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Gaffney gesture (throat slash) angers Spurrier

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Freshman wide receiver Jabar Gaffney's hero status for catching the decisive touchdown in Florida's 27-23 victory against Tennessee on Saturday was short-lived.

Gaffney celebrated the controversial touchdown -- he dropped the ball, but officials ruled he held it long enough to be a catch in the end zone -- with the controversial throat-slashing gesture that has been banned by the NFL.

"That was embarrassing for all of us," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "He embarrassed his teammates, his coaches, his parents, his university. It was terribly embarrassing. We'll take care of that in-house."

Gaffney's gesture, Spurrier said, is a symptom of a larger problem. Disturbed by comments made by Alex Brown and a handful of other Gators leading up to the game, Spurrier was equally unhappy with his team's behavior during and after.

"We've got a lot of in-house handling to do," Spurrier said. "We're about where we were last year as far as being undisciplined. I don't know what to do.

"It's the whole group, not just one player here or there. We've got a set that loves to talk, a set that loves to play and a set that has trouble playing their assignments. We're a very average team right now, and we're going to be in trouble if we can't straighten out."

Irked that a few players running their mouths give the entire program a bad reputation, Spurrier did some ranting of his own Sunday.

"Most of our guys all say the right things," Spurrier said. "But we've got three or four who like to talk and it's a reflection on the whole team, on me, on our assistant coaches. I'm sick of it. You encourage them to say the right things, but they get going and like to talk. It's not beneficial to the Gators.

"I could sense it coming that Tennessee was ready to kick our butts as bad as they possibly could. And they basically did, everywhere but the scoreboard. They outplayed us in every facet -- offense, defense, special teams."

The Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) play Kentucky on Saturday, a team they have beaten 13 straight seasons. But that streak easily could come to an end, Spurrier said.

"We'll have no trouble being ready for Kentucky because we were really, really bad last game against Tennessee and hopefully our players are smart enough to watch the tape and see how they dominated us in every phase," Spurrier said. "We're scared to death. If we play like we did against Tennessee, we easily could lose by three touchdowns."

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Spurrier said the Gators got a break when linesman Al Matthews ruled Gaffney had possession of a 3-yard pass from Jesse Palmer long enough to be ruled a touchdown.

"It could have been ruled either way," Spurrier said. "It was a judgment call. Did he have it long enough? In the field of play that would be incomplete, but in the end zone you only need a moment."

RAVE REVIEWS: Spurrier gave few compliments Sunday, which makes strong safety Todd Johnson's performance stand out even more. Johnson, a sophomore, was awarded a game ball for his team-high 13 tackles, including one for loss, and a fumble recovery. "He was our one reliable player on defense," Spurrier said.

GRAHAM TO START: Tailback Earnest Graham will start against Kentucky, Spurrier said. The running game struggled with 39 net yards, but Graham was the best of UF's backs with 10 carries for 40 yards.

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