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Refs let the flags fly against both teams

By SHARON GINN and DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001


NEW ORLEANS -- The officiating crew made it clear early Tuesday that taunting and excessive celebration would not be tolerated, but neither the Gators nor the Hurricanes seemed to pay much attention.

The crew, which came from the Big 12 conference, set the tone in the first quarter when it flagged Gators receiver Reche Caldwell for his exuberance after his 47-yard catch from quarterback Rex Grossman. The call cost the Gators 15 yards and possibly a field goal; Jeff Chandler's 50-yard attempt was no good.

Later in the quarter Miami's James Jackson got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a 10-yard catch and first down (the Hurricanes scored a touchdown on that drive anyway). In the second quarter, a swagger by freshman Keiwan Ratliff after a 32-yard kickoff return cost UF 15 yards.

TRICK PLAY: For the first time this season, Gators coach Steve Spurrier used the Emory & Henry formation he is so fond of -- the tackles are split from the line and a receiver lines up behind each.

The play resulted in a 13-yard completion to Alex Willis, but the Gators punted three plays later.

WUERFFEL WATCH: Ex-Gator quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel was on the sideline, evoking memories of the 1997 Sugar Bowl victory that gave Florida the national championship.

Wuerffel, who played for the Saints and is with the Packers, drove from Green Bay to his home in New Orleans in time for the game.

BOWL BITS: Miami's Butch Davis moved his bowl record to 4-0. This was the Hurricanes' first appearance in a major bowl since 1994. ... It was the seventh time this season the Hurricanes fell behind 7-0 to start a game and the sixth time they recovered to win. ... Ratliff's interception early in the third quarter was the first of his UF career and helped set a school record. It was the Gators' 24th interception of the season, the best in school history. ... Chandler's 51-yard field goal in the second quarter was the longest for the Gators in a bowl, surpassing the 43-yarder kicked by Bobby Lyle in the 1962 Gator Bowl.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR: Miami will play at Florida in 2002, and the Gators will visit the Orange Bowl in 2003. Before the Sugar Bowl, the teams had not played since 1987. AMICABLE MEETING: After a week filled with talk of the fight between Florida and Miami players on Bourbon Street Wednesday, the teams met at midfield before the game without incident.

TOUGHEST SCHEDULE: Florida's schedule this season was rated the toughest by the Bowl Championship Series poll and the NCAA. The Gators played nine opponents ranked in the Top 25, including No. 2 Miami and No. 3 Florida State.

SHEPPARD'S RETURN: Cornerback Lito Sheppard lined up with the offense early in the second quarter, but Grossman's pass was broken up. Sheppard made his first offensive appearance against Vanderbilt and caught a 47-yard pass.

OOPS: During ABC's coverage, Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey was identified as Jeremy Schapp -- an ESPN reporter -- after his touchdown reception in the first quarter.

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Sugar Bowl
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