Originally created 12/20/96

Spurrier calling foul over late hits by FSU



One after another, the hits come to Danny Wuerffel. Steve Spurrier's VCR hums on, and the longer it runs, the more punishment his quarterback absorbs.

This, Spurrier insists, isn't right. Which, of course, is why this videotape exists in the first place.

Spurrier asked his videographers to splice together tape of plays that show Florida State defenders delivered late hits to Wuerffel, the newest Heisman Trophy winner. The tapes, taken from end-zone cameras used by schools, generally are not available to TV networks or reporters.

Joined in his office last week by several reporters for an invitation-only viewing session, Spurrier grimaces or shakes his head at the conclusion of each play - eight in all - from FSU's 24-21 victory over Florida last month.

"I don't know what we've got to do about it, but that kid's not going to be somebody's tackling dummy," Spurrier said.

Following FSU's hits are some selected plays from Florida's victory over Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game. In terms of punishment to Wuerffel, there's a noticeable difference.

A spear by an unidentified Florida State tackler on a sack - "That's criminal," Spurrier said - and a forearm hit by nose guard Andre Wadsworth draw particular attention.

Two weeks from the Sugar Bowl, a rematch between top-ranked FSU (11-0) and Spurrier's No. 3 Gators (11-1) that will shape college football's 1996 national championship, the overriding emotion is outrage.

Outrage by Spurrier over what he calls cheap shots on Wuerffel.

Outrage in return by Seminoles who can hardly believe Spurrier keeps harping about a style of defense they've tried to have for years.

"I don't remember Steve being very concerned in 1991 when we had to hold (former FSU quarterback) Casey Weldon up just to have his press conference down there," FSU defensive ends coach Jim Gladden said. "They (Gators) absolutely beat him up, late hits and all. But you won't hear anything about that."

Not even from Weldon. He was too woozy.

"When I heard that coach Spurrier was whining about late hits and officials, I started laughing," said Weldon, a fifth-year player with the Tampa Bay Bucs. "I think he needs to watch the '91 film. I got hit a few times myself. It's football. ... I just remember it being so hot, and I took a beating."

Fact: Florida State led the Atlantic Coast Conference in penalties in 1996.

In 11 games, FSU was flagged 94 times for 956 yards. The second most-penalized team in the league was North Carolina State (84 times for 662 yards). The yardage difference between FSU and N.C. State indicates Florida State committed more major (15-yard) infractions.

Fact: In each season since joining the ACC in 1992, the Seminoles have led the league in penalties. They're also 39-1 in ACC play.

"The thing is, the guy with the ball is a target," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who has accused Spurrier of trying to bait Big 12 officials who will work the Sugar Bowl. "If you have the ball, people want to get you. People have wanted to get Warrick Dunn all season."

Spurrier suggested ACC coaches could back up his opinion about FSU's overzealous defensive play. Unfortunately, ACC coaches are hopscotching the country recruiting.

"Probably most of them won't talk about it much," Spurrier said. "Maybe my job security is a little better than some of theirs.'

North Carolina coach Mack Brown, calling himself a friend of Spurrier's and Bowden's, declined comment. Clemson coach Tommy West did not.

"I really don't see that," West said when asked whether he spotted any over-aggressiveness by FSU's defenders. "There was no evidence of that in our game. They played hard, and they've got a tremendous defense."

West said he didn't see anything out of the ordinary about the Seminoles while reviewing tapes to prepare for Florida State.

"I would have complained before the game to the officials if I had," he said. "I have not seen or noticed that."

The ACC office fielded four complaints this season from schools which believed FSU defenders should have been called for late hits and were not. That's a normal amount, said Bradley Faircloth, who supervises the ACC officials.

Of the four plays in question, a flag should have been thrown on one of them. The other three were correctly ruled non-fouls, he said.

Like many rules, NCAA regulations about late hits on quarterbacks are subjective, said one SEC official. If a defender hits the quarterback when he had time to quit and not hit, it's a penalty. If there was too little time to avoid contact, there's no foul.

"I was at the (Florida-FSU) game, and I thought it was very well-officiated," Bobby Gaston, supervisor of officials for the SEC, told the Pensacola News Journal. "We're not allowed to talk about specific plays, and he (Spurrier) is not supposed to be talking about it, either."

One person who isn't talking is FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

Since the late-hit uproar has taken a life of its own, Andrews has been out of town recruiting, on the practice field or in his office preparing for the Sugar Bowl rematch.

"I'm not even going to dignify it with a response," Andrews said.