'It was awful'
REDSKINS 40, BUCS 10: Jon Gruden has nothing good to say about his team after losing in a blowout in Steve Spurrier's return to Tampa Bay.
|[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Redskins receiver Rod Gardner scores Washington's first touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Shane Matthews in the first quarter.
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002
TAMPA -- If he were going to be a coach in the NFL, Steve Spurrier once wished to do it from the Tampa Bay sideline.
After all, he was the first quarterback to take a snap in a Bucs uniform. His first head-coaching experience was with the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits. And when he resigned from the University of Florida seven months ago, the Bucs job was open.
If he made the big move from college to the pros, Spurrier hoped it would be a short trip down the road from Gainesville.
But if any of those feelings lingered before Saturday's preseason game, they quickly vanished.
Spurrier's Washington Redskins (4-0) dominated the Bucs, capitalizing on seven turnovers in a 40-10 victory at Raymond James Stadium to remain perfect in the preseason.
The game was billed as a faceoff between Spurrier and Bucs coach Jon Gruden, two of the game's brightest offensive minds.
But Gruden probably wished he could load his team onto the bus and return it to Orlando, near where the Bucs trained. The Bucs were so pitiful the Redskins defense outscored them.
Tampa Bay's turnovers -- four fumbles and three interceptions -- led to 24 Redskins points, including a 12-yard touchdown reception by former Bucs receiver Jacquez Green.
"We turned the ball over way too many times," Gruden said. "I told the team you get what you deserve in this league. And when you turn the ball over, that's the result you expect.
|[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Warren Sapp laughs after being called for taunting by referee Tom White in the second quarter.
"I'm concerned about everything that's wrong all the time. Certainly tonight, it wasn't a good feeling walking off the field with that offensive performance tonight."
Where to begin? Perhaps with defensive end Greg Scott returning a fumble by Bucs quarterback Rob Johnson 66 yard for a touchdown. The play came after Johnson was stripped of the ball on a 5-yard sack by Delbert Cowsette.
Linebacker Donte Curry added to the onslaught with his 20-yard return of an interception of a pass by Shaun King.
"We just wanted to play well tonight," Spurrier said. "I thought our defense played outstanding. Our offense was so-so, decent most of the time, but the defense really played well."
To add injury to insult, the Bucs lost starting defensive end Marcus Jones in the first quarter to a sprained left knee. His status was unknown after the game, but team officials worried the injury might be serious.
"All I have to say right now is that we are very concerned," Gruden said.
As good as Spurrier felt about beating the Bucs, perhaps nobody was happier than 'Skins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. All but promised the Bucs coaching job by general manager Rich McKay in January before team owners nixed the deal, Lewis watched his defense swarm over the Bucs quarterbacks, sacking them three times.
The Redskins also forced four fumbles, including two by rookie Travis Stephens out of Tennessee.
"It was awful as the game went on," Gruden said. "We fumbled a kickoff return, we fumbled a basic handoff. It was basic, Day 1 fundamental football stuff."
Entering the game, Brad Johnson had a firm grip on the starting job as Bucs quarterback.
Instead of playing safe, he was sorry, throwing a pair of interceptions on the opening two offensive series. Both were thrown under heavy pressure, intended for receiver Keenan McCardell. The first pick, by linebacker Lavar Arrington, came on third and 4 from the Redskins 38. Linebacker Jessie Armstead hit Johnson as he released the ball, which bounced off McCardell's hands.
The second interception was more costly, leading to the first Redskins touchdown.
On third and 7 from the Tampa Bay 30, Johnson was flushed out of the pocket to his right and tried to hit McCardell on the sideline. Cornerback Champ Bailey made a fingertip interception and managed to keep both feet in bounds.
The pass was ruled incomplete, but Spurrier used an instant-replay challenge and won, giving the Redskins great field position at the Tampa Bay 32.
After Stephen Davis banged for 9 yards on first down, Redskins quarterback and former Gator Shane Matthews spotted Rod Gardner one-on-one with Dwight Smith and lofted a perfect ball for a 23-yard touchdown.
Johnson completed 9 of 14 passes for 90 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions. He rebounded after the poor start to lead the Bucs on a 69-yard drive, and his 7-yard pass to McCardell cut the Redskins' lead to 10-7.
|[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
A Redskins fan holds up a Steve Spurrier sign in the third quarter.
"You know, over a 16-game season, things don't always go smooth," Johnson said. "You have to face some adversity sometimes, and it's good to see if you can step up to that challenge. It was good to see us bounce back with a score, because things don't always go right."
That certainly was the case for the Bucs.
Matthews was forced to start for the Redskins when Danny Wuerffel, another former Gator quarterback, became ill with a stomach virus before the game.
Matthews finished 8-for-15 for 97 yards, including the touchdown. He also led the Redskins on an 88-yard drive, capped by Jimmy Watkins' 2-yard touchdown run. The big play was a 37-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Corey Ivy.
"I think overall, we won't be happy unless we're playing our style of football," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "We all got some work to do. We all know that."
The Bucs will get one last chance Friday in the preseason finale at Houston. Before that, the roster must be trimmed to 65 by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Before he left Raymond James Stadium after the game, Gruden was asked what he thought about sharing the spotlight in Spurrier's homecoming.
''With all due respect, it wasn't a heckuva lot different than anyone else,'' the first-year Bucs coach said. "I didn't really study him over there to see if he was throwing his visor or leading cheers. I had enough to worry about tonight.''
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