New Orleans, La. (Jan. 2, 1997) — A month after defeating Florida 24-21 in the regular season
finale in Tallahassee, Danny Wuerffel lead the Gators to a 52-20 victory in what turned out to
be a Sugar Bowl rematch for the national title. FSU, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in
the nation, ended the season ranked No. 3 in both polls extending their NCAA record to 10 straight
years of finishing in the Top Four of the AP poll.
Florida scored first on a 77-yard drive in the first quarter that took less than three minutes
and resulted in a 7-0 score with 9:48. Wuerffel did most of the damage through the air as the
Gators rushed only once on the drive which ended on a nine-yard scoring strike from Wuerffel
to Ike Hilliard.
Scott Bentley brought the Seminoles to within four with a 43-yard field goal with 7:49 left in the
initial quarter. The ‘Noles narrowly missed blocking a Florida punt on the next possession, but
UF downed the kick on the FSU one-yard-line leaving the Tribe with terrible field position. A
27-yard punt return set Florida up for a 32-yard field goal that pushed the Gator lead back to
seven with 2:44 remaining and giving them a 10-3 lead after the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Florida busted a four-play, 73-yard drive that took just 44
seconds and gave them a 17-3 lead with 11:28 left in the first half. The big play of the drive
came on the first play when Wuerffel completed a 47-yard pass to Ike Hilliard that set UF up at
the Florida State 26. Fred Taylor capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
Trailing 17-3, FSU converted a crucial 3rd-and-10 from their own 48 when Thad Busby connected
with Wayne Messam for a 23-yard gain. On the next play, Busby hit E.G. Green with a 29-yard
touchdown strike, to pull the Tribe to within a touchdown at 17-10 with 7:28 left in the first
Florida came right back, converting a 3rd-and-16 from their own 29 and capping a four play,
65-yard drive with a 31-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard. The score gave UF a 24-10 lead with 5:18
remaining in the half.
FSU’s Warrick Dunn brought the Seminoles back again just before the end of the first half when
he raced around end for a 12-yard touchdown run that trimmed the Gator’s lead to 24-17 at
The Seminoles cut the UF lead to 24-20 at 10:24 in the third quarter with Bentley’s 45-yard
field goal. The score capped a 6-play, 30-yard drive for FSU.
The FSU defense held again on Florida’s next possession, but the en-suing punt sailed over Dee
Feaster’s head and the Tribe was forced to set up at their own two-yard-line. In the shadow of
their own goal posts, the Seminoles were dealt their harshest blow of the night when tailback
Warrick Dunn, suffering from flu symptoms, was forced to leave the game.
Florida reaped the benefits of their punt when good field position set up a short drive that
culminated in an eight yard scoring pass from Wuerrfel to Hilliard that put the Gators ahead
31-20 with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
FSU’s offense could generate little after Dunn left the game and Florida took advantage of a
gambling Seminole defense with a rare 16-yard Wuerrfel TD run that gave UF a 38-20 lead at the
close of the third quarter.
A 42-yard touchdown run by Terry Jackson and another from 1-yard out gave Florida its final
margin of 52-20. Jackson finished the game with 118 yards on 12 carries and Wuerffel, the
Sugar Bowl MVP, completed 18-of-31 passes for 306 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Busby completed just 17 of 41 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown, while Dunn gained 28 yards
on the ground before leaving after nine carries.
Score By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F FSU 3 14 3 0 20 Florida 10 14 14 14 52 Scoring Summary UF - Hilliard 9 yd pass from Wuerffel (Edmiston kick), 6:43 FSU - Bentley 43-yd field goal, 7:49 UF - Edmiston 32-yd field goal, 2:44 UF - Taylor 2 yd run (Edmiston kick), 11:28 FSU - Green 29 yd pass from Busby (Bentley kick), 7:28 UF - Hilliard 31 yd pass from Wuerffel (Edmiston kick), 5:18 FSU - Dunn 12 yd run (Bentley kick), 0:40 FSU - Bentley 45-yd field goal, 10:24 UF - Hilliard 8 yd pass from Wuerffel (Edmiston kick), 5:43 UF - Wuerffel 16 yd run (Edmiston kick), 0:13 UF - Jackson 42 yd run (Edmiston kick), 8:52 UF - Jackson 1 yd run (Edmiston kick), 2:12 Team Statistics FSU UF First Downs 13 26 Rushes-Yards 21-70 43-203 Passing Yards 271 306 Comp.-Att.-Int. 17-42-2 18-34-1 Plays-Total Offense 63-313 77-474 Punt Ret. Yards 74 69 Punts-Average 8-46.4 7-48.1 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0 Interceptions-Yards 1-24 2-7 Penalties Yards 14-115 15-102 Time of Possession 23:33 36:27 Third Down Conv. 5-18 5-16 Individual Statistics Rushing: FSU - Dunn 9-28, Warrick 1-12, Williams 2-7, Feaster 2-1, Busby 7 - (-6); UF - Jackson 12-118, Taylor 18-60, Williams 4-2, Schottenheimer 1-0, McCaslin 2-(-2), Wuerffel 6-(-10). Passing: FSU - Busby 41-17-1-271-1, Kendra 1-0-1-0-0; UF - Wuerffel 34-18-1-306-3. Receiving: FSU - Messam 5-48, Cooper 4-82, Green 3-86, Pearsall 1-25, Dunn 1-12, Abdullah 1-10, Warrick 1-7, Williams 1-1; UF - Hilliard 7-150, Green 5-79, Anthony 4-50, Mobley 1-16, Taylor 1-12.