University of Florida

Weird passes, wild late field goals and, of course, that flop. The funky UM vs. UF moments

Miami Hurricanes discuss UM-UF rivalry

University of Miami defensive end Scott Pathcan (71), tight end Will Mallory (85), and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (2) talk about the excitement around playing the Florida Gators in this year's season opener.
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University of Miami defensive end Scott Pathcan (71), tight end Will Mallory (85), and wide receiver K.J. Osborn (2) talk about the excitement around playing the Florida Gators in this year's season opener.

There’s no rivalry quite like the University of Miami and the University of Florida. For one thing, most schools that dislike each other this much actually play each other regularly, as UM and the Gators haven’t since “Miami Vice” was in first run.

And that’s why the moments that define this rivalry aren’t necessarily the moments of greatness or failure, as you’d get with Michigan-Ohio State or USC-UCLA.

No Wide Rights here, as you’d get with Hurricanes vs. Seminoles. No snapshots from Florida wide receiver Carlos Alvarez, who came to South Florida from Cuba at age 10, incinerating UM with 15 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the Orange Bowl. Or, UF-to-UM transfer Brock Berlin leading The Comeback in 2003, the Hurricanes down 33-10 and winning 38-33.

You can get that in any Texas-Oklahoma. We’re talking funkiness that give this rivalry its special seasoning.

1959: Florida Man Handles Equipment? Both teams showed up in Jacksonville with white jerseys. And, during college football’s limited-substitution, one-platoon era, player size differences weren’t as vast (stamina being as valuable as size and players might have to play multiple positions, even on the same side of the ball). And desegregation had yet to hit football rosters in the South.

So, you had two all-white teams of similar-sized guys running around in white jerseys. The Gators picked off Hurricanes quarterback Fran Curci five times in a 23-14 win that cost the Hurricanes an Orange Bowl bid.

1961: Left Hand Knows How the Right Hand Does. The Florida pass rush was about to swallow right-handed Hurricanes quarterback George Mira, who went to his spare, free hand and pushed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Nick Spinelli that put UM ahead for good. After the 15-6 Hurricanes win, Spinelli said, “I certainly didn’t dream he’d throw left-handed. After seeing that, I just had to catch the ball.”

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1971: The Gator Flop. With Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning trying to survive their rookie NFL seasons, Florida quarterback John Reaves was the best passer left in college football. Reaves had Plunkett’s NCAA career passing yards record in sight with the Gators up 45-8. Looking for the record, Reaves threw an interception that got returned to the Florida 24-yard line.

Reaves needed the ball back. The Gators defense got it for him, but not by taking it away. On second and 7 from the Florida 8, at least nine members of the Gators defense dropped face down and UM quarterback John Hornibrook rolled into the end zone. Reaves got the ball back and hit Alvarez for the record.

The Gators jumped in the Orange Bowl’s dolphin pool. The Hurricanes, especially head coach Fran Curci, fumed. For years.

1980: An In-Your-Face Kick. The moment the Hurricanes introduced the rest of the nation to part of the attitude that made them loved and reviled well beyond the years they actually maintained that attitude.

While the Hurricanes slapped the Gators around on national television, Florida fans threw frozen oranges, ice and bottles at the UM bench with some accuracy. The Hurricanes fell on a Florida fumble with one second left and a 28-7 lead. UM coach Howard Schnellenberger sent Danny Miller out to kick a field goal as a shot at the Florida fans.

Grabbed by ABC’s sideline reporter as he came off the field, Schnellenberger owned every bit of his anger, excoriating the Florida fans as he told the viewing audience exactly why he’d ordered the last kick.

A year later, Miller got Schnellenberger to let him try a 55-yarder with 40 seconds left and caromed it home off the left upright for a 21-20 UM win.

1982: Great Catch, But a Touchdown? Florida quarterback Wayne Peace got the cover of Sports Illustrated (“THE PEACE CORPS”) after the Gators’ stirring 17-14 win. Less remembered is the photo sequence with the story inside that threw a little shade on Peace’s game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass to fullback James Jones.

Or, more appropriately, Jones stupendous, one-handed touchdown snag. As John Papanek’s story described, “Jones ran to where he was supposed to be—seven yards downfield toward the right sideline. But when he saw Peace looking elsewhere, he drifted back. In truth, he said, he had no idea where he was. Besides, he was playing without his contact lenses and everything was a little blurry. And, oh yes, he was suffering from the heat. And the pass was wobbly and high.”

Papanek also pointed out what was obvious in the photos: “No one, except the officials, could figure how Jones scored, because he appeared to be down before his momentum carried him across the goal line.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.