This Week in Heisman History: Steve Spurrier leads Florida to a close win over Florida State

Nowadays when people think of Steve Spurrier, they think of him as the brash, visor-wearing coach who led Florida to national prominence and South Carolina to respectability.

But before the visor, before the Fun ‘n Gun and before the entertaining press conferences, there was Spurrier the quarterback.

The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder starred for the Gators from 1964-66, earning All-American honors his last two seasons. In an era dominated by the run, Spurrier was, along with Jerry Rhome and Bill Anderson of Tulsa, one of the first quarterbacks to really air it out.

As a junior, he threw for 1,893 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading Florida to the Sugar Bowl (where the Gators lost a close one to Missouri, 20-18). And so “Steve Superior” entered 1966 as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

He helped Florida to a great start that year as the Gators outscored Northwestern, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt by a combined 84-14. So Florida was 3-0 and ranked 10th in the country when it traveled to Tallahassee to take on in-state, unranked rival Florida State.

This week in Heisman history, 46 years ago, the Gators needed a big game from Spurrier to beat the Seminoles, albeit under controversial circumstances.

Spurrier was on target early, hitting receiver Richard Trapp for a 35-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring, then finding him again for a six-yard touchdown before the half after the Seminoles had stormed back with 10 straight points. The teams went to the break with the Gators up, 14-10.

Florida State dominated the third quarter to take a 19-14 lead, but then Spurrier struck back with a 41-yard touchdown pass to halfback Larry Smith with 10:44 left in the game. A two-point conversion pass to Trapp made it 22-19.

The Seminoles didn’t give up. They drove down the field with time winding down, and quarterback Gary Pajcic found wide out Lane Fenner in the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown with just 17 seconds left.

But the referees ruled Fenner was out of bounds, and Florida came away with the win, its eighth in nine tries against the ‘Noles. News photos later revealed Fenner was actually in bounds, and the bad call stuck in the craw of FSU fans for years.

Spurrier was 16-of-24 for 219 yards and three touchdowns against the Seminoles as Florida moved to 4-0. It also made Spurrier the favorite to win the Heisman. The Gators went on to a 7-0 start and a No. 7 ranking in the polls before falling to Georgia, 27-10. A 27-12 triumph over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 1967, gave Florida a 9-2 record and its first major bowl victory.

But before the Orange Bowl, Spurrier was awarded Florida’s first Heisman Trophy. On the year, he completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,012 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also kicked three field goals, including a 40-yard game-winner against Auburn after he waved off the starting kicker.

Spurrier won four out of five Heisman voting regions and totaled 1,659 points to easily beat runner-up Bob Griese ofPurdue (816 points) and Nick Eddy of Notre Dame (456 points).

He went on to be selected third overall in the NFL draft by San Francisco, where he played nine years. A somewhat lackluster pro career eventually turned into an outstanding coaching career.

But 46 years ago this week, there was no player more outstanding than Spurrier.

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.
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