gators team since the 28-point fourth-quarter quarter meltdown at Florida State in a 31-31 tie in 1994. ... UF came in as a 14-point underdog, the largest spread against the Gators since 1988.
Quotes: Following the game, Berlin could finally breathe after the breathless hype (both for him and his teammates) leading up kickoff. “My emotions are just sailing right now,” he said. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve tried to be as calm as I could these last two weeks. I’m just glad it’s over with.” ... UM coach Larry Coker: “There were times we could have folded, could have given up. We never, never did that. We gave ourselves a chance to win.” ... "We knew it was only a matter of time before Brock started clicking," Gators cornerback Keiwan Ratliff said. "We just had to build a big enough lead to withstand the comeback."
4) THE LONE BLEMISH
Score: Florida 28, Miami 3
Date: Sept. 3, 1983
What happened: This one made the list more because of what happened after the game than during it. The Gators destroyed the Hurricanes that night, forcing seven turnovers, and making college life miserable for a certain freshman making his first appearance as UM quarterback. That, of course, would be Kosar, who in addition to his debut -- against Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall, no less -- was leading an offense with four new linemen and two wideouts with a combined five receptions in their careers. UF counterpart Wayne Peace was a seasoned senior with a four-year track record. And while Peace had undergone back surgery just two months earlier, he carved up the UM defense in helping hand the Canes their worst defeat in four years. Florida’s dominance must have had a profound impact on Miami’s team. The Hurricanes, from there, won 11 straight, capped by their epic 31-30 upset of Nebraska to win the national crown four months later.
Numbers of note: Peace completed 18 of 32 passes (including his first eight throws) for 146 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. ... Kosar went 24-for-45, good enough for 223 yards, but threw three interceptions. The Canes also fumbled four times. ... The 25-point margin was the worst since Miami lost 30-0 at Alabama in 1979
Quotes: “We weren’t that sharp,” Peace said. “Typical opening-day game.” ... “We beat ourselves,” said UM tailback Albert Bentley. ... “Not the best way to start a career,” Kosar said in a prophetic post-game moment. “But I’ll learn from my mistakes.” ... UM coach Howard Schnellenberger was asked about turnovers taking his team out of the game. “We didn’t really get into it to the point where we could try to get back,” he said. ... And then there was Marshall, who the year before had 17 tackles in a dramatic UF win. In the days leading up to the game, UM tight end Glenn Dennison said Marshall, a first-team All-American in ’82, was overrated. Marshall was not phased. “What he’s done and what I’ve done, I guess you can just compare that for yourself.”
5) The “Mad Stork” Unleashed
Score: Miami 21, Florida 16
Date: Nov. 26, 1966
What happened: UF had a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Spurrier and an Orange Bowl berth already wrapped up. Though the Gators quest for an unbeaten season had been dashed two weeks earlier in a loss to Georgia, Spurrier and his ninth-ranked troops were shooting for a 9-1 season against the Liberty Bowl-bound Hurricanes. As it happened, the other quarterback, UM’s Bill Miller, stole the early thunder with a couple short TD passes and a 40-yard scoring run to stake the Canes to a 21-3 lead. Spurrier, meanwhile, was chased and harassed all afternoon by All-America defensive end (and future Pro Football Hall of Famer) Ted Hendricks. The 6-foot-8 “Mad Stork” clogged passing lanes and lived in the UF backfield all afternoon. The game appeared to be a runaway when the Canes lined up to punt early in the fourth quarter. UF blocked the kick and Spurrier led the team to quick touchdown to make it 21-10. After a defensive stop, Spurrier again drove the Gators down the field and into the end zone, but the two-point conversion failed. Six-point game. Then, sure enough, UF got the ball back and there was Spurrier -- his final home game, clock winding down -- hitting a big pass to tailback Larry Smith deep into UM territory. But as Smith tried to get out of bounds and stop the clock -- the Gators had no timeouts left -- Miami linebacker Hal Carew dragged Smith to the ground mere inches from the sideline. The clock ran out before Spurrier could stop it and have one last dramatic heave at the end zone from the UM 31.
Numbers of note: Spurrier went 18 for 28 for 145 yards in the final quarter alone, completing 10 straight at one point. He finished 26 of 49 for 227 yards. ... UF wideout Richard Trapp caught 11 passes for 150 yards. ... Spurrier finished his career with 5,645 passing yards, the most in SEC history at the time.
Quotes: Miami ends coach Walt Kichefski: “That Gator meat is s-o-o-o-o good.” ... For those who heard Spurrier speak his mind as a coach, his words after this game probably won’t come as a surprise. “In four years at Florida, I’ve never said anything about the officiating, but at least twice today, I was trying to watch receivers catch a ball and got the hell knocked out of me,” Spurrier said. “I’m not crying, but I’ve thrown more than 700 passes and I’ve never had one roughing-the-passer penalty called. It was obvious today and I feel I should say something.” He wasn’t done: “These officials were gutless.” ... UM defensive coordinator Ottis Mooney was told of Spurrier’s gripes. “Listen, he’s gotten his share of glory this year. He just didn’t like the way we were after him. He sit backs there week after week and throws touchdown passes, but when someone chases him, he sounds off.” ... Hendricks didn’t mind. “He’s a cool quarterback.” ... UM coach Charlie Tate agreed. “I guess the spectators enjoyed it, but I’m just beginning to enjoy it,” Tate said. “With that guy throwin’ the football, you never can relax.”
HONORABLE MENTION (in chronological order)
1938 - Miami 19, Florida 7. The first meeting between the two teams was a shot to the bow from Coral Gables, as the Hurricanes -- led by tailback Eddie Dunn -- let it be known that there was another football force in the state. UM erased a 7-0 deficit and went for a big road win.
1956 - Miami 21, Florida 7. Both teams have been ranked only nine times in the 54 meetings to date. This was the first time. The No. 6 Hurricanes, spurred on when Dan Pelham scored on a fourth-quarter blocked punt, rolled into Gainesville and smacked the No. 18 Gators 21-7.
1961 - Miami 15, Florida 6.This one’s remember vividly by the old guard of both schools for UM All-America quarterback George Mira, a right-hander, running to his left as Gators gave chase and tossing a left-handed touchdown pass that helped the Hurricanes to their first win in the series in five years.
1980 - Miami 31, Florida 7.The Hurricanes, behind quarterback Jim Kelly, were routing the Gators at Florida Field when UF fans started tangerines (as in Tangerine Bowl-bound) at the UM sideline. Schnellenberger was livid, so the UM coach summoned placekicker Danny Miller to tag a run-it-up field goal on the home team -- with one second to play. The crowd booed unmercifully as the Canes left the field.
1981- Miami 21, Florida 20.The Gators led by nine in the fourth quarter until UM quarterback Mark Richt -- yes, that one -- threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Belk to cut the lead to two. With 40 seconds left, Miller slammed home a 55-yard field goal (that ricocheted off the left upright) to give Miami a thrilling home win at the Orange Bowl.
1982 - Florida 17, Miami 14. Behind Peace, the Gators drove 61 yards in six plays, capped by fullback James Jones’ leaping, one-handed, 17-yard touchdown to give UF what Pell called, “one of the greatest, most rewarding wins we’ve had in the history of Florida football.”
1985 - Florida 35, Miami 23. The Gators, on NCAA probation and ineligible to be ranked or play on television, rallied behind Bell and scored the game’s fal 17 points to defeat the Hurricanes and spoil the starting debut of hotshot quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Bell finished 20 of 28 for 248 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while Testaverde was 24-for-40, with 278 yards, no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The loss was UM’s only regular-season defeat of the year.
2000 - Miami 37, Florida 20.In the first meeting since the series was disbanded in 1987, the No. 7 Gators and No. 2 Hurricanes met in the Sugar Bowl, but the battle really started a few nights earlier when members of both teams were involved in a much-publicized brawl on Bourbon Street. Come game time, Ken Dorsey threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Canes to victory in the only crack Spurrier got at UM as a coach.