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Florida shuts down Auburn

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2000

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Rex Grossman was able to finish what he started.

Florida abandoned its quarterback juggling act in the Southeastern Conference championship game, leaving the ball in the hands of the brash redshirt freshman.

Grossman responded by throwing four touchdown passes Saturday, leading the No. 7 Gators to a 28-6 victory over No. 18 Auburn and their first SEC title since 1996.

''You can stay in there a long time if you play well and do what you're supposed to do,'' said coach Steve Spurrier, who had no need to display his notoriously quick trigger finger.

Grossman, who shared playing time most of the season with senior Jesse Palmer, was on the field for all but two plays as Spurrier fulfilled his pledge to give the younger player most of the snaps.

Grossman, selected the most valuable player, was 17-of-26 for 238 yards with one interception as the Gators earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl.

''Rex is an excellent passer. Hopefully, he will get a lot more knowledgeable,'' Spurrier said. ''If he gets it all down, he has a chance to be pretty good some day.''

Florida (10-2) dominated Auburn for the second time in seven weeks. On Oct. 14, Grossman threw a touchdown pass on each of the first five possessions, leading the Gators to a 38-7 rout.

Afterward, he compared Auburn's defense to the Florida scout team, providing plenty of bulletin-board fodder heading into the rematch. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the motivational edge wasn't nearly enough to overcome the Gators' quickness and depth.

''They have more speed than anybody we have played,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''We didn't have the answer.''

Earnest Graham gave Florida (10-2) a lethal ground-air attack, rushing for a career-high 169 yards, and the Gators' ball-hungry defense came up with three critical turnovers in the first half.

Florida won its sixth conference title in 10 years but the first since 1996, when the Gators also claimed the national championship.

Spurrier was carried off the field on the shoulders of his players, who lingered on the field for several minutes to celebrating with their fans. Clearly, the Gators were elated to be back on top in the SEC.

''This is the first big game I've ever won here,'' junior offensive lineman Kenyatta Walker said. ''This is why you come to Florida -- to win a championship''

Navy 30, Army 28

BALTIMORE -- Navy found the ideal way to put an end to its perfectly awful season -- just let Army make more mistakes.

Brian Broadwater ran for 114 yards and a touchdown and also passed for a score as the Midshipmen avoided a rare winless season by winning 30-28 Saturday.

Looking for their first win since last year's Army-Navy game, the Midshipmen (1-10) built a 20-point lead late in the third quarter and held on to beat the bumbling Black Knights, who committed five turnovers. Navy lost the ball twice.

Army (1-10) used two fourth-quarter touchdown passes by Curtis Zervic to cut the gap to 30-28 with 2:44 left, but an onside kick failed and Navy retained possession when the Black Knights were called for running into the kicker on a 43-yard field goal try with 1:29 to go.

Michael Wallace had 159 yards rushing and a touchdown for Army, which capped its worst season since going 0-10 in 1973. Wallace finished with 1,157 yards on ground, third-best total in Army history.

The victory gave Navy two straight wins in the series for the first time since 1982-83, but Army still holds a 48-46-7 lead.

Although it's been a trying season for the Midshipmen, they can take solace in beating Army and averting only the third winless season in the history of the program. The 1883 Navy team went 0-1 and the 1948 squad finished 0-8-1.

Navy concluded its season on a high note in part because Broadwater finished his career with a flourish. The senior quarterback, who missed last year's Army game with a broken collarbone, directed the option attack with near flawless precision and passed just often enough to keep the Army defense honest.

He averaged 6.6 yards per carry in the first half, when Navy held the ball for more than 23 minutes.

Navy went up 27-7 with 3:22 left in the third quarter when Brad Wimsatt took an Army fumble three yards into the end zone.

The Midshipmen then let the Black Knights back into the game. First, Army scored on a blocked punt. Then, after Navy lost a fumble, Army closed to 27-21 on a 23-yard TD pass from Zervic to Brian Bruenton on a fourth-and-16 play.

Navy appeared on the verge of collapse before one final Army turnover temporarily stopped the onslaught. Four plays after Omari Thompson fumbled a punt, David Hills kicked a field goal for a nine-point cushion with 5:32 to play.

Whether it was nerves, or simply the product of two teams logging a combined 1-19 record, the first few minutes of the game were rife with errors.

It began on the opening kickoff, which bounced out of bounds. Army punter Dan MacElroy then dropped the snap to conclude the Black Knights' first series, and Navy gave it back three plays later on a botched pitchout.

Then Wallace burst through the line and into the clear for a 65-yard touchdown run that gave Army its only lead. A field goal and a 45-yard touchdown run by Broadwater put the Midshipmen up 10-7.

Broadwater made it 17-7 by taking the Midshipmen into the end zone by a different route, a 32-yard TD pass to a wide open Brian Williams.



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