RISING FROM THE SWAMP
As if there weren't already enough bad blood between Florida and Georgia, several Gators made things worse by taunting Bulldog tailback Garrison Hearst after Florida's 26-24 victory in Jacksonville. The Gators had held Hearst to 41 yards on 14 carries, damaging his Heisman Trophy chances, and as Hearst walked off the field a few Florida players struck Heisman poses. "That shows they have no class," Hearst said.
What Florida does have is Hearst's number. Since Steve Spurrier took over as coach of his alma mater in 1990, the Gators have held Hearst to a total of 111 yards in three games, all of them Florida victories. With last week's win the Gators kicked Georgia out of the driver's seat in the SEC Hast and reclaimed it for themselves. Florida, the defending league champ, got off to a 1-2 start in the conference, losing to Tennessee and Mississippi State, and seemed to be out of the hunt. Now the Gators are 4-2 in the conference and need only to defeat Vanderbilt and South Carolina to lock up a spot in the inaugural SEC title game on Dec. 5 in Birmingham. The West champion almost certainly will be Alabama, which was idle last week.
As Florida left the field on Saturday, Gator fans in the crowd of 82,429 began chanting "S-E-C" in honor of their team's renewed hopes of successfully defending its title. However, after the game, Spurrier cautioned the press against punching the Gators' ticket to Birmingham. "Please don't write we're the [East] champions," he said. "My guys tend to believe everything they read."
Read it and weep: Florida will meet 'Bama in Birmingham.
THE DEACONS' PREY
Is it any wonder that police and security guards stood back and watched as the Wake Forest faithful tore down the goalposts following the Deacons' 18-15 upset of traditional ACC kingpin Clemson? After all, that ritual has rarely been called for at Wake Forest's Groves Stadium. The win ended Wake's 15-game losing streak to Clemson, and it came at the last home game for 58-year-old Deacon coach Bill Dooley, who's retiring at the end of this season. When asked if this was the biggest victory of his 26-year coaching career, Dooley, who coached at North Carolina and Virginia Tech before taking over in Winston-Salem, said, "There may have been a bigger one, but I can't remember it."
Clemson coach Ken Hatfield is sure to remember this one. With 3:40 to go and the Tigers leading 15-10, Deacon quarterback Keith West completed a 31-yard pass to Todd Dixon for the winning score. West grew up a Clemson fan in Sumter, S.C., and was hoping to play for the Tigers. However, when Clemson chose to recruit an option quarterback instead of West, who's a drop-back passer, he decided to enroll at Wake Forest. West has guided the Deacons, who are now 5-3, to four straight wins.
Dooley's next ACC victory will be his 96th, tying him with former Tiger coaches Frank Howard and Danny Ford for the league record. Unlike his older brother, Vince, who remained Georgia's athletic director after ending his 25-year reign as Bulldog coach in 1988, Bill Dooley has announced no plans to stay in athletics. The coaches Dooley are thought to be the winningest brother combination in NCAA history: Vince retired with a 201-77-10 record, and Bill is 159-125-5.
BIG RED REDEMPTION