NEW ORLEANS -- After Florida State beat Florida in November's version of the Game of the Century, Gators coach Steve Spurrier ordered his film crew to compile a damning rendition of the Seminoles' late, great hits on Danny Wuerffel.
In retaliation, a Tallahassee radio personality set up a computer home page, the sole purpose of which was to allow Florida State's faithful to create their own marketing slogans for the drink made of sour grapes: Spurrier Whine.
If you were expecting a dignified conclusion to the squabble over who's No. 1 in college football, forget it. As if one fight a year between Florida and Florida State isn't enough, they'll do it again Thursday in the Sugar Bowl, and the matter of in-state bragging rights means it's not your normal game with national championship implications.
"Football, it's like a religion in Florida," said Seminoles kicker Scott Bentley. "I'm from Colorado, and they take their football seriously there, but nothing like this. It's just a game, but not to the people in Florida. I can't believe some of the things I've seen in Tallahassee."
Neither could Spurrier on Nov. 30, when Florida State (11-0) wrestled the No. 1 spot away from Florida (11-1) with a 24-21 victory. The Gators dropped to No. 3, and Spurrier fumed about the way Wuerffel, his Heisman Trophy winner, was roughed up by the Seminoles.
Spurrier's lowlight film shows Wuerffel crashing to the turf a total of 29 times. He was sacked six times and roughed twice, two times too many for Peter Boulware, who along with Reinard Wilson gives Florida State the best set of defensive ends in the nation.
"I asked one of the refs, 'What's the matter with you, man? You never seen a pass rush like this in the SEC?' " Boulware said. "It was almost like those guys were trying to protect Wuerffel."
If you had a couple of Lou Holtz types spouting the normal coach's mush about the opponent combining the best qualities of Red Grange and Mother Teresa, it might not be an issue, but because you have two men who actually speak their minds, the hype machine will be humming louder than normal here.
Three years ago, before Florida waxed West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl, Spurrier sidled up to a Mountaineers support person before a practice at the Super Dome and asked, "Do y'all still play dirty up there?"
Remember a few years ago, when Florida State was going through the motions of preparing for an unworthy Atlantic Coast Conference rival, and Bowden couldn't even remember the name of the opponent? (It was Maryland.)
Spurrier is insistent that Florida State's pass rush enjoyed carte blanche in its harassment of Wuerffel, even though the pressure is nothing new. In their two previous meetings, Wuerffel was sacked 15 times.
"I'd be a lousy coach if I didn't mention it [the late hits]," Spurrier said. "My first priority is the safety of my players."
And one of Bowden's is making sure that the officiating crew from the Big 12 isn't influenced by Spurrier's politicking.
"This has gotten a little personal, and he [Spurrier] doesn't need to do that," Bowden said. "It's not that dang big a deal. It's only a game. Of course, they fire you if you lose. Steve could be hoping the officials get intimidated. It could be that Steve is hoping to excite his kids."
Spurrier is not the first opponent to complain about Florida State's timing, but no one was listening Nov. 23, after the Seminoles beat up Maryland and its quarterback, Brian Cummings.
"It was the same old crap by the refs," said Cummings, who left that 48-10 loss for his own safety. "Their guys are good enough, they're going to hit me anyway, they don't need any help. If some of the hits were late, that's bad, but that's the way it is."
Have Florida's players been ordered to retaliate, and go a little harder at Seminoles quarterback Thad Busby?
"Whether the objective was to take him [Wuerffel] out or not, they were hitting him late," Florida defensive tackle Ed Chester said. "Any time a guy is out to hurt one of your players, you just try to stand up for him. It's a matter of standing up for friends."
The familiarity of their fifth meeting in 26 months figures to breed the expected dose of contempt, but most of the players hail from Florida, and just about everyone knows someone on the other side.
"I don't think anybody on our team hates anybody on theirs," said Todd Fordham, an offensive tackle for Florida State. "My ultimate goal is to get to heaven, and as far as that's concerned, this game really doesn't matter."
No. 1 Florida State (11-0) vs.
No. 3 Florida (11-1)
Site: New Orleans
Time: 8 p.m. Thursday
TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (1300 AM)
Line: Florida by 3
Pub Date: 12/30/96