Spurrier passes, passes on hype
The Redskins throw the ball a lot, but the former University of Florida coach downplays the significance of the victory.
By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002
TAMPA -- The sign in the crowd read, "This ain't college," a rip on Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N Gun offense made famous at the University of Florida.
|[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Steve Spurrier's offense stood up well against the Bucs defense, and his defense outscored the Bucs.
It's true Saturday's Bucs-Redskins preseason game wasn't a college affair, but you wouldn't have known it by looking at Spurrier's offense.
The pass-happy Redskins coach aired it out plenty against the Bucs. And though his offensive scheme didn't light up the scoreboard the way it usually did against Kentucky, it easily outperformed the Bucs in a 40-10 victory.
After going three-and-out on its first possession, Spurrier's offense scored the next three times it had the ball.
It accumulated 97 passing yards in the first half going against Tampa Bay's starters and had 214 passing yards out of 260 total yards.
It was, arguably, Spurrier's most impressive performance of the preseason considering it came against one of the league's best defenses the past few seasons.
And it punctuated a highly anticipated return for Spurrier to Florida and the Tampa Bay area, where he coached the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.
After the game, he said he would give game balls to former Bandits owner John Bassett and his wife and retired newspaper columnist Tom McEwen.
That was, however, about all Spurrier said about his return since resigning from Florida in January.
He said the buildup leading to this game was excessive.
"It was (nice to be back in Tampa), but it was overhyped," he said. "Those people who said it was that big of a deal ... well, it was not that big of a deal. It's still just a preseason game.
"We wanted to play well. If we had lost the game, we could have lived with it and moved on."
As it was, Spurrier's Redskins (4-0) had their highest-scoring outing of the preseason, although the offense accounted for only 26 points.
The Redskins offense had averaged 36 points in its three previous games, but most of the scoring came late against second- and third-stringers.
But Spurrier found ways to strike at the Bucs starting defense, using four- and five-receiver formations and stretching the field.
As he is known to do, he went to the pass early and often.
Four of Washington's first five plays were passes, the last a 23-yard touchdown from Shane Matthews to Rod Gardner on the second play of the its second possession.
It was a well-timed play, a deep corner pass on second and 1. It looked similar to a play Washington ran during its opening series that fell incomplete.
When the long ball wasn't there, the Redskins went to shorter routes. Their third possession lasted 14 plays and covered 72 yards, culminating with a 23-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Spurrier even dipped into his bag of tricks, calling a double reverse early in the third quarter. The Bucs, though, stuffed the play for no gain.
Despite the lopsided score, Spurrier downplayed his team's victory. He refused to acknowledge the game had any more meaning than any other preseason game.
"That was their first team out there? I didn't know that. I really didn't. I didn't know who was out there," Spurrier said. "We were just calling plays and seeing what happens.
"They're tough. They have a good defense. We were fortunate to hit a few balls here and there. Our defense deserves most of the credit for us winning."
Still, didn't winning one of the most hyped preseason games in recent seasons give Spurrier at least a little satisfaction?
"Naw, it still doesn't mean anything," he said. "This is preseason, so it doesn't mean that much."
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