Thoughts of the Day: April 1, 2020

DYNAMIC DUOS IN UF FOOTBALL HISTORY

Spurrier to Casey: Their debut season together was 1964 when Spurrier took over as the starting QB in the fifth game of the season. Spurrier’s numbers were rather modest – 943 passing yards for six touchdowns – but Casey established himself as a legitimate star by catching 47 passes for 663 yards and four touchdowns. In 1965, Ray Graves opened up the offense considerably as the Gators became the most wide-open team in the SEC. Spurrier threw for 1,893 yards and 14 touchdowns while Casey caught 58 for 809 yards and eight TDs. That season against FSU, with the Gators trailing 17-16, Spurrier rolled out to his right to throw a square out pattern to Casey but when he noticed no safety in the middle of the field, he motioned Casey to break the route and head for the end zone. Spurrier threw the perfect pass for a TD to seal the two as true legends.


Reaves to Alvarez: They became legends on the third play of the season opener with Houston when Reaves threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Alvarez as the Gators beat Houston 59-35, the start of a 9-1-1 season that was one of the greatest in UF history. You have to wonder what might have happened if Florida hadn’t made a coaching change after the 1969 season. In that wide open 1969 offense, Reaves threw for 2,896 yards and 24 touchdowns and Alvarez caught 88 for 1,329 yards and 12. Reaves threw for only 30 more TDs in the next two seasons under Doug Dickey but finished with a then NCAA record 7,549 career passing yards. Alvarez caught fewer passes (84) combined in his next two seasons than he did as a sophomore but finished his career with 172 catches for 2,563 yards and 19 TDs.


Cameron and Ortega: They were teammates from the time they were in high school at Coral Gables through four years at Florida. Ortega was already committed to UF when University of Miami coach Fran Curci committed a true recruiting blunder, which caused Cameron to decide to go to UF along with Ortega and teammate Randy Talbot. In 1974, Cameron led the Gators with 185 tackles while Ortega had more than 100. Ortega finished his UF career with 357 career tackles while Cameron finished with more than 300. The two of them earned All-American honors in 1974.


Anderson and Williams: From 1982-85 Neal Anderson and John L. Williams combined for 5,643 rushing yards (Anderson for 3,234, 30 TDs; Williams for 2,409, 14 TDs). They were at their best in the 1984-85 seasons. Anderson ran for 916 yards and seven TDs in 1984 while Williams ran for 795 yards and three TDs while also leading the team in receiving (21-276, two TDs). In 1985, Anderson ran for 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 349 yards and one TD. Williams ran for 659 and two touchdowns, catching 44 passes for 369 yards and three TDs.


Williams and Oliver: In the history of college football there might have never been a safety combination that had two safeties who hit as ferociously as Jarvis Williams and Louis Oliver, both first team All-Americans in 1987. They were downright scary. That season Oliver, a former walk-on from Belle Glade, intercepted five passes and broke up 19. He was a first team All-America selection in 1988 also. Williams, who finished his career with 10 interceptions, was a two-time All-SEC performer (1986-87).


Matthews to Jackson: Do you ever remember a better combination on a slant pattern than Shane Matthews to Willie Jackson. It seems it was automatic any time Steve Spurrier dialed up that play. It’s rather amazing that they became so good together when you consider that Matthews began the Spurrier era in the spring of 1990 as the sixth string QB and Jackson didn’t arrive until the fall, the last player signed because he was (a) a legacy and (b) local from P.K. Yonge. Jackson became Matthews’ top target in 1991 when Shane threw for 3,130 yards and 28 touchdowns and Jackson caught 51 for 725 yards and 10 TDs while leading UF to its first SEC title that counted. The next year, Matthews threw for 3,205 yards and 23 touchdowns while Jackson caught 62 for 775 yards and eight TDs.


Wuerffel to Doering: Wuerffel to Doering stands out not just because of the “Doering’s got a touchdown! Oh my!” play that stands as one of the two or three most remembered plays in Florida football history, but because they were so locked in as a combination. They were great on the slant but even better on the fade in the end zone. Wuerffel was a redshirt freshman when he threw the game-winning TDP to Doering against Kentucky. That year he threw for 2,230 yards and 22 touchdowns while Doering, a former walk-on, caught 43 for 533 yards and seven TDs. In 1994, Wuerffel threw for 1,754 yards and 18 TDs, with Doering catching 35 for 496 and seven TDs. They went off the charts in 1995 when Wuerffel threw for 3,266 yards and 35 touchdowns while Doering caught 70 for 1,045 yards and 17 scores.


Grossman to Gaffney: When we knew this combination was going to be special was in Florida’s 41-9 win over LSU (and Nick Saban) at The Swamp in 2000. Leading 10-3 with 36 seconds remaining in the half and Florida facing third and goal at the LSU nine, David Jorgensen snapped the ball over Rex Grossman’s head. Grossman chased the ball down at the 22, whirled and threw to Gaffney running two yards deep in the end zone for a TD that stunned the Tigers, who went on to lose 41-9. This was the fifth game of the season. Grossman was the starter from that point onward, finishing the season with 1,868 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Gaffney was his favorite target, catching 71 passes for 1,174 yards and 14 TDs. The next season they were even better. Grossman should have won the Heisman when he threw for 3,412 yards and 34 touchdowns while Gaffney caught 67 for 1,193 yards and 13 TDs.


Tebow and Leak: How do you make an offense designed for a dual threat QB work when your starting QB is a conservative non-runner? In 2006, that’s what Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen had to figure out so they let Chris Leak throw the prettiest spirals you’ve ever seen and brought in Tim Tebow to be the single wing tailback who got tough yards and occasionally threw a pass. Two QB systems usually don’t work, but this one did because Leak and Tebow cared more about winning than personal stats. When we knew it was going to work was the Tennessee game (21-20 UF victory) when Tebow converted a fourth-and-one when all 107,000 in Neyland Stadium knew he was going to run the ball and then Leak followed that up with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Baker to win the game. That season Leak threw for 2,942 yards and 23 touchdowns (Tebow 358 and five) while Tebow ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns (Leak 30 yards and three) as UF won the national championship.


Tebow and Harvin: This has to go down as one of the greatest offensive duos in the history of college football. Whether in the running game or the passing game, they scared the bejabbers out of defensive coordinators. In the 2007 season, Tebow won the Heisman Trophy, throwing for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns while running for 895 and 23 more. That same year Harvin averaged 9.2 yards per carry (764 rushing yards) and scored six TDs while catching 59 passes for 858 yards (14.5 per catch) and four more TDs. They were actually better in 2008 although the numbers didn’t reflect it due to more offensive options. Tebow threw for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 673 and 12 more. Harvin averaged 9.4 per carry (660 yards) for 10 touchdowns while catching 40 passes for 644 yards (16.1 per catch) and seven more as they led the Gators to the national championship.


THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

What if the NCAA, at the recommendation of its members, cancelled all sports in the fall and then rescheduled everything for the spring and summer of 2021? A radical thought, certainly, but something that should be considered particularly in light of the fact that the two cash cows – football and men’s basketball – will have to have their seasons or else we could be facing serious insolvency problems.


Let’s start with one prominent uncertainty. Quite a few schools are considering the postponement of the start of their academic year until January 2021 if significant progress isn’t made in the next month toward an eradication of the corona virus. While there are numerous promising reports of the effectiveness of drugs such as hydroxychloronique or hydrochloronique in combination with azithromycin and research groups that have moved at warp speed in developing and testing successfully a vaccine, it will take time to get things under control.


So what if a large number of schools cancel classes until January? Can the NCAA do to find a solution to prevent its Division I schools from going bankrupt? Starting basketball in January wouldn’t be that far-fetched an idea. There have been folks begging for that for years. Football? Shorten the season to 10 games and start it in March. Spring pro leagues such as the old USFL showed it’s not such a bad concept.


Run the fall and winter sports next spring then run the spring sports in the summer months. Sure, you would have a lot of sports going simultaneously, but at least the two sports that make money – football and men’s basketball – would be preserved and with it, the budgets of most NCAA athletic programs at the Division I level.


RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NCAA voted to extend the eligibility of all athletes from spring sports who had their seasons interrupted by the virus and did not extend another year of eligibility to winter sports such as basketball and gymnastics. Personally, I would have preferred to have championships played in sports like basketball and gymnastics, but this was a money decision all the way. It stinks for the kids who won’t get to see if they could have hoisted a conference or national championship trophy … NFL executives are planning for the season to start on time. We’ll see how that works … During the stoppage of the Major League Baseball season, veteran players will be paid $4,775 per day for 60 days. Nice work (or lack of) if you can get it … ESPN predicts college football’s top 25 defenses to start 2020: (1) Georgia; (2) Clemson; (3) Ohio State; (4) LSU; (5) Alabama; (6) Oregon; (7) FLORIDA; (8) Washington; (9) Auburn; (10) Penn State; (11) Michigan; (12) Wisconsin; (13) Notre Dame; (14) Miami; (15) Iowa; (16) TCU; (17) Baylor; (18) Utah; (19) Cincinnati; (20) Texas A&M; (21) Pittsburgh; (22) Kentucky; (23) Appalachian State; (24) Texas; (25) Tennessee.

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