GAINESVILLE — In the 105 year history of Florida football, the Gators have had their share of memorable scoring plays, but trying to determine the greatest of all hasn't been easy. After privately polling dozens of Florida fans, it's clear that it all depends on what era you grew up in.
For example: if you're a die-hard fan of the early 1990s, Danny Wuerffel to Chris Doering and the 1993 Kentucky game immediately comes to mind. Or if you're from way back in the day, you remember the 10-6 win in 1963, when the Gators knocked off then-No. 3 Alabama led by the legendary Joe Namath. Or maybe it was Kerwin Bell's 2-point conversion in the 1986 Auburn game, or Larry Smith's Orange Bowl run. Okay, you get the drift.
But after much deliberation, we've settled on the play most know as "The Heisman Kick."
October 29, 1966
The Gators returned to Gainesville after four consecutive road games to play Auburn. Florida was undefeated at the time, it was Homecoming and the Gators were two wins away from winning their first SEC title. Attendance was 60,511.
How it went down
In the fourth quarter, quarterback Steve Spurrier, aided by the rushing game of Larry Smith, drove the Gators 71 yards, then Spurrier scored on a TD from the 1-yard line, taking a 27-20 lead. Auburn came back to tie the score at 27 on a 3-yard TD run by QB Larry Blakeney. Then with 2:12 remaining in the game, Spurrier kicked what was the game-winning field goal to give Florida a 30-27 victory on Florida Field.
Over the years, the story of how Spurrier came to kick the winning field goal has been up for debate. Spurrier has said he asked then-coach Ray Graves if he could kick it. Graves contends Spurrier took the field on his own as the coach was contemplating regular kicker Wayne Barfield. Although Spurrier doubled as a punter that season (averaging 40.8 yards on 45 punts), he actually hadn't practiced field goals in weeks when he made the kick.
Why it stands out
Spurrier and Purdue quarterback Bob Griese were battling for the Heisman Trophy, but most observers believe it was this game that won it for Spurrier. The Heisman Trophy ballots went out the week of the Auburn game, which drew the largest media delegation in school history up to that point. Spurrier won the Heisman with 1,679 votes, while Griese earned 816. The kick not only sealed the Heisman for Spurrier, but it became one of the building blocks of his legend, fueling him toward leading Florida to become an SEC powerhouse and national title contender.
But Spurrier continues to downplay it.
"It wasn't that long," he said in a 2001 AP interview. "Most guys can kick 40."
What they were saying then
"You know, I think Spurrier planned that field goal. Anything to give me more gray hair." — Graves in a 1966 St. Petersburg Times article by sports editor Tom Kelly.
"The Gator Growled and the Tiger roared back, but it took a Heisman Trophy candidate's 'toe' to manufacture 'Gator Bait' on Florida Field Saturday afternoon." — John L. Klucina of All Florida News
"Steve Spurrier may own the patent for thrills in football after the 1966 season. Indeed, Spurrier proved he was every bit the calm, collected candidate for the Heisman Trophy." — Pat Parrish, All Florida News
"There have been wacky games in this series, but this one tops them all. The Gators dominated the game by holding the Tigers to 158 yards of total offense, but gave up a touchdown on a 91-yard return of a fumble recovered and an 89-yard kickoff return. Quarterback Steve Spurrier became the frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race as he completed 27 of 40 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown, ran for a TD, punted six times for an average of 47.4 yards and kicked a 40-yard field goal to win the game." — Florida historian and former sports information director Norm Carlson from the book University of Florida Football Vault, The History of the Florida Gators.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Send your memories of the play to firstname.lastname@example.org.