No. 1 makes Sugar sweeter for Florida Florida State thrashing gives Gators 65 1/2 of 67 first-place votes in poll; 5 teams finish with 1 loss; Spurrier says 'God gave us a mulligan'


NEW ORLEANS -- Steve Spurrier's visit to the French Quarter in the wee hours of yesterday morning didn't last long, as too many Florida fans wanted to get too close to the coach in the revelry over the Gators' first national championship.

"I did walk on Bourbon Street, but I got about 10 yards into the crowd and couldn't get any further," Spurrier said. "I hoped we were going to be hugging and high-fiving this morning."

Even after Thursday night's 52-20 blowout of Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, the Bowl Alliance's championship game, Spurrier had anxiety that his team might not be ranked No. 1, but even his brash style wasn't enough to turn off the voters.

Florida received 65 1/2 of the 67 votes in the Associated Press media poll, and also swept the coaches' poll. Ohio State, which ** got the other 1 1/2 first-place votes, finished No. 2, followed by Florida State, Arizona State and Brigham Young.

All five finished with one loss, but Florida, which ended a 5-0 bowl run for the Southeastern Conference, was the only one to play six Top 20 teams, and the only one to close with such a decisive bowl conquest.

Florida State came in with the No. 1 ranking, a record of bowl invincibility and a regular-season win over the Gators. Florida still was bothered by that loss and last year's flop in the Fiesta Bowl, and though they didn't score 62 points the way Nebraska did on them a year ago, the Gators' margin of victory was monumental.

What made it doubly sweet was that it came at rival Florida State's expense.

Four unanswered touchdowns in the second half helped Florida break a Sugar Bowl scoring record that was 42 years old. It was the most points allowed by the Seminoles since 1985, when Florida State lost, 59-27, to Auburn, and their worst defeat since 1983, when they were beaten by none other than Florida, 53-14.

It also was the first bowl loss for coach Bobby Bowden since the 1982 season, but he did manage to keep one streak going, as Florida State has a final ranking of No. 3, the 10th straight season the Seminoles have finished no lower than No. 4.

"I didn't think they could do what they did to us," said Peter Boulware, Florida State's All-America defensive end. "After a while, I think we started losing heart. They are just a great team."

Florida lost the No. 1 ranking on Nov. 30, when it lost at Florida State, 24-21, and it needed help in its climb back. The Sugar Bowl berth came open when Nebraska lost to Texas, and the top ranking would have gone elsewhere if Ohio State hadn't lost to Michigan, and had the Buckeyes not then turned around and defeated Arizona State in the Rose Bowl.

"God gave us a mulligan, as we call it on the golf course," said Spurrier, who is one of the loudest voices among the coaches calling for a playoff system.

While Spurrier sampled the merriment, it was a quieter celebration for quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who hooked up with some family friends in the area. There was a lot to talk about, after Wuerffel picked apart the nation's third-ranked defense and got a Sugar Bowl MVP award to go with his Heisman Trophy.

Not that it was easy. Knocked down 16 times and sacked five times, Wuerffel saw one of his touchdown passes from the pTC ground; he listened to the crowd on the other two.

"That's probably the most satisfying," he said. "When a guy is that close to getting you, he thinks he's going to sack you. Then he thinks he's going to disrupt the pass, then the ball gets out and he still thinks he's going to punish you. Then he's laying on top of you and you complete the pass. You should see their faces."

Spurrier had an anxious moment with just under 10 minutes left in the first half when Wuerffel landed on his right shoulder after another crushing hit and jogged slowly off the field, his right arm dangling to his side.

"I didn't know if I'd be able to throw anymore," Wuerffel said. "It didn't feel good enough to throw for a while, but I took some ibuprofen and slowly felt fine. Once we got back out, it felt fine."

Four plays later, he threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard, putting Florida in control again, 24-10.

The performance possibly gave NFL scouts pause that maybe they should give Wuerffel a longer look.

"If one of the NFL teams wants to play in the Super Bowl, they might want to check his track record," Spurrier said. "Danny doesn't have to tell people he can play. His records are amazing. He might not throw that hard ball, but not many of his passes are dropped, because he throws such a catchable pass."

Spurrier, whose seven-year record at Florida is 73-14-1, blanched at the persistent speculation that he too is going to the NFL, and got in one last dig at his critics, especially those from Florida State.

The Seminoles didn't appreciate Spurrier's charges that they were a dirty team, a claim he made after the regular-season game. In winning that game, Florida State used some tips its defensive coaches got on a trip to Nebraska last spring.

"I don't think anybody's going to be doing any more clinics on how to stop the Gators," Spurrier said.

The Top 10

Top 10 teams in the Associated Press' final college football Top 25 poll:

No., School (1st place) ..... W-L ..... Pts.

Florida (65 1/2 ) ........... 12-1 .... 1,673 1/2

2., Ohio State (1 1/2 ) ......... 11-1 .... 1,585 1/2

Fla. State .............. 11-1 .... 1,529

4., Ariz. State ............. 11-1 .... 1,486

5., BYU ..................... 14-1 .... 1,360

6., Nebraska ................ 11-2 .... 1,316

7., Penn State .............. 11-2 .... 1,293

8., Colorado ................ 10-2 .... 1,228

9., Tennessee ............... 10-2 .... 1,172

10., N. Carolina ............ 10-2 .... 1,070

Pub Date: 1/04/97

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