NEW ORLEANS - Talk about hitting after the whistle.
Florida coach Steve Spurrier stepped up his verbal assault against Florida State coach Bobby Bowden on Saturday, nearly a month after first accusing the Seminoles of late hits against Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.
"Danny Wuerffel should not be treated like a tackling dummy because he plays quarterback against FSU," Spurrier said, getting Sugar Bowl week off to a lively start. "He took some hits he shouldn't have taken and I spoke out and hope it's not going to happen again. Hopefully, the referees will control the game and it won't get out of hand."
The game in question occurred Nov. 30, when the Seminoles beat the Gators 24-21 in Tallahassee and replaced Florida as the No. 1 team in the country. The Seminoles sacked Wuerffel six times, hit him on nearly 20 other occasions after he threw and were penalized twice for late hits.
On Thursday, it's rematch time, with the Seminoles (11-0) needing another win over the Gators (11-1) for their second national title in four years.
Since the first game, though, Spurrier hasn't dropped his late-hit obsession, claiming he just wants to be certain Florida State isn't purposely trying to injure his quarterback. Wuerffel, meanwhile, hasn't complained.
"Danny doesn't have a nasty temper at all," Spurrier said. "I don't think he's ever said a mean thing about anybody.
"He's like a New Testament person. He gets slapped up side the face, and turns the other cheek and says, `Lord, forgive them for they know not what they're doing,'°" he said. "I'm probably more of an Old Testament guy. You spear our guy in the earhole, we think we're supposed to spear you in the earhole. That's kind of where we're a little different."
The difference between Spurrier and Bowden is Bowden doesn't think he did anything wrong.
"We don't tell our kids to hit late," said Bowden, who agreed with the two late-hit calls against his team and thought a non-call was borderline. "The rest of the them I don't think they were late hits. When you put five receivers out there and only five protectors, and we bring six, somebody is going to get hit. And we love none on one."
Bowden appeared at the news conference after Spurrier had departed and was in a playful mood when he walked to the microphone.
"What'd he say? What'd he say?" Bowden asked. Turning a bit more serious, Bowden said: "I've never seen Steve get this personal. I like him, dadgummit. I like his family."
Spurrier spent nearly 40 minutes discussing the rematch with Florida State, and punctuated nearly every remark with a reference to dirty play. He talked about having a "good, clean, hard-fought game," about both teams playing by the same rules and wondering if the Seminoles were out to injure Wuerffel. But it was clear Spurrier's remarks were not made in jest.
Bowden called the subject "a sideshow" and said the players on both sides are "probably dumbfounded by this."
Spurrier, who says he'll attend his first pre-bowl officials meeting later in the week, said he had a videotape compiled of about "eight to 10" hits from the Florida State and Alabama games.
"If anybody wants to see who's right or who's wrong, or which side you want to take, just watch the tape," Spurrier said. "It's a free country, a free world. I don't need to say Bowden's wrong and I'm right. I understand I open myself up to criticism to Gator haters, but it's happened before and will probably happen again."
So far, only Florida beat reporters have seen the tape. Spurrier said he viewed the tape with Wuerffel.
"After some of those, I said `Did you look at the ref after that one? He said, `Yeah, I looked at him.' And he said to the ref, `Can he do that?' And the ref just had the blank look. But again, I'm not trying to pick sides on it."
Spurrier was also bothered by Bowden's comments Friday, when the teams arrived. "Steve should be more careful when he talks about cheating and dirty play. That's not wise."
On Saturday, Spurrier was asked if Bowden was taking things too personally.
"I did read his comments," he said. "I don't know how personal he takes it. You've got to call it like you see it. I don't think he can tell me what to say. We're not in the ACC and I don't have to worry about their commissioner getting on me. I don't know what he was trying to say.
"All we want is a good, fair, solid game and as the coach of Danny Wuerffel, it's my responsibility to protect him within the rules of the game."